IoT Solutions Aim to Support Urgent Retail Industry Needs

As the holiday season ramps up, retail stores prepare for a pandemic-safe return to in-person shopping. Prioritizing consumer safety and inventory management will result in satisfied customers this season.

 

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Image credit: Sensormatic Solutions

The pandemic has changed so much this year, and holiday shopping was not spared. Retail stores count on holiday sales to boost profits, perhaps this season more than ever as stores were shuttered earlier this year. One big change will be the explosive growth of ecommerce. Deloitte predicts online holiday retail sales will increase 25-35 percent this year, doubling the average growth of the past four years.

A survey by market research company GfK found that 25 percent of online buyers will take advantage of in-store pickup, and 19 percent will use curbside pickup. The same study indicates that 37 percent of consumers will shop in stores. To serve those customers effectively, stores will need to maintain accurate inventory. 

In-person shopping won’t disappear, but shoppers are being cautious. A study from Sensormatic indicates that 65 percent of consumers are concerned about shopping in-store this holiday season. Consumers that head into stores are doing so to browse for gift ideas (43 percent) and to see or touch products in-person before purchasing them (39 percent).

Customer Safety Through AI

To assuage consumer fears, retailers need to focus on consumer safety and accurate inventory. That starts with monitoring the number and location of in-store customers to ensure social distancing. Sensormatic Solutions’ is enhancing its ShopperTrak system, which provides product loss prevention, customer traffic, and inventory management solutions to retailers. The company makes intelligent inventory tags and store monitoring systems that protect against theft and provide consumer insights when tied to the company’s analytics software. Sensormatic has added features to help stores navigate pandemic-related issues.

The Sensormatic solution combines video-based artificial intelligence, sensors, and location-based technologies based on Intel® Movidius Vision Processing Units, Intel® Core™ processors and Intel® Xeon® processors, and the Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO Toolkit. 

ShopperTrak relies on artificial intelligence and data analytics to monitor retail occupancy levels and social distancing compliance, while also providing insights on customer behavior, traffic flow, and store safety. Using the Intel Vision technology and processors, Sensormatic is able to collect data and run AI models in stores; managers can view customizable dashboards to find product and sales information, staffing suggestions, and expected customer behavior.

ShopperTrak’s real-time capabilities allow store managers to react to changing store dynamics, which can help drive sales and increase profits. It can send alerts when stores are at or near capacity, recommend entryway monitoring for crowd control, and link to digital signage that displays occupancy rates and safety notices. A future version might include technology that tracks mask compliance, updates on curbside wait times, restocking schedules, and customizable shopper engagement features.

Inventory Is King

Even the most effective safety policies won’t boost sales if the customer can’t find the products they want. That’s where Sensormatic’s source tagging solution comes into play. Products can be tagged prior to arrival at the store, reducing touchpoints for staff and customers and reducing shrink, or theft. The company’s radio frequency identification (RFID) tags tie into Sensormatic’s TrueVUE inventory intelligence software, so retailers know exactly what is on hand in the store.

Woman reviewing inventory dashboard on screen

Image credit: Sensormatic Solutions

Having up-to-date inventory information is critical to support in-store and curbside pickup orders and to ensure anxious shoppers can find what they need quickly. The TrueVUE Cloud, built on the Google Cloud Platform, provides retailers with real-time data and predictive analytics. It uses mobile inventory counting and an interactive restocking app that indicates which products to restock and when. Sensormatic claims proper inventory management can reduce out-of-stock merchandise by 30 percent, boosting sales and reducing markdowns.

As consumers adjust to the “new normal” driven by the pandemic, stores will have to address customer anxiety and safety concerns, while monitoring inventory and shrink. Stores that are prepared for the changes in consumer shopping will reap the benefits.