Intel says “The shelf has been with us for at least a couple of thousand years, and probably longer.” Now, it’s time for an upgrade…
For many years, retailers have used barcodes to track inventory and confirm items at checkout. However, with IoT clouds and the plunging costs of sensors, batteries, and computing cards, possibilities have spread far beyond what we originally thought imaginable. Retailers will soon tap into all kinds of new ways to work with customers, suppliers, and employees, thereby improving relationships and satisfaction levels for all. This can keep retailers in the game as online vendors threaten their market shares.
1. BLE BEACONS
BLE (Bluetooth 4) Beacons allow retailers to utilize targeted advertising directly inside their stores. These low-cost devices can locate a shopper mere centimeters away. To receive messages on their smartphones, shoppers opt-in to the system. IMEI serial numbers on phones identify shoppers, allowing retailers to review their purchase histories and pitch applicable products as they walk by. Every business from retailers to cell phone companies sell customer data to each other as a means of building target advertising to match every specific individual.
2. UP-TO-THE MINUTE INVENTORY TRACKING
BLE apps know what items are on each shelf because smart shelves have cameras and RFID tags. This eliminates any risk that out-of-stock items will be pitched. This method of inventory tracking can aid both shoppers and employees alike. It also fine tunes the ERP system as it tracks inventory from warehouses to shelves.
In-store inventory apps will also help shoppers find what they are looking for quickly. They will no longer have to search every aisle or ask clerks to find products, and they will already know which items are out-of-stock.
3. TIGHTEN THE SUPPLY CHAIN
Retailers can also improve how they work with supply chains. They can automatically send replacement orders to wholesalers when items are sold out or spoiled. This can instantly reduce costs, as retailers will no longer be required to over-stock or restock too often. This can also prevent unsold goods from accumulating, make returns easier for customers, and help suppliers appropriately fill trucks and containers while planning better routes.
4. NO MORE EXPIRATION DATES
Sensors can take the guess work out of monitoring produce and meats. There are sensors that can identify volatile organic compounds and use various electrochemical processes to turn the smells of these compounds into electric, measurable signals. This can inform grocers that certain produce has passed its expiration date and must be discarded. Smart sensors allow grocery stores to get rid of expiration date labels altogether once consumers have learned to trust them. Sensors can also adjust humidity levels and temperatures to keep produce and meat fresh.
5. VIRTUAL SHELVES
Car dealerships in the U.S. keep rows and rows of cars on outside lots, misappropriating capital and space. Dealerships and indoors retailers can save on space and inventory carrying costs by displaying certain items on television sets instead of fully-stocking shelves. Inventory not on hand can be presented virtually, while other merchandise is kept in view to show what retailers have in stock. Shoppers can flip through items kept in storage by using their smartphones or touch screens.
Shoppers can model clothes without physically putting them on by dragging images of certain apparel across their own image in a mirror. This allows retailers to use less floor space while presenting more options. Shoppers can buy from displays or ask clerks to produce in-store apparel for personal inspection and try-ons.
These are just a few examples of how retailers can use smart shelves to benefit their customers, suppliers, stockholders, and of course, themselves. Each new idea spawns another, ensuring sensors, big data, and IoT apps can grow and excel against brick-and-mortar retailers.