Forward-Thinking Retailers Depend on Agile, Dependable Networks More Than Ever
In retail, smart stores and connected everything have captured the attention of the public as well as the technology community. Retailers are leading the way in testing and implementing customer engagement and operations strategies that someday will be adopted across virtually all industries.
In turn, retail enterprises are moving away from legacy network technologies and toward solutions engineered for the complexities of IoT, high-bandwidth usage, and the fluctuating needs of companies that must be able to change direction on a dime.
Customer Engagement Technologies
One area ripe for testing and implementing smart retail technologies is customer engagement efforts. Today’s customers demand personalized, interactive experiences that seamlessly connect the online and in-store experience. Emerging smart store technologies are designed to strengthen and deepen the retailer’s relationship with the customer.
Examples of relationship-enhancing technologies include:
- Facial recognition technology: In-store cameras and video analytics software recognize a customer’s face and serve up offers customized to that individual’s preferences and buying history.
- Interactive mirrors: These smart mirrors allow customers to see how a certain clothing item would fit without ever trying it on. These mirrors also leverage RFID tracking to help capture customer behavior, recording data regarding how long customers spend in dressing rooms, how they behave when an item doesn’t fit, and which items they are most likely to purchase.
- Smart shelves: These devices recognize when customers pick up items and whether they put them back down, allowing retailers to gather behavioral data and make better decisions around pricing and merchandising.
- Robotics: Customer service robots greet customers as they enter stores, sometimes using facial recognition technology to deliver tailored messages. Robots can also be used to fetch and deliver items to customers.
- Seamless checkout: Using RFID and/or video analytics technology, retailers allow customers to check out without standing in line or even scanning items. Customers may use an app on their phones to confirm their purchases and pay.
Whereas customer-facing technologies help retailers increase revenue, operations-facing technologies reduce expenditures and improve efficiency.
Often, retailers adopt customer-facing technologies that can serve a dual operational purpose. Examples of emerging operational technologies include:
- Advanced HVAC and lighting controls: These systems can be programmed and controlled remotely. A more recent development in such systems is the ability to enable automatic adjustments based on exterior conditions such as temperature and weather. Some smart power controls can actually react to happenings on the power grid, such as rolling brownouts, and adjust accordingly.
- Advanced loss prevention: Retailers can use the same video analytics technology for both customer recognition — as outlined above — and retail loss prevention.
- Interactive digital signage: The same signage used to present varied content to customers can also be used for employee training and video conferencing.
- Robotics: Robots track and move merchandise in warehouses, allowing retailers to fulfill more online orders and more efficiently manage shipments to brick-and-mortar locations.