The Candid Voice in Retail Technology: Objective Insights, Pragmatic Advice

The Internet Of Things: Hope Yet?

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The Internet of Things has garnered a lot of attention in recent years – from both consumers and retailer prognosticators, alike. So much so, that a few years back we decided we’d survey retailers to assess their thoughts on the then-burgeoning technology.

What we found was somewhat predictable: lots of interest, but very little understanding of its real business value.

The problem, however, is that was five years ago.

Every year since 2015, RSR has benchmarked retailers’ attitudes about the business value of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. What we’ve hoped to see is steady growth in understanding just how helpful the new generation of readers, sensors, and network-enabled devices can – and most definitely will - be. In fact, we even titled our 2018 report, Customers Use IoT: Why Can’t Retailers? In this year’s survey, we reminded retailers to ignore any IoT-enabled consumer-grade products they may be selling, defining the Internet of Things as “all the Wi-Fi and network-enabled tools and devices that can be used to track and report the status of people, products and things.”

Even with this reminder, retailers remain somewhat locked in their opinions on what these tools can and will do for them. But retailers are also more candid than in prior years: in this study, one out of every two retailers admits they simply have no idea how IoT will impact their own operations in the next three years.

This is a real problem. While we appreciate the candor, what our latest report reveals (released just last week) is that there’s a fundamental disconnect between how the retail industry sees the opportunities vs. how the technology world sees them. A walk on the NRF’s Big Show floor any January will find attendees inundated with presentations of IoT-enabled demonstrations that clearly demonstrate IoT-enabled solutions to very real-world problems retailers face every single day. Yet retailers tell us that this messaging isn’t sinking in – or worse: is not yet believable.

What then, can be done about this dilemma?

But Wait! Hope Emerges

As it turns out, all hope is not lost. Retail Winners (those whose sales outperform the aggregate) reveal significant differences in perspective when it comes to IoT, and as a result, provide us incredibly valuable insights throughout this report as to where the Internet of Things is heading – hopefully for all retailers – in the not-so-distant future.

Retail Winners ascribe higher value to virtually every current IoT capability we put before them: from interacting with customers outside the store to tracking their activities once nearby - all the way into the myriad ways they can improve shoppers’ experiences once within the store’s four walls. Inventory management, improved wait times, the ability to track shoppers’ dwell times – all are in play. What’s more, Winners believe in IoT’s ability to get them closer to consumers right now: these are not forward-looking statements. As we’ll see throughout this study, Winners are already using IoT to engage with consumers in meaningful ways – and their interest in IoT serves as an optimistic window into how much more engaging store-based shopping will be in the coming months and years. Indeed, there is hope for IoT in retail still.

We hope you download the full report – it’s a pretty fascinating read.

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Articles & Opinions November 5, 2019
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