The Small Connected Retail Store

How smaller retail stores can adopt IoT as a smarter way of working and shopping.

Jul 2017

The Small Connected Retail Store

Like any new tech trend, we look towards the larger brands and bigger budgets to implement things first. The internet of things (IoT) to date, has been no different. Rather than breaking this down into its counterparts, ready for anyone to adopt we’ve been pushed back by industry jargon and “predictions” pieces which make for great reading but well, aren’t that useful.

So in this article we wanted to look at the reality of the smart connected retail store for small businesses. Forget your Hollisters and your Sephoras, already said to be adopting the connected retail space of the future. This one’s for the small guys, because turns out, anyone can adopt IoT and a smarter way of working and shopping within retail.

What is the connected retail store?

The internet of things (IoT) is when the things around us become smarter. Think the smart fridge which tells you when it runs out of milk as the classic example. The connected space, a term we’re super interested in, is made up of a series of smart “things”, all coming together to make a smarter environment. An example of a connected space could be a workplace kitchen where the lighting, heating, appliances, TV monitors and security systems are all joined up to talk to each other. So if the kitchen suddenly becomes full, the doorway recognizes this, tells the heating to turn down and turns on all of the appliances ready for use.

In retail, the connected store is one where every element is joined up and able to talk to each other with the overall aim of making the environment more fluid and efficient. So that rather than just your sales staff being the ones in charge of helping customers, every single element is geared up to provide a perfect experience.

Who is using it?

You’ve likely already seen examples of the connected retail store popping up. From Adidas’ “Virtual Footwear Wall” to the smart brushes used in L’Oreal salon, these are the applications which are obvious to the eye and are beginning to get press. Then you have those that are invisible yet run alongside. Predictive equipment is beginning to monitor store systems to recognize equipment failure and early-stage problems and “demand-aware” warehouses ensure that stock is ordered and replenished without the need for “human” management.

How can smaller retail stores use IoT?

You may think that IoT is something that can only be implemented in larger retail stores or chains but actually, it’s accessible for all. Here are some of the ways smaller stores can implement IoT at any level:

  • Digital screens - a sales assistant is talking to a customer about a product. They use the digital screen on the wall to switch from static ad displays to actual product information, image galleries and case studies to help assist the decision.
  • Smarter store monitoring - stores adapt and change depending on who walks through the door. If the footfall reaches X amount, the air conditioning rises and sales staff are buzzed to return from breaks or stockrooms to help out.
  • Tailored communications - digital screens adapt and change to conditions outside the store or as directed by the sales staff. In hot weather, specific ads are shown and if it rains, the displays switch to more relevant messaging.
  • RFID-tracking of items in warehouses - manages assets and reports to sales staff in the moment, what is available.
  • Drones - where smaller retailers can take advantage of faster service and delivery through the use of drone transportation.
  • NFC-enabled payment systems - for price scanning and agile paypoints from anywhere within the store - or even outside.
  • Geo-location sensors - helping to change or adapt lighting around the store as visitors move around.

Do smaller stores actually have the advantage?

Despite having smaller budgets, small retail stores often have a first-adopter advantage when it comes to implementing IoT. First, there is no high-level sign-off. If you want to test whether you can make your store more efficient, you can order a few “smart” lighting sensors, throw them up and see what happens.

Secondly, when you only have one store to worry about, you don’t have to worry about scale. Right now, many chains want to implement IoT but lengthy rollout procedures and trying to determine how to scale is holding them back. Or you have the classic case where the flagship gets all the “cool technology” and the others are left to manage as they are.

In a smaller store you have the opportunity to test, iterate, make changes and connect the systems and things that work for you and your customers. Feedback is fast and the tests you make don’t have to be expensive. Try ScreenCloud as one example - for $20 per month you can have a fully connected digital screen up and running that makes you and your customers’ lives easier.

With smaller stores it is more about changing the mindset than anything else. Once you’ve done that and seen the potential, almost anything is possible.

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