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

If stores are able to provide sufficient incentive for customers to enable a beacon-based app on their phone, a store can also use the data from those interactions to improve their own business analytics. The data from a BLE system can, for instance, detect consumers' dwell times at various store locations, which can help a company to determine where best to place premium products. "Meanwhile," Sorrell says, "the beacon can become an informational tool for the consumer, such as helping him or her find a product, or enable a bridge between products in-store and a wider digital storefront."

Beacon traction has been limited, Sorrell adds, by the fact that until recently, beacons required that end users have a store-specific app installed in order to exchange information. "Beacon protocols such as Eddystone negate this via the Physical Web standard, where support for the Physical Web is likely to be added by browser developers," he states. While Eddystone is available only through Google Chrome, Sorrell predicts that it will be expanded to other search engines in the future.

At the same time, Facebook now offers to provide its beacons at no cost. "Given the size of the Facebook user base," Sorrell notes, "the hurdle of the end user not having the required app installed on their device is dramatically reduced."

Although online retailers sales are competing with brick-and-mortar stores, Sorrell adds, retailers are learning how technology can help them leverage their one greatest advantage: the ability to provide a real-world experience. "Physical retailers have an advantage over online retailers in terms of the shopper experience," he explains, "as well as the fact that they have the opportunity to link the physical world with the digital one in-store to disrupt the traditional shopping experience."

"Partnerships will help achieve an omnichannel strategy," Sorrell says, "but really the key is to develop integrated business operations, and that applies to both the online and physical world." One example he cites is an abandoned shopping cart, either on the Internet or in a physical store. A shopper opting against making a purchase could be a matter of an online site-performance issue, or an experiential issue at a store. Traditionally, he says, those kinds of issues are separated, which makes them harder to solve.

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