Digital signage and Internet of Things technologies driving future retail

Digital signage solutions and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies represent the best chance for brick and mortar retailers to stay relevant (and competitive) in the Internet age.

It’s no wonder consumers prefer to shop online. Amazon, alone, has millions of products on its virtual shelves, fiercely priced. You can buy something with one click and have it delivered to your door the next day. According to Intel, the store of the future will literally ‘adapt’ to shoppers and it will do so by integrating computing and sensory feedback to create a more personalised retail experience.

How can a traditional store compete with that speed and ease-of-use? Many didn’t. Comet, Phones 4U, Game, Borders, Habitat, Allied Carpets, Woolworths and Zavvi all failed to adapt as shopping habits dramatically shifted. It might sound odd, but to beat a website, stores should try acting more like one.

Think on this: when you shop on Amazon (and you’re signed in), the website has data on who you are, where you live and what you’ve purchased before. Using this information, and by tracking the pages you view, its algorithms can make guesses about what you might be interested in buying next. Amazon does this for every shopper. It knows what products are most popular, monitors stock levels in real-time and can offer personalised deals.

The technology already exists to physically identify and track shoppers: wireless sensors can track customer volume and visitor duration, while cameras can be used to create heat maps that show daily customer flow. Data from in-store Bluetooth beacons, guest Wi-Fi logins and loyalty card usage can also be collected to give retailers an indication of who its shoppers are, when they shop and what they buy.

Armed with this information, the smartest stores are increasingly connecting the front-end of their business to the back-end — customer behaviour to supply chain optimisation. Wireless RFID tags already give companies like Marks and Spencer the ability to track inventory throughout the supply chain. With such a system in place, the retailer has the ability to see what’s selling well and when stock levels need to be replenished.

Discover the digital signage that could help your business stand out from the crowd

Behind the scenes, machine learning systems like IBM’s Watson are a vital part of this retail revolution. Real-time analytics can be used to personalise product offers, taking into account buying habits, store locations, even weather conditions. The smart store of the future will then push those offers to eye-catching digital signage solutions and dynamically pass along price cuts to electronic shelf labels, reducing operational costs.

Done right, IoT technology has the potential to outdo the user-experience of a cutting-edge online store. Imagine hi-def animated displays to aid in-store navigation and virtual fitting rooms — Ralph Lauren is already experimenting with Smart Mirrors in its NYC stores that show its customers clothes in different sizes and suggest matching accessories.

Behind the scenes, smart packaging will include GPS, RFID and e-ink labels to monitor products through the supply chain, robots will fulfil stock orders in automated warehouses, while drones will buzz into the sky to offer customers last-mile, same-day delivery options.

As I mentioned earlier, the store of the future will literally ‘adapt’ to shoppers. Digital signage has a central role to play in this IoT-driven retail experience.

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