Retailers today are facing serious competitive pressures. The adoption of new sales channels, the abundance of product options and the emergence of mass personalization are driving consumer expectations and price sensitivity, which, erodes brand loyalty. Managing and synchronizing information across channels continues to be a pressing yet challenging priority for retailers, particularly those looking to implement an omnichannel strategy.
Today more than ever, savvy retailers are turning to technology in an effort to streamline processes and create a better customer experience. In order to fully leverage real-time intelligence, many retailers are applying a concept known as the Internet of Things (IoT). This is essentially a giant network of “things” that are connected to the Internet and/or to each other. More specifically, it is a network of physical objects containing embedded technology that allows it to communicate or detect the relationship between people-people, people-things, and things-things.
Fashion retailer Zara announced that it is using new technologies to track in-store items in an effort to make smarter stocking decisions. Now, each time a garment is sold, data from its RFID chip prompts an instant order to the stockroom instructing them to send out an identical item. This is the Internet of Things in action and retailers are using this phenomenon to keep better track of their stock, and replenish items more quickly.
By managing the supply chain through the Internet of Things, brands can also provide a better customer experience. In the case of Zara, if a customer is unable to find an item, a salesperson can point a camera at a barcode of a similar item and using data gathered by the chips, see whether it is available in that locations, in a nearby Zara store, or online.
Offering sophisticated and intertwined experiences such as these are becoming crucial for retailers to meet the demands of today’s shoppers who use any number of devices to find better deals and a more personalized, tailored service. With industry analyst firm Gartner predicting that there will be more than 26 billion connected devices by 2020, it’s becoming imperative that retailers think like a consumer and looks at their channels together rather than as individual silos. It doesn’t make sense to deliver an experience on a tablet in the evening that doesn’t reference the shopper’s visit to the store earlier that day. Why not remind them of the item they tried on or suggest a complimentary item for something they have already purchased?
The data-led approach of the Internet of Things uses insight about customers to join devices and serve all parts of the customer journey based on this information. For example, imagine that your running vest could understand your energy levels and, as you grow tired, connects to your refrigerator to see whether you have energy drinks at home. If there are none, technology found in the refrigerator can contact the grocery retailer so the drink can be available when you arrive home. With such detailed insight about the customer’s journey to purchase, consumers may not need to think about making a purchase in the future. The sky is the limit and very soon simple shopping experiences like this will not only be possible but actually mainstream.
Although the Internet of Things presents huge opportunities, retailers are simultaneously faced with the challenge of managing huge amounts of data due to these automated techniques. Many brands are daunted by the deluge of data and often don’t have the sophisticated systems in place to use it to its full potential. Knowing what to do with all this data is where many brands fall short.
While the Internet of Things is in its early stages, one way of managing this data right now is with a Master Data Management (MDM) solution. By enabling manufacturers and suppliers to provide detailed product information to retailers, along with additional supporting content, the use of an MDM platform will yield a reduction in time and cost across the supply chain. More importantly, it will increase both the accuracy and timeliness of the information.
Developing the level of agility needed to improve profitability and performance starts with a retailer’s ability to create a single, trusted source of information by integrating departmental processes and intelligence to create a valuable enterprise-wide asset. Accurate and consistent information is becoming essential for retailers looking to provide an integrated customer experience across all channels, and integrate new technologies like the Internet of Things into the retail supply chain. Once retailers adapt the supply chain to serve the complete customer journey, providing a connected approach across channels becomes much simpler and the customer experience much greater. At the end of the day, simplicity is what customers expect from shopping and service. If retailers can make shopping feel simple, even when there’s much more data involved to provide that experience, then brands are definitely onto a winning formula.
Simon Walker is Director of Innovation at Stibo Systems, a global leader in multidomain Master Data Management (MDM) solutions. He has undertaken senior management roles, incorporating software product management and product strategy. He has extensive knowledge of the Master Data Management (MDM) market and technology. With his extensive experience, Walker has guided Stibo Systems product strategy achieving market leadership. As a result, global top tier retail and B2B companies have successfully implemented the product for Master Data Management, data driven marketing and multichannel commerce. Contact Walker at [email protected] or visit www.stibosystems.com.