Leveraging Location-Aware IoT Networks To Drive Personalized Retail Experiences


Many retailers are investing heavily in e-commerce platforms, but the brick and mortar shopping experience has remained nearly the same for the last 50 years. One opportunity for brick and mortar retailers to address their future business is to create a more personalized in-store experience by leveraging location-aware IoT networks. 

In a 2019 NetSuite study, 80% of customers said they felt dissatisfied with the level of personalization within both in-store and online environments. What works online cannot be translated literally into a physical environment, but retailers can create a richer in-store experience for customers using technology such as creating an IoT network using smart, LED lighting.

Installing an IoT network by leveraging a store’s lighting grid may sound initially like an expensive undertaking, but most retailers are at a perfect point to upgrade their existing lighting network across retail facilities such as stores and warehouses. 

See also: Building a Digital Blueprint of the Physical Store

Older fluorescent lighting that is still installed in most retail stores can be retrofitted or replaced with smart, connected LED lighting. Not only do these retrofits often lead to energy savings that can, in turn, help pay for themselves, they also present an opportunity to include and fund digital technologies (drivers, sensors, networked controls, etc.) into the overhead lighting. Determining the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the project can provide a comprehensive reference point.

Such lights can capture location-aware data from shoppers, employees and assets as they move throughout the store. Retailers can capitalize on the resulting data for analysis and insights needed for physical locations to increase sales and improve operational efficiencies. Apps created from data insights can help increase customer engagement and reduce information overload so brick and mortar stores can provide an individualized experience.

Retailers committed to providing in-store shoppers with a unique and engaging experience can see a positive impact on margins. An IoT location-aware network is step one, but the resulting network opens the door to a multitude of other digital technologies, which can help deliver increased sales from brick and mortar locations. 

A ubiquitous, dense, connected IoT network can allow retailers to securely deploy analytics strategies, which can then provide insights into shopping behavior, store design performance, cart and basket use patterns, asset utilization and associate efficiency. Understanding how shoppers move through the space, where they dwell, and where missed sales opportunities sit can provide a layer of insights that can boost sales. Seamlessly obtaining this type of high-fidelity information about the shopper journey without capturing Personal Identifiable Information has never been possible before.

Another technology which has the potential to transform the in-store shopper experience is the location services enabled by an IoT lighting network. Apps designed to leverage the indoor positioning capabilities of a store’s lighting network can offer precise location data, provide store navigation, enable product search and even optimize the shopping route for professional BOPIS shoppers. 

Imagine shoppers plugging a grocery list into the app and being efficiently guided through the aisles, step by step, as they complete their trip without skipping a beat. This experience has been shown to encourage more consumer buying.   

A great example of bridging the online world with the in-store experience is Home Depot’s mobile app strategy which includes store wayfinding capabilities along with store maps, the aisle locations of products and current inventory details. Home Depot has been reporting steady increases in sales, and the company recently reported its online customers choose to pick up their orders in stores more than half the time. This illustrates how digital and physical customer experiences can fuse together to deliver what today’s shoppers are looking for from their favorite retail brands. 

Investing in a location-aware IoT network can provide retailers with data they need to deliver the best possible shopping experience. At the end of the day, the investment needed to reinvent brick and mortar stores is nothing compared to the delight the experience brings to customers.

Audwin Cash is SVP of Atrius Enterprise Solutions at Acuity Brands.

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