India has always potentially wanted smart retailing considering the rapid fluctuation in prices that commodities within the economy undergo as well as for a balanced customer experience. Supermarket chains that have sprang up all throughout the country have always promised a uniform and consistent shopping experience, but still lag behind when it comes to offering fresh products. Age-old methods are still employed to check inventory and refill these.
Also, with customers not in the know-how of inventory-related aspects (within the retail stores), smart retailing and smart stores could potentially be a way out here as far as offering complete transparency to customers is concerned. With the Internet of Things (IoT) making rapid penetrations within the Indian scheme of things, engineers could keep the retail sector on top of their minds while developing IoT-driven smart solutions.
Engineering IoT-driven solutions will thwart plaguing challenges in retail
A foremost aspect that embedded system engineers should keep in mind is the fact that sheer management of categories and the existing products is a major challenge to retailers. These issues are compounded when customer focus comes into the picture.
However, IoT experts feel that smart technology has enough potential to thwart the plaguing challenges.
“With the introduction of IOT solutions such as thermal imaging sensors, wi-fi based solutions and more, retailers can have a better understanding of customer journey inside the store,” states Shankar Narayan R who is Business Analyst and Functional Consultant at Happiest Minds Technologies.
Shankar is also optimistic about this approach yielding results as far as connecting customers to the products on offer at the retail store is concerned, in addition to retailers tracking customer behaviour effectively.
“Retailers can also analyse customer interest levels and pin-point locations for promotional activities and customized deals,” adds Shankar.
“Engineers can develop customised beacons that act as sensors to assist retailers in even creating, then offering, customised solutions based on individual needs. This, in turn, leads to an enhancement of the customer-vendor relationship,” states Avinash Kaushik – founder and chief executive officer at Bengaluru-based Revxx Hardware Accelerator.
With customer engagement and connection (with the retail stores) taken care of, another plaguing issue (as detected by IoT experts) is inventory management.
Shankar believes that enhancement of overall operational efficiency is the need of the hour for retailers. In this regard, engineers can create dynamic solutions to manage retail inventory in real time along with tracking ad-hoc price change and taking care of assets.
“For instance, with electronic shelf label solutions and digital labels, dynamic price changes can happen within few seconds, thereby reducing dependency on labour and effecting an improvement in the updating time,” adds Shankar.
“It will also help retailers to establish price synchronization between point of sale (POS) and other sale channels.”
In the physical world, what should a smart store comprise of?
IoT solution providers and engineers should aim to create stores that harness energy optimally through a custom-designed energy usage system. Also, there would be smart shelves to directly track and monitor inventory along with generating inventory-related reports in real-time. These elements can be used in tandem with customer behaviour analysis patterns to detect buying preference.
“Smart solutions will have higher degree of lead conversions (into actual sales) with the right systems in place. Big Data and Analytics will also play a vital role in estimating the lead conversion rate and possibility,” adds Bengaluru-based independent consultant Pradeep Kumar G. Pradeep also offers training on embedded systems to budding engineers desirous of developing technology-driven solutions.
Another solution that Avinash proposes is a sensor-ridden smart system that can track the way customers react while looking at products. This can be accomplished by capturing facial expressions and via eyeball tracking of buyers. Data (enormous amounts) generated here can be analysed through Analytics, and complex artificial algorithms can be used to point out the most effective options for sales staff (in-store) to ensure actual purchases.
“IoT is the key driver. Smart sensors can be implemented at every level in the store to capture customers’ preferences,” advises Avinash.
“Early adopters will be positioned to more quickly deliver IoT-enabled capabilities that can increase revenue, reduce costs and drive a differentiated brand experience,” states Bastin Robins J – who is chief data scientist at Bengaluru-based Hash Research Labs.