You may not realize it, but the Internet of Things (IoT) is already shaping the future of shopping. From the moment you wake up to the time you go to bed, IoT devices impact what you buy and how you buy them.
First off, consider how many times a day you use your smartphone. Whether you're checking email, browsing Facebook, or playing games, your phone is always with you. And that's no accident – mobile commerce is booming thanks to consumer demand for convenience. In fact, by 2026, global retail ecommerce sales
will reach $8.1 trillion. That’s because people want to be able to shop whenever and wherever they want, and IoT makes that possible.
Another way IoT is changing shopping is by giving organizations more insight into customer behavior. For example, did you know that Coca-Cola uses data from sensors in vending machines to see how often people buy their drinks? Armed with this information, Coca-Cola can then adjust its marketing strategies accordingly. This feedback loop between companies and consumers will become even more common as more devices connect to the internet.
There are countless other ways IoT is changing shopping for the better. Read on to understand the role of IoT in our collective shopping future!
How is IoT influencing shopping?
IoT is already changing how we live and work – and it’s also starting to impact how we shop. Here are just a few examples of how IoT is shaping the future of shopping.
1. In-Store Analytics
In-store analytics uses shoppers' data to understand shopping behavior better and improve the in-store experience. Retailers are using in-store analytics to track everything from where shoppers go in the store to how long they spend in each aisle. This data is then used to change the store layout, product placement, and staffing levels.
IoT devices such as beacons and RFID tags play a significant role in making in-store analytics possible. Beacons are small, battery-powered devices that use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to transmit signals to nearby smartphones. These signals can trigger push notifications or display targeted ads within a retailer’s mobile app. On the other hand, RFID tags are tiny chips attached to products or packaging. These tags emit radio waves detected by special readers, which are then used to track inventory levels or even prevent theft.
2. Omnichannel Shopping Experiences
Omnichannel shopping experiences are becoming more and more common as IoT continues to evolve. Omnichannel shopping experiences are “a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide the customer with an integrated shopping experience regardless of how or where they are shopping.” In other words, omnichannel shopping experiences provide shoppers with a seamless experience whether they are shopping online, in-store, or even through a mobile app.
Retailers provide omnichannel shopping experiences by using in-store pick-up for online orders. This allows shoppers to order items online and then pick them up at their convenience without waiting for shipping. Another way retailers provide omnichannel shopping experiences is by offering digital coupons that can be redeemed online and in-store. This allows shoppers to take advantage of discounts no matter how they choose to shop.
3. Price comparison
Thanks to IoT, shoppers can now easily compare prices from different retailers without leaving their homes. A smartphone price comparison app lets shoppers see which retailer has the lowest price for the item they're interested in. This transparency is putting pressure on retailers to keep their costs competitive.
4. In-store experience
IoT-enabled devices are changing the in-store experience for both shoppers and retailers. For example, some stores use beacons to send personalized offers and coupons to shoppers' smartphones as they walk around the store. And thanks to RFID tags, retailers can keep track of inventory levels in real-time and reorder items before they run out entirely. This helps app shoppers find what they're looking for when they need it—avoiding frustration and helping boost sales.
IoT-enabled devices are also changing how we pay for things. Mobile payment apps like Apple Pay and Android Pay allow shoppers to pay for items with their smartphones—no cash or credit card is required. And as more retailers adopt NFC (near-field communication) technology, we'll see even more changes in how we pay for things in-store and online.
What does this mean for the future of shopping?
1. In-store experiences will become more personalized
IoT-enabled devices can collect data about shoppers’ preferences, purchase history, and in-store behavior. This data can be used to personalize the shoppers’ in-store experience by providing targeted product recommendations, real-time offers, and personalized service. For example, suppose a shopper has previously bought baby products from a particular store. In that case, that store could use IoT to send targeted offers for baby products in the vicinity of the store.
2. Shoppers will be able to get help from ‘virtual assistants’
IoT-powered virtual assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home are becoming increasingly popular in homes worldwide. These devices can do everything from playing music and checking the weather to ordering products from online stores. Shoppers can use these devices to get help with their shopping – for example; they could ask their assistant to add items to their online shopping basket or provide them with information about products they are interested in.
3. Queues will become a thing of the past
In many stores, shoppers still have to queue up at tills to pay for their purchases. However, this could all change thanks to IoT. With IoT-enabled devices such as NFC tags and beacons, retailers will be able to track shoppers’ movements around the store and identify when they are ready to leave so that they can direct them to a till that is free. This would enable retailers to drastically reduce waiting times at tills – making the shopping experience much more enjoyable for everyone involved.
4. Stores will become more sustainable
IoT can also make stores more sustainable by reducing energy consumption and waste. For example, some supermarkets are already using IoT-connected fridges and freezers, which automatically adjust their temperature according to how full they are – meaning that less energy is wasted when fewer items are in them. In addition, IoT can track expiration dates and automatically order new stock when products are close to expiring hence less food waste.
5. Shopping will become more convenient
Finally, IoT will make shopping more convenient by enabling shoppers to order products online and deliver them straight to their door without leaving their houses. For example, some online retailers are already using ‘smart cabinets’, which can hold deliveries until customers return home so that they don’t have to worry about missed deliveries or theft. In addition, some retailers are experimenting with click-and-collect services, which enable customers to order products online and then pick them up from a nearby store at a time that suits them – meaning that they don’t have to wait around for a delivery slot.
The Future of Shopping
IoT is changing the retail landscape and transforming the shopping experience. As more and more retailers adopt IoT technology, we can expect even more changes in how we shop. So, what does the future of shopping look like? We’ll likely see even more personalized experiences as retailers use data collected from IoT devices to provide tailored recommendations and offers. We may also see more “frictionless” shopping experiences, where payments are made automatically without needing cash or credit cards. Whatever changes lie ahead, one thing is for sure: IoT is here to stay, changing how we shop for good.
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