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5 ways IoT is changing retail—for the better

March 29, 2019

The retail competitive environment is getting tougher and tougher. Brick and mortar retailers are scrambling to get customers in the stores—and keep them there and shopping.

Fortunately, technology innovation—particularly the Internet of Things (IoT)—is providing new and exciting ways to increase store traffic and enhance the shopping experience. It’s also changing how retailers manage inventory at every point in the supply chain. One thing’s for sure: those retailers that leverage the interconnectedness of personal devices with their physical spaces will come out ahead.
 
Here are some of the most exciting IoT developments coming to stores near you:
 
  • Automated checkout—Say “good-bye” to long lines that keep customers from purchasing products. IoT now makes it possible for retailers to set up a system that reads the tag on each item a customer takes out of the store—and then tallies them all up and automatically deducts the total cost from the customer’s mobile payment app. Not only will this save customers aggravation, it will save the retail stores a lot of money. According to McKinsey, automated checkout can reduce cashier staff requirements by up to 75%—which could result in savings of up to $380 billion a year by 2025.
     
  • Beacons—Macy’s has been using beacons nationwide since 2014. Other major retailers like Lord & Taylor, Rite Aid and Urban Outfitters have adopted them too. These small Bluetooth devices, powered by technology from companies like Advantech Wireless, send location-based messages from retailers to shoppers’ smartphones while they’re in-store—offering discounts, announcements of special events and other reminders for a more personalized shopping experience. Beacons can also be used to send alerts about in-store promotions and other incentives to shoppers passing by. Still in the adoption stage nationwide, beacon-triggered content has the potential to drive billions in incremental sales moving forward.
     
  • Smart shelves—In the past, retail employees spent a lot of time and energy keeping track of items on store shelves to ensure they were never out of stock—or misplaced on the wrong shelves. Now smart shelves can do all these for them. Fitted with weight sensors and RFID tags that are connected to readers, smart shelves can scan products on both display and stock shelves—to streamline the inventory process and make it more accurate. Smart shelves can also be used to detect in-store theft, reducing the need for security personnel and video surveillance technology.
     
  • Interactive displays and self-serve kiosks—These “live” multidimensional shopping experiences allow shoppers to engage with brands at a deeper, more personal level and give retailers creative ways to provide more information about products and what it’s like to use them. On a more practical level, digital displays allow the retail environment to keep pace with the dynamic pricing and promotions found in online shopping. Pricing and promotional offers can be adjusted or removed quickly and efficiently through one content management system—made from either the corporate or store level. Interactive displays and self-serve kiosks are also an excellent way to collect shopper data and gain new insights to help retailers improve content and the customer experience.

  • Robotics and AI—While they haven’t replaced retail salespeople and service representatives yet, autonomous assistants are increasingly being used to cut down on the menial tasks that can burden employees. For example, the retail giant Walmart recently entered into a new partnership with Bossa Nova, a mechatronics company, to develop inventory auditing scanning bots for several Walmart stores. These mechanical assistants will automate such tasks as checking shelf displays, inventory levels and pricing. Another leading innovator, SoftBank Robotics America, has created a “friendly” robotic assistant known as Pepper, that’s capable of sharing information and helping customers on the store floor. Many retail chains are now experimenting with robotic assistants to streamline operations and improve the shopping experience. So get ready to see more and more of them roaming the store aisles.
These and countless other IoT-driven innovations are creating a sea change in the in-store environment. And your retail customers should take note and consider getting on the bandwagon. Ingram Micro can help you sort out which solutions are right for your customers. Our approach to IoT is solutions-oriented, addressing customers’ specific business problems and the outcomes they’re trying to achieve through IoT technology.
 
If you’d like to learn more and get started incorporating IoT into your customers’ operations, contact our IoT experts at us.iot@ingrammicro.com.