Optimizing Internet of Things data tracking in-store

Co-CEO, V3 Broadsuite

Internet of Things data is transforming the world around us in a dramatic fashion, whether it affects smart buildings that optimize energy usage or farmers that use sensors to monitor animals. In the process, it's creating an avalanche of data. Managing that information and extracting meaningful insights from it is a huge task for businesses, especially the many retailers whose potential customers set foot in brick-and-mortar stores.

The evolution of consumer behavior digital technology has evolved, so have businesses. Digital marketing teams at today's enterprises are particularly adept at capturing consumers' online behavior data, information that helps them build detailed profiles of their preferences and shopping habits. The digital breadcrumbs Web users drop when they search for something on Google will prompt sites to serve ads promoting a similar product or service in the future. But what if the potential customer has actually ventured into a physical store, especially if they merely intend to view and handle the goods before going home to find the best price online? It's impossible to do any targeted, data-driven online marketing, right?

Wrong. Internet of Things data is changing the game for retailers. The proliferation of smartphones and growing popularity of wearable devices is creating opportunities for retailers to combine historical information with real-time data in an unprecedented way.

Location-based analytics

Two years ago, The New York Times reported that stores were experimenting with technology that could track consumers by following the signals from their smartphones. Things have moved on since then with intelligent marketing technology powered by location-based mobile services enabling evermore sophisticated use of a consumer's in-store behavior data. Combining location-based information with a consumer's online profile allows for the most up-to-date information, offers and coupons to be delivered at the right time and in the right place to capture their attention.

Of course, many consumers will have concerns that might hold back their enthusiastic acceptance of such tracking, but there are legions of consumers who are willing to share their information in exchange for bargains and relevant outreach. That's where the opportunity lies for retailers. There is, however, a responsibility resting on retailers to help consumers understand and control how their data and location information is being used, as well as how it is being protected.

The future of wearables

Despite concerns, though, consumers are interested in using their mobile and wearable devices to enhance their shopping experiences. eMarketer recently reported on research from Power Reviews, which revealed that 30 percent of U.S. smartphone owners already owned a wearable device or planned to purchase one in the next year. Even more revealingly, 82 percent of this group wanted their devices to be able to enhance their in-store shopping experience, while nearly half wanted their wearables to help them save time shopping.

Power Review's research also revealed the following:

  • 90 percent of shoppers are using mobile devices to help make purchase decisions in-store.
  • 21 percent of respondents are open to using new technology to help with purchase decisions.
  • 22 percent are interested in making touchless or one-click payments from devices.
  • 20 percent would like to use interactive maps on their devices to navigate in-store.

It's not just consumers who stand to benefit from wearable devices and smartphones while they shop. eMarketer also reported on a separate study that showed 40 percent of retail associates wanted to use location-based wearable devices at the point of sale to help them personalize and improve in-store experiences.

Retail operations with physical locations have a golden opportunity to combine the online and offline profiles of customers, something that their online-only competitors are unable to do. Now is the time to make sure you're implementing systems that can maximize Internet of Things data, making both your customers and employees happy. It will be fascinating to see how the future unfolds for retailers who grasp this opportunity.

Need insight on how to navigate data to improve the consumer experience? Learn how on our IBM Retail Solutions page.