The latest report published by the Office for National Statistics drew attention to an underlying pattern, that retail sales in the UK are currently going through a phase of slow growth, with a three-month rate of 0.1%, which is the lowest since April 2017. Clearly, now is the perfect time for the retail businesses to embrace the full potential of digital advancements.
However, it is clear that going completely digital is not the answer either. Brick-and-mortar, despite what most analysts have predicted at the dawn of ecommerce, is not going anywhere. People will always have the desire to test, browse, and inspect products in person before making the actual purchase. This is why, even after more than a decade, stores are still seeing growth rate, which is steady albeit slow.The answer clearly lies in the innovative amalgamation of these two worlds. Amazon Go is just one example of how these retail world giants are trying to capture the best of both the worlds. Another fabulous example comes with the increasing use of the digital mirror technology.
In the US, Neiman Marcus, a fashion retailing market leader, is using memory mirrors to enhance the experience for users. The mirror works on the concept of AR and allows the consumers to try on different outfits with a 360 degree view without the need of ‘taking-off’ items. Similar mirrors have been installed by the organisation for sunglasses and cosmetics counters. Other similar instalments are flourishing in the hair salons in South Korea, and the stores of lingerie marketer Rigby and Peller in Hong Kong.
Taking this technology a step-further with Intel’s 3D RealSense Cameras and OLED displays, Mango is trying to revolutionize its fitting rooms for a better shopping experience. Last year, this global fashion retailer witnessed a significant rise in its digital sales through mobile devices. Now understanding the growing reliance on compact technologies, Mango is working with Vodafone and Jogo Tech to install its digital fitting rooms in the stores of its most active markets – Barcelona and New York. These fitting rooms will allow the shoppers to browse clothes in the fitting room, with the ability to switch between display screens and the mirror,and make contact directly with the shop floor staff through RFID and digital watches, to ask for variation in colours and sizes. The mirror will also supposedly suggest additional clothes and accessories to complement with the users’ original choice.
Yet another innovative idea where IoT is being used to enhance the shopping experiences by bringing the two spheres together is with Robomart, a self-driving car that brings the market aisle to your door. The idea of the autonomous car was conceptualized by Ali Ahmed, who noticed the aforementioned need of people to inspect their groceries physically before making the purchase on his mobile app. To make use of the concept, users will have to hail the Robomart, much like how they hail cabs through mobile apps. Using sensors and RFID they can pick and pay for the stuff they purchase.
Though IoT applications in retail industry is fairly new, we can easily see the path of growth it is paving. Obviously there will be issues related to privacy and the smooth implementation to deal with but the advantages that come in the guise of personalisation and supply chain optimisation can definitely not be ignored. In the end, it all depends on how much digital interaction society is prepared for.