Almost 70% of retail decision makers say they are ready to adopt Internet of Things (IoT) technology, with 65% planning to invest in automation technologies for inventory management and planogram compliance by 2021, according to a study from Zebra Technologies.
The wide-ranging study also suggested that by 2021, nearly 80% of retailers will be able to customize in-store experiences by leveraging location technology that tells them when specific customers are in their stores. That technology will help them capture more data and generate more customer insights that will be key to integrating in-store and e-commerce experiences, something that 78% of those surveyed said was important or business-critical for them.
Meanwhile, about 87% of retailers said they plan to implement mobile point-of-sale (MPOS) devices by 2021 that would allow them to scan and accept credit or debit payments anywhere in the store. These deployments will be part of a general effort to invest in mobile devices, kiosks and tablets to increase payment options.
It's been a weird, wild week on the Internet of Things landscape. Wikileaks says the CIA has been hacking our connected stuff, a claim that still is not fully understood, nor completely verified. Given that claim, it might seem an odd time to release a study showing how excited retailers are to use IoT connected devices in their own operations. If 70% of those surveyed are planning to invest in IoT projects, what percentage are panicking a little inside right now, wondering if the should play down those plans?
The thing about connected things is that we have been hearing about their development for a long time. At this point, the 70% figure doesn't come as a huge surprise and just more validation for companies developing IoT technology and devices. A lot of those companies probably are thinking "Well, it's about time."
We'll see if the wind direction changes at all with the Wikileaks revelations, but it's unlikely, for the fact that IoT-enabled retail operations will be far more organized, efficient and better positioned to address customer needs than those that aren't. If anything, retailers deploying IoT also may now pay extra attention to IoT device security, something a now prophetic-seeming Booz Allen study in early 2015 pointed out that they needed to do.
Aside from the IoT investment observations, this study delves into a number of related technology areas, telling us that retailers are interested in using knowledge that specific customers are in a store to enhance the shopping experience of those customers, a process that no doubt will involve leveraging some IoT-derived data, and of course, retailers will need to tread carefully as they gather and exploit that data.
The embrace of mobile devices for in-store usage is also encouraging, and not too surprising, given what Crate and Barrel and others have been up to handing tablets and other mobile gadgets to their store associates.
Overall, the study results seem to reinforce everything we hope retail can become with greater and more aggressive investment by retailers in IoT, automation, mobile, analytics and other solutions to be relied on everywhere from the supply chain to the checkout line. Let's hope the retail executives who participated in this study meant what they said.