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How Big Box Retailers Are Using IoT to Heighten In-Store Experiences

U.S. retailers are jumping on the IoT bandwagon to kick in-store experiences up a notch.

According to a recent Fung Global Retail & Technology report, big-box retailers, like Amazon and Walmart, are incorporating IoT (Internet of Things) to stay relevant and transform consumers’ in-store shopping trips.

Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar environments, IoT enables retailers to streamline operations with automation, track inventory with analytics and improve consumer experiences with virtual reality apps. It also generates value growth for the retail industry. According to the SAS Institute, IoT will bring an estimated total economic benefit of $5.6 billion over the next three years.

Today, retailers are using IoT devices, including software and robots, to efficiently digitize in the changing retail market. With these devices, retailers can stay competitive and create memorable in-store experiences for shoppers.

Amazon is taking on the brick-and-mortar scene with artificial intelligence (AI). In December, Amazon debuted Amazon Go, a new in-store concept without physical checkouts. Using AI, Amazon Go provides consumers with a seamless shopping experience that eliminates long lines and registers.

When consumers visit Amazon Go, they open an app and swipe their smartphones on turnstiles. A system combining computer vision, deep learning and sensor fusion then detects products the shopper picks up and charges them accordingly at the end of their trip. Since the total balance is charged to their Amazon account, the consumer can just walk out of the store. Amazon expects to launch its first Amazon Go location in Seattle this year.

Walmart is also using unique IoT devices to elevate its in-store experience. The retail giant is collaborating with Five Elements Robotics to develop and launch smart shopping carts. These automated devices will help consumers navigate through Walmart’s stores to find products.

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With the smart shopping carts, a sensor network sends data to a central computer that monitors inventory and matches the consumer’s shopping list with available inventory. The central computer then sends directions to the robots that contain a map of where items are in the store. Walmart filed a patent for the carts in March 2016, but the technology is still not available at Walmart locations yet.

As evidenced by both Amazon and Walmart, IoT has the potential to turn brick-and-mortar stores into the efficient, experiential havens that today’s consumer seek. With IoT devices, including apps and automated shopping carts, retailers can efficiently incorporate technology in their stores, while personalizing consumer visits.