Internet of Things (IOT) Technology
Retail market has been one of the fastest growing sectors not just in India but around the world. Even esteemed businesses like Tata Corporation have tied up and ventured into the retail market. However, things being the way they are change is the only constant and the markets are no different.
Retailing industry has existed since the beginning of time when man learned to trade. With the recent developments in technology, this sector has seen an innovative method of trade making the shopping experience even more intimate and satisfying. So how does the “Internet of Things” or the IoTs come into the equation? Basically the IoTs find out how seamlessly the products and the services which are being provided connect together to be of value.
Times are changing
For the first time since the rise of this civilization, customers have more awareness about the products. There are hundreds of articles telling them about “how to buy”, “what to choose”, “how to decide”, etc. needless to say your customer is highly aware of the products and the services that you are offering and he or she knows exactly what he or she wants.
On the other hand, even the sellers are more aware of the products and the services that need improvement. Thanks to technology, today the buyers have a lot of data to analyze their page’s revenue. They can also monitor the types of products that their buyers love and the ones they are totally rejecting. Beyond this, there is a plethora of clues that help them make the buying experience smoother for the user. This is called “consumer intelligence” and is known to be the game changer in today’s retail scenario.
How it all began…
Do you know how the “strawberry” flavor for Oreo brand was launched? Apparently in the year 2008 Mondelez International engaged in an experiment with mobile phones. They asked the Chinese consumers to partake in a product feedback project. This is how they gained their first solid feedback on the flavor – right from the ones who were going to taste it.
This was just the start. But at that time this project was termed revolutionary in the area of pre launch market research. Today this is the norm with all the giant companies. The technology that allowed them to assess this data was eyeball tracking and brain wave mapping. This proved to be really helpful because it helped the company gain direct insights into what the users liked and what they didn’t. The consumer’s perception towards the in-store advertising and packaging was also monitored and found out.
This was where the seeds of IoT were laid. The project itself cannot be classified as an example of IoT, but it showed the way to it in future.
After 2010, the global companies became even more demanding. They wanted strategies that helped them influence the consumer towards their product directly or indirectly. These are the same principles that have made the way for the “customer engagement” related technology to come forward. The proximity based consumer interaction saw a rise after the companies made it clear that they needed more technological intervention in their business. Hence the automated vending machines, interactive personal digital signage and checkouts via smartphones were all implemented.
Regarding the tech front
Now one does not simply come to this without having some serious upgrades in the technical front. Of course till that time we were having the best of brains behind this industry. There were techs that were gathering massive amount of consumer data to identify what it was that made it possible to get better from this front.
There were chunks of data being crunched at the implementation end and then such information were being fed by an array of smart phone devices that were strategically placed in front of the customer facing applications.
Now all of this is being done in the forefront. We know that IoTs are based on the principle of pre defined network crunching the real time data. So the real questions are:
- What will be the exact headers for these data? With this massive amounts of information, how to sort the right ones to make management decisions?
- Are there any legal implications of harnessing such data? If so, is this restricted to a particular geographical location? This is a very important question to ask.
- Also, since we are harnessing such information, how can we say for sure that the customer’s privacy will not be over ridden? Will the customers be comfortable with such policy?
- These data that are collected are very important for the company. So will the data collection and their storage be secure enough during the transmission?
These are some of the questions that a company must ask in order to carry out their data mining with ease. Only then will the “actionable intelligence” acquisition be a fruitful deal.
Of course there are security concerns. A highly esteemed retailer whose data is sitting on a compromised network can be at a greater threat since the cyber thieves and hackers will be able to hack into their systems and collect the data at any instant. They are also at the risk of compromising their vulnerable data to their competition in the market. Therefore one of the first things that the retailer at this stage should do, is make sure that their data storage is secure and that it can be accessed by the top level security clearance holders only.
What is the technological answer to these threats?
Technologically, such threats can be answered partially by machine to machine (m2m) framework into use. As always the M2M framework needs to be combined with the IoT framework so that it can efficiently ward off such threats. To go further than this, you will need to get into action with the legal courses framed by technological solution providers or governments. These technological assessments will be done properly in order to make IoT a sustainable option in the long run.
At present the global retail industry is going through the genesis. There will be multiple trial and errors related to IoT for this to be permanent in future. Therefore the vital thing for the retailers to do now is to stay focused on the one and only thing that makes retail possible – improving consumer experience.
Also, they should not make multiple overlaps on the loci while doing so as this could lead to unnecessary superimposition of the top and bottom level objectives in the industry.
Most of the retailers have already embraced the technology to keep moving forward with the sales. However, we need to bring the warehouses, the wholesalers, suppliers, vendors and stores into the equation in order to make this a truly remarkable experience for the user. As you know, it is never just one industry or one retailer that is booming – it is the entire process that is being blessed with the fruits of technology. Therefore, the better the overall experience (return, refund, shipping, etc) of the user, the better the market will be.
This can happen by making end to end IoTs and making them flexible so that these markets could interact and share insights. It is possible because as they say, “if you can dream it, you can do it.”
|1||IoT seeded through experiments by||Mondelez International|
|2||Present retail objective||To make user experience better|
|3||M2M needed in||Data security|