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Using the Internet of Things to Achieve “Frictionless Retail”

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has finally matured to where frictionless retail is becoming real. By digitizing business processes and employing IoT technologies such as edge analytics, cloud computing, mobile, sensors, beacons and more, retailers can reduce friction and optimize everything from product design and manufacturing, to distribution, to the customer’s in-store shopping experience and purchasing processes.

One of the areas we’re seeing this transformation is in the way retailers are employing IoT technologies to turn their stores into living laboratories that generate real-time insights on how shoppers are responding to products, packaging and displays. For example, The Dandy Lab uses interactive mannequins, visual discovery engines, location analytics from shoppers’ mobile data and even video analytics from cameras aimed at shoppers’ feet to better understand how their customers interact with products and behave in store. They gain valuable insights needed to improve their merchandising displays and also share the data with their supply chain partners so product designers and manufacturers can make rapid adjustments in real-time.  In this way, IoT technologies remove the friction of needing to create test showrooms or pay fictitious shoppers in an effort to gain insights into consumer behavior and can optimize short-run manufacturing.

Moving down the supply chain, the IoT is also removing friction from the distribution process. Walmart recently announced its use of drones in its distribution centers to speed up inventory checks. Other retailers are utilizing wearable technologies, computer vision, analytics and weight sensing shelves to track inventory in real-time and better understand when products will arrive at or leave distribution centers. Distributors are attaching sensors to loading docks, truck fleets and even drivers, making distribution more predictable and helping retailers keep their shoppers better informed of when products will arrive.

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