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IoT: the Internet of Things is in demand these days. I realized this when I was watching Shark Tank. The majority of the startups that came to the show were IoT based. And this is the reality, many startups and businesses these days are investing in IoT or have IoT as their core business product.
There is no sector where we can’t utilize IoT. The retail sector is one such example. In the past three to four years, the retail sector has undergone some constant changes. This wave ride in the retail sector can be explained by the events of the pandemic.
The retail industry is very well enlightened of its own issues and drawbacks. Because of the evolving consumer habits, high pressure of timely deliveries, and customers’ mistrust of online shopping are some factors that resist sellers’ back or they could otherwise be thriving.
This pandemic has made retailers reconsider their strategies and boost digitalization. And this all is done by integrating IoT solutions in retail. Thus, retailers and shopping malls around the globe are making use of IoT to give personalized experiences to their customers and to also smoothen their internal business processes.
IoT applications are being used by malls and shopping outlets all over the world in many ways such as real-time location tracking using the data to understand consumer behavior to smart inventory management.
There are stats that claim that the global IoT retail market value will reach up to 67.60 billion by the end of 2026. There is no doubt that IoT will spread completely in the retail and shopping sector in the near future.
You know the article topic, so without any extra talk let’s learn about the types of IoT applications that can be developed for retail stores.
How the Internet of Things is Useful in the Retail Industry?
Internet of Things (IoT) is a local mesh of internet-enabled devices, sensors, and systems that share data and information in real-time. Businesses access these data through IoT applications.
Or simply you can understand IoT as the extension of net connectivity into physical objects and spaces.
Below are mentioned the two most common use cases of IoT in a retail store. It will give you a general idea of how the Internet of things tech can be used in this space.
- Data Collection & Sharing
By using sensors, IoT devices, and products one can collect important data on shopping products and on the entire shopping lifecycle. After the collected data is processed, it gets converted into valuable information that will help retail managers to make knowledgeable decisions and can improve retail operations.
- Work Based on Collected Data
IoT-enabled devices and stores connected with them can become partially or fully automated to bring coherence, sustainability, and adaptability to retail operations.
Types of IoT Applications for Retail Stores
As I said, IoT has many use cases in the retail industry, so before jumping to IoT application development you must be aware of what kind of application you should develop according to your business.
Here is a list of all kinds of IoT applications that you can develop for your retail store.
1. Location Tracking Applications
If you have your own retail store then you must have faced logistics-related issues, once in a while. Late deliveries on top of that lost packages in transit are a big problem that constantly lowers the efficiency of malls and retail stores.
With an IoT-based location tracking app retailers can receive the real-time location of their shipments. Because of these real-time data, the software can also determine the estimated delivery of the packages by keeping in mind the factors like traffic, weather, and roadblocks. This will bring transparency in retails and its logistics.
2. Inventory Management Applications
Inventory management is the most tedious and difficult task in retail store management. The store managers have to keep a record of their inventory in real-time to make sure they never run out of stock.
Now, if inventory is done manually, there will be chances of errors that can result in inefficient inventory management. However, inventory management in concurrence with IoT sensors can help retail stores manage their inventories more efficiently.
3. Mall Traffic Analysis
Customers’ shopping habits and behavior can greatly be affected by mall management and business planning. Similar to online shopping, retail stores are also trying hard to understand the shopper’s behavior to make maximum sales. They have to study how customers behave in their stores while shopping.
In regard to this, IoT sensors and CCTV cameras can be placed throughout the store to analyze which section gets to see more customer traffic and which products are more popular. Store managers can use this data to rearrange their product layouts.
4. Smart Shelf Applications
A smart rack can be a ground-breaking introduction in the retail sector. Smart shelves work on RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology and contain three components: RFID tags, RFID readers, and antennas.
Even weight sensors can also be placed on or under the shelves to track the number of inventories left out on the shelves. If the shelf is running low on stock an alert can be sent through the IoT platform using the antennas.
5. Personalized Customer Experience Applications
One of the positive features of shopping online is the personalized shopping experience for every shopper. eCommerce sites will keep track of all your previous purchases along with the stuff you are browsing.
