Feature: Page (1) of 1 - 08/31/16

Sensors: Changing the Retail World as we know it

By Paul Fitzgerald for America's Backbone Weekly

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Sensor technology is here and it's changing the world as we know it. Sensor-equipped technologies like wearable medical devices are making news headlines, but sensors are also making themselves felt in the retail industry. There are several sensor tech solutions that every store owner should consider adopting for their business, including video, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth technologies and a plethora of possibilities from the Internet of Things (IoT).

Understanding shopping behavior

Knowing how your customers shop is the key to providing the products and services they want. Until recently, online vendors had a complete upper hand when it came to analytics, thanks to tools like Google Analytics and Adobe Marketing Cloud. But with the advent of products like the Aurora all-in-one sensor, the tide is turning. Aurora uses a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities in tandem with video analytics. It provides vital information on shopper traffic and store navigation, cleverly excluding retail staff from the equation. It tracks individual customer data, too, such as how often they visit and how long they stay.

Creating a customizable experience

Having data is one thing: making it useful is another. Hence, the importance of analytics. By linking in-store sensor technologies with consumer smart phones and cards, knowing what your customer wants has never been easier. Armed with rich consumer behavior data, it's possible for your sales team to offer targeted products and services to each customer.

Smartphone apps can help customers engage with the store, taking advantage of features such as interactive maps and merchandise beacons. They also provide helpful data to store sensors. Apple's iBeacon sensors, for instance, recognize customer devices as they enter the shop. The sales team can then offer products and services that match the customer's profile. iBeacon can even send in-store offers directly to the customer's app. Macy's is an example of a retail chain that's had success with iBeacon, which they use to direct customers to sales and merchandise that's in line with their shopping profiles.

Improving service

Sensor technology can also help create a better overall experience. Take the Kroger Co. grocery retailer. They're harnessing infrared sensor technology and analytics to monitor and improve checkout wait times. They say they've reduced the average wait time to about 30 seconds across 2,400 stores, an improvement of about 3.5 minutes.

Sensors are even improving payment options. Many retailers (like Starbucks) already provide apps that let customers pay from their phones, but with the advent of sensors, this has never been easier. ExxonMobil is testing sensors that interact with smartphone apps, using geo-tracking tech to identify which pump they're using and providing a payment gateway through the store app. Soon we'll be seeing this at gas stations, large or small, across the country.

Taking advantage of sensor technology

Online retailers have changed the retail landscape, but there will always be brick and mortar stores. Some products and services require a physical presence, and there will always be consumers who prefer a more personal touch. Online retailers have, until now, offered a more customized experience. This is all changing, however, thanks to remote sensor technology. You now have the potential to gather and utilize consumer data like never before. It's just a matter of researching the possibilities and implementing them.

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