Most Retailers Globally Indicate IoT Plans, Including RFID

Zebra Technologies' "Retail Vision Study" finds that in four years, the majority of the 1,700 companies surveyed expect to be using RFID and other technologies to boost inventory accuracy and enhance customer service.
By Claire Swedberg

Stores are changing rapidly when it comes to the services they provide on their own premises. According to the surveyed retailers, 70 percent expect to be using IoT technologies to enhance visibility and employee customer service by 2021. Eighty-seven percent expect to use mobile point-of-sale devices to scan and accept payments in the store, while 85 percent will be using tablets to engage with shoppers and provide more detailed product information.

When asked about their existing IoT customer location technology as compared to future plans, the retailers reported that the expected growth was significant. For instance, 35 percent are using technology to understand where their customers are within the store, while 75 percent expect to be similarly tracking shoppers in 2021. When it comes to receiving alerts if a customer arrives to pick up an online order, 22 percent currently have technology that might include beacons, cameras or RFID to accomplish this task, while that percentage is predicted to rise to 71 percent in the next four years.

In addition, supply chain management is the focus for omnichannel sales. The majority (72 percent) reported that they plan to reinvent their supply chain with real-time visibility of inventory (provided by RFID or other sensor technology). For data management, at least 75 percent of retailers anticipate investing in predictive and software analytics for loss prevention and price optimization by 2021, as well as using cameras and video analytics to improve the overall customer experience.

A strategy for getting products to customers faster, after they place an online order, is another focus. The study found that by 2021, 65 percent of retailers surveyed anticipate that they will be piloting or using new delivery services that will get products to consumers more efficiently.

Some of these delivery methods vary according to the part of the world in which a store is based. For instance, in very crowded areas such as Singapore or Hong Kong, where the majority of consumers live in apartment buildings, some retailers are testing or deploying lockers for residents of large buildings, so that deliveries can be made more quickly without requiring receipt by a building employee or the residents themselves. In some cases, neighborhood stores are acting as a receiving point for customers' shipments. These kinds of delivery models will require a high level of inventory accuracy to ensure products are available when ordered, and that they are properly delivered to customers' receiving sites.

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