How the IoT can benefit e-Commerce

Right out of the gate I’m going to state I’m not going to talk about NFC in retail here, as I talk about that and am involved in various tenets of it throughout many projects so I wanted to be more general. Besides, when one talks about NFC, one is not always talking about IoT.

The reason I think why it’s important to state the benefits as even for me, it’s becoming very apparent that IoT still continues to be this monolithic thing I don’t think for many people, are aware of how big it actually is and how much it’s growing.

I may be an outlier, but 60% of our things at home are currently plugged into the Internet. Be that lightbulbs, thermostats, CCTV cameras, Toothbrushes, Water cups, Watches, TVs, and that’s before you count all the computers, consoles & the things you’d ‘expect’ to be connected. I think the last time I logged into my home router I counted at over 70 devices. That’s a corporate network!

Did you know in the next few years there’ll be 5.4 billion IoT devices connected to the Internet. Fuck!

The other reason for writing this post is because I’m spending a lot of my time in factory’s and warehouses at the minute at its here, where IoT is going to change everything.

Stock Management

Tracking inventory has never been easier thanks to IoT. Sensors, NFC & RFID tags make managing stock super simple. Real time monitoring of stock even more so. There’s a huge amount of bandwidth available too in one of those tags, information such as product type, manufacturers name & product spec, batch IDs, links to support sites – all of this can be stored in that tiny tag which can be read at high speed & at scale. This information can be passed to devices such as ‘smart shelves’ which monitor stock & email out re-ordering based on activity online, ensuring companies always range the right products at the right time without having to rely on a human! Companies will never lose that expensive batch of components again because they’ve been left in a corner somewhere or on the back of a van! Not only at the front of retail establishments companies like SmartShelf are innovating hard with this type of technology.

Supply Chain Control

Having been involved recently in a project where the Supply chain interfacing with the e-commerce proposition was not thought about in enough detail, I’ve seen the impact it can have when things go wrong. Using a combination of RFID to track the movement of products inside the company to then GPS tracking in transit, its possible to give customers complete information about the location of their delivery along with predicted arrival times. This massively increases customer satisfaction & repeat business. Rewire security and companies similar are pushing affordable tech allowing you to to track anything, anywhere. And you only have to read about my ‘Smartwear’ project to know you can get a GPS transmitter on something the size of a fifty pence piece!

Consumer Experience

What I’m super excited about is the amount of (scarily) data which is being collected about consumers from the consumers themselves. From purchasing habits, to physical foot fall, to the patterns people walk around shops in, to how they buy, what they buy and when. All this big data then gets fed through any type of algorithmic based system you want to ultimately provide a richer UX for the consumer. It’s scary, but it’s a world I ultimately want to live in. To best describe in pictures what I’m talking about here, think of that scene in Minority Report – where billboards serve adds to consumers as the consumer looks at them – collecting data from a camera, facially recognizing them and then collating that with other information online.

 

Don’t think this is sci – fi, I did this as a project for a high street retailer some time ago, and already this tech is becoming old hat – read this times article here which overviews how it works.

Conclusion

With more and more sensors, Microchips and other gubbins in place in everything we buy nowadays, IoT is expected to have a massive impact on e-Commerce businesses.

I consult companies on a daily basis on how technology can impact them positively and the path they should take to enhance sales. If you’re interested in learning more, want a chat or even discuss this article, feel free to ‘reach out to me’ on Twitter @mariodc – ONLY if you’re a member of the Four Tops! For everyone else, a simple tweet will do !

Mario DeCristofano

35 year old Digital native, grumpy, occasionally sweary & always passionate, I write about IT, technology & the things which interest me. @mariodc on Twitter.

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