Based on these data, they start sending you notifications about the product you showed interest in and when it is going on sale or is available to buy. Through this, the stores can get repeated business from their customers and can give a touch of personalization.
The same can happen in retail stores as well. The IoT-based applications linked with geofencing and IoT beacons will allow retail stores to target their customers more effectively.
Starbucks is a good example of this, as they send notifications to their previous customers about their new products whenever they pass in front of their shops.
6. Equipment Maintenance Applications
Equipment maintenance can be a bizarre thing for malls. Especially in parts where it is important to maintain good’s health like refrigerators in the dairy product sections. Retail stores can install IoT sensors in their devices to track the health of the running machines.
The machine health data will be sent back to the equipment maintenance application, where the manager can track it. Based on these data the applications can predict if there is any breakdown in the equipment.
How To Develop IoT Application For Retail Stores
Now that you are aware of several types of IoT applications you can build a similar IoT application for your retail store. Let’s dig into how to build an IoT application for retail stores in seven steps.
1. Recognize the Pain Spot
The first step in IoT app development is recognizing the pain points. You have to track down the things that are stopping you from optimizing a specific portion of your business.
For instance- you might be struggling with inventory management or you are facing a hard time locating your employees.
These pain points might be a reason for you to develop an IoT app as they will fix all the obstacles that you are facing.
An accomplished and skilled IoT application developer will pilot you through the entire process and can integrate extra specifications into the IoT application.
2. Conduct a Thorough Market Research
Once you are aware of what you need, you have to explore the market to analyze how you can meet those needs. The best way of doing this is competitor analysis. As competitor analysis can give you answers on how to fix your issues and you can also learn from your competitor’s mistakes to make a better and more advanced IoT solution for your store.
3. Application Planning & Budgeting
Through all the knowledge you gained from the market and on the basis of your list of requirements, you can plan your app development.
Before hiring any mobile app and software development company you should know what you want from your dream application.
Although detailed application development planning will be done by the developer you also should be aware of the features you want to add to your application prior to hiring any developer.
If application planning is done, you can decide the budget of your application.
4. Hire Experienced IoT Application Developer
Once you have planned out everything it’s time to hire an IoT application developer. There are thousands of application development companies that offer personalized services at reasonable rates.
But when it comes to IoT your foremost concern should be skills. If you run a big retail store the possibility of errors can increase drastically. Thus, you will need a development partner that can understand your requirements and can offer ideal consultation to develop top-notch applications that support your IoT sensors and other IoT devices.
For this, you have to look for custom software development that demands developers who can build solutions from the scratch, have a deep understanding of IoT, and are capable to handle complex projects.
5. Develop Your IoT Application
Based on your requirement, your application can be built. Although application development is a prolonged and complex project that needs a lot of investment. So before investing completely in proficient software, it will be good if you demand a proof of concept (POC).
A POC will call for your developers to install necessary sensors in the important locations of the store and then develop a small application to show that your demands can be fulfilled by their application design.
Nevertheless, developing an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is always a good option to develop a complete application successfully. An MVP will include all the prime features of the application. If the MVP gives good results, you can work on the full project.
6. Testing & Deployment
Testing is the most critical step in software development. Testing occurs when a QA (quality analyst) engineer search for all kinds of glitches, bugs, and variables in an application. You must know that a bug-filled IoT application can create problems such as placing orders for the wrong goods.
So make sure the application gets thoroughly tested before it’s deployed. Deployment means the IoT application is made available to the general public.
7. Application Maintenance
After the deployment of your application, you should make sure it is maintained appropriately. Post-launch application maintenance and support should be needed continuously to remove all the bugs in the system and to ensure the data is secure.
IoT in retail outlets can be of great help in making strategic marketing plans and streamlining business processes. However, in the past years with the major drop in the development cost of high-end IoT sensors, the total cost of implementing IoT in retail stores has become reasonable.
If you are looking to integrate IoT in your retail store, Extern Labs has years of experience in IoT app development. We are experts in implementing IoT infrastructure impeccably.
The Extern Labs team has robust experience in IoT software and firmware development. We reckon on proactive management and open communication principle and together we test our client’s ideas to build a dynamic system for them.