Study Forecasts 350 Percent Rise in IoT in Retail by 2021

According to a Juniper Research study, this growth is being fueled by RFID and Bluetooth Low Energy beacons, which are becoming lower in cost and more prevalent in stores, and which can now be leveraged for better analytics, customer experience and supply chain improvements.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 17, 2017

According to a Juniper Research study released last month, IoT platform-based devices in the retail environment, including RFID and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons, will number 12.5 billion in the next four years. The figure is rising 350 percent, the study finds, from the 2.7 billion connected devices last year. These devices include RFID tags on products, Bluetooth beacons installed in stores, and digital signage or electronic shelf labels. The details are available in the study, titled "IoT in Retail: Strategies for Customer Experience, Engagement & Optimisation 2017 – 2021."

Much of the growth Juniper researchers are forecasting is being enabled by the widespread use of RFID technology in retail for inventory management, which is expected to build more steam as tag pricing continues to drop.

With that kind of growth ahead, the research company report advises retailers on how to manage that growth within their own operations for three overall applications: understanding customer behavior (and thereby improving services and operations accordingly), enhancing the customer experience with features such as smart mirrors and automatic checkout, and improving the supply chain (and thereby enabling an omnichannel model, as well as reducing the risk of store out-of-stocks).

The company's study was based on a combination of primary and secondary research, says Steffen Sorrell, a Juniper analyst and the report's author. The primary research consisted of interviews with IoT stakeholders and service providers.

The IoT encompasses many technologies. "It's important to understand that the IoT, as a concept, does not directly concern a set of technologies," the white paper states. "What it does concern is a transformation in business processes, using a set of technologies to support this change."

However, RFID growth is key to the expected IoT adoption rate of retailers, the study finds. RFID was previously too expensive for widescale adoption due to the cost per tag, Sorrell explains, "hence its use was restricted to high-margin products where ROI [return on investment] was easier to achieve."

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