Mobile still has the edge on IoT devices in seamless retail environments

The development of the Internet of Things (IoT) allows a variety of connected smart devices to link shoppers to purchases. This has been instrumental in supporting and furthering the alignment of physical and digital channels – a concept we now know as seamless retail.

With the advent of IoT, if a customer wants to place an order, they no longer have to log into a website or an app. Instead, consumers can directly shop via connected smart devices such as the voice-activated Amazon Echo. They can even rely on fridges and printers which track their usage and notify them when ink or milk is running low. Some connected devices even complete the task of consumption by placing automatic orders or adding items to digital shopping lists.

To work efficiently, however, seamless retail needs to have a solid foundation that can support hidden supply chain complexities. The customer wants to see uniformity across all channels, whether they are looking at pricing, availability, special offers or product information. To deliver this, retailers need real-time, back-end inventory awareness.

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In addition, if shoppers are getting access to all the information they need online, they will certainly expect it when they are in-store. Therefore, shop assistants must have access to detailed product and inventory data. They also need to do this quickly. The digitally-savvy customer will not hang around for long while the stock cupboard is searched.

While IoT-connected fridges might have their retail uses, they and other connected devices pale by comparison with the mobile phone or tablet when it comes to delivering seamless retail functionality. In fact, mobile data capture solutions are already providing a fundamental and unifying foundation for seamless retail.

By using mobile devices to retrieve data from product barcodes, a true “bricks and clicks” retail environment is realised. What’s more, customers benefit from one seamless experience. Mobile data capture also provides real-time analytical insight into shopper behaviour and inventory movement that is hard to extract by other means.

A mobile retail app with a scanning feature gives consumers a single tool for automatically selecting virtually any item in their home for purchase or review. Scanning is intuitive and takes a fraction of a second to perform. Once scanned, items can be added to a digital shopping list, placed into a click and collect order, or requested for home delivery. Customers can also use at-home scanning for activities such as checking local stock levels and obtaining targeted discounts.

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Here are some typical scenarios:

 Customer in store
Customers are accustomed to self-checkout, particularly in supermarkets, and increasingly retailers are offering mobile barcode scanning-based self-checkout apps.
Customers already know this is a faster process than joining the check-out queue.

By using these apps, customers can get access to product information including ingredients or materials used, pricing, reviews, special offers and even video. In addition, shoppers can check for availability of stock across the enterprise and place orders for items not located in the store.

Meanwhile retailers can cut down the number of cashiers they need on tills. They can also avoid the substantial cost of purchasing and maintaining dedicated scanners while providing a superior customer experience.

Staff in store

For sales assistants, mobile scanning supports a number of critical seamless retail activities. By scanning misplaced items, managers can immediately notify sales floor staff to fix any shelving errors.

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Employees can scan tags on products or shelves that need replenishment. They can also record the location and availability of items for store-level fulfilment of online orders – great for click-and-collect or buy-online-pick-up-in-store operations. Any stock-taking or inventory activity becomes quicker, easier and virtually error-free with mobile data capture.

As with customer-facing scanning, retailers can embed mobile data capture functionality into an app that can be used on a mobile or tablet in-store, cutting down the need for costly dedicated scanning devices. This could even open the possibility of using a bring your own device (BYOD) mobile data capture strategy.

The supply chain

Seamless retail stands or falls on inventory awareness. If a retailer is ‘out of stock’, a customer will quickly move on to a competitor’s site or store, because they simply expect quick fulfilment of their purchases.

Again, mobile data capture can help. Every time a barcode is scanned along the extended supply chain, a retailer will know where inventory is located. From source to shelf, the current location of each product and its accessibility to fulfil specific customer requests is readily available.

Deploying mobile data capture solutions in the supply chain also serves to minimise loss. By scanning goods before and after delivery, retailers can quickly identify and investigate shipment inconsistencies. Barcode scanning at other key intervals in the supply chain can provide further insight into potential instances of theft, damage or other loss prevention events.

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Seamless retail depends on real-time, enterprise-wide inventory awareness and customer engagement. Mobile data capture is a cost-efficient and effective foundation for a holistic seamless retail strategy.

By scanning product barcodes, customers can obtain product information, check availability and make purchases via their channel of choice. Supply chain employees can track and trace inventory, pick and pack orders, and perform stock-keeping tasks. Customer orders can be fulfilled from any channel through any channel in the most profitable and timely manner possible.

IoT can make shopping easier, and may have a place in a broader seamless retail strategy. But mobile data capture delivers the end-to-end supply chain transparency that makes seamless retail possible.


Sourced by Samuel Mueller, CEO, Scandit


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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