Nearly 70% of retail decision-makers are ready to make changes needed to adopt the Internet of Things (IoT), and 65% plan to invest in automation technologies for inventory management and planogram compliance by 2021, according to the 2017 Retail Vision Study from Zebra Technologies.
“Retailers’ number one business challenge to compete in this dynamic marketplace is inventory visibility,” said Tom Moore, Industry Lead of Retail and Hospitality at Zebra Technologies in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Best case, most retailers are 50% to 60% accurate from that perspective, so if they’re going to have any kind of e-Commerce strategy and leverage their in-store resources and inventory, they need to make sure that product is there.”
To improve inventory visibility so that it reaches as high as 90% or greater accuracy, Moore recommends retailers invest in IoT devices that provide in-store sensing capabilities and can integrate into analytics platforms.
“In leveraging the physical store as part of their digital store experience, retailers can incorporate security sensors, sensors that track status of inventory for sale, sensors that track status of product temperature, beacons and sensors that track customer foot path,” Moore said. “IoT addresses a lot of different stakeholders within the retail enterprise in order to enable their stores to get to a ‘phygital’-type environment.”
Efficient data collection and analysis is critical to maximizing the potential of IoT devices, and retailers are coming around to that fact; 73% percent rate managing Big Data as important or business-critical to their operations.
Moore’s Top Four Retail Themes From NRF17
Moore also highlighted what he saw as four major themes during the 2017 NRF Big Show that play into the retail transformation driving IoT adoption:
Flexible fulfillment from all channels: “At the end of the day, we just want it however we want it. We may want it shipped to our home, we may want to pick it up in the store for various reasons, we may want to pick it up in a locker. There’s a lot of discussion from retailers around how they leverage their existing assets — stores and the inventory within them, which are closer to a shopper than an online provider — and what they need to invest to get there.” By 2021, 65% of retailers plan to explore innovative delivery services, such as delivering to workplaces, homes and parked cars.
Device convergence: “Retailers are running not one, but three, five, 10, sometimes 12 apps off of these devices so they can have it as more of a leveraged asset. I want a device that’s athletic enough to make sure I can address multiple use cases versus just one or two.”
Store associate as business development advocate instead of a warm body, via comprehensive employee training.
Greater use of predictive analytics, particularly for tracking store associates, boosting inventory accuracy and providing proactive loss prevention capabilities.
By 2021, at least 75% of retailers anticipate investing in predictive and software analytics for loss prevention and price optimization, along with cameras and video analytics for operational purposes and improving the overall customer experience.
Beyond analytics, these retailers are determined to empower their front-line employees with new technologies by 2021:
87% will deploy mobile POS devices, enabling associates to scan and accept credit or debit payments anywhere in the store;
86% will supply handheld mobile computers with scanners, enabling them to read barcodes for pricing and availability;
85% will supply tablets designed for users to engage with shoppers and provide more detailed product information; and
78% will build kiosks or stationary information terminals for pricing and availability information.
To conduct the study, online research partners Research Now and Qualtrics interviewed nearly 1,700 retail decision-makers from North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East, across segments such as specialty stores, department stores, apparel merchants, supermarkets, electronics, home improvement and drugstore chains.