December is one of the most important periods of the year for retailers, and technology is arguably the most crucial tool driving increased sales throughout the holiday season and beyond. The Internet of Things (IoT) can enhance the customer experience allowing retailers to operate more efficiently and achieve higher profits. While IoT may often seem like another trendy buzzword, the reality is that IoT is already making a very real impact on retail. In fact, IoT will play an important role this holiday season and into the new year – enabling retailers to take advantage of an increasingly tech-savvy consumer base.
One of the most talked about IoT technologies currently impacting retail are beacons (sometimes referred to as iBeacons after Apple’s spec). Beacons are a low-cost piece of hardware that utilize battery-friendly, low-energy Bluetooth connections to transmit messages directly to a smartphone or tablet. This information is used by retailers from pushing targeted coupons or deals when a user is near a store, to calling up detailed product information by a customer touching their smart phone to a product in store. Beacons can also be used to gain insight into user shopping habits and frequency at retail locations. For example, retailers can access granular data to see which products sell the best and why which can be valuable insight when it comes to planning sales for busy shopping events during the year. National brands like Target and Macy’s are already implementing beacons to enhance the buying experience of their consumers this season and beyond – paving the way for others to follow.
Another influential technology becoming a large part of the retail economy is mobile payments. NFC (Near field communication) technologies like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, allow consumers to check out at brick and mortar retail locations quickly and securely. Mobile payment technologies can reduce point of sale frustrations and make in-store purchasing a stress-free experience. During the holiday season, this will expedite the checkout process, reduce long lines, and simplify the payment process. Since Apple Pay also enables in-app payment on a customer’s smartphone, the ability to quickly complete a purchase via their phone without ever having to enter payment or shipping information is a game changer. Now consumers can complete purchases without ever having to leave a retailer’s app or even create an account, making app-based selling a valuable channel for retailers.
Point of Sale
The amount of purchase time spent in stores is cumbersome and tiring. An increased presence of mobile technologies at point of sale will become more prominent as both large and small retailers adopt tablet or mobile checkout methods to create a more distributed point of sale presence. In this age of the on-demand consumer, long lines and a long wait can mean a missed sale. To combat consumer impatience, especially during the holiday season, retailers have begun to roll out mobile points of sale, where a team member is able to check out customers anywhere in the store and send them on their way, avoiding any headaches.
IoT Device Sales
The last aspect of IoT in retail that will continue to soar is the sale of IoT devices to end users. With the Home Automation market valued at over $5B in 2014, there will be more and more consumer interest in Phillips Hue, Nest, and a wide array of products compatible with platforms like WeMo and Wink. Wearables like fitness trackers, Apple Watch, and Android Wear devices, will also see an uptick in sales which will be a boon to a wide selection of retailers.
So, how will IoT bring success for retailers this holiday season and into 2016? Beacons will help with customer engagement by selectively triggering location-based events that will positively impact buying behaviors. Mobile payments and new point of sale technologies will streamline the buying experience. Lastly, we will see a surge in actual IoT device purchases across all retail segments. These technologies will not only help retailers remove customer pain points, but also help increase sales, and keep consumers happy during the hectic shopping season. For retailers, IoT technologies will be the gift that keeps on giving into the new year.