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Seven in 10 APAC retailers to invest in IoT

Besides riding on the internet of things bandwagon, retailers are also looking to provide seamless customer experiences across physical and online channels

At leather goods retailer Goodvine Group’s warehouse in Singapore, smartphone-toting workers can complete a stock-take of a quarter of all items in less than half an hour.

The same task would have taken hours if the firm had not invested in radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and internet of things (IoT) devices such as smartphones fitted with scanners that pick up information on multiple items with one sweep.

Such technology-infused workplaces, dotted with IoT devices, are fast becoming the norm in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, according to research by Zebra Technologies, a supplier of inventory management systems and enterprise mobility products, such as handheld scanners.

According to Zebra’s 2017 Retail Vision Study, seven out of 10 APAC retailers plan to invest in IoT technologies by 2021 to address customers’ bugbears, such as inconsistent pricing between stores and the inability to find a desired item, whether it is out of stock or misplaced.

At Goodvine’s sales counters in department stores, retail workers use RFID-enabled devices to locate items in storage rooms without having to refer to physical printouts of inventories. Such real-time visibility enabled by automation, sensors and analytics is on the minds of 73% of the APAC retailers that took part in the study.

Besides locating items using RFID, Goodvine also plans to use data analytics to identify products and product features that resonate with consumers, based on sales data. This information is also used to forecast demand and aid product design.

According to the study, 72% of APAC retailers rate managing big data as important or business-critical to their operations. Like Goodvine, many are expected to invest in predictive analytics to optimise prices and minimise losses.

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With the growing popularity of e-commerce in the region, it is not surprising that more retailers expect sales to move from bricks-and-mortar stores to online channels, underlining the need to deliver seamless customer experiences across physical and online platforms.

“The retail industry is experiencing a convergence of the physical and online worlds – which we call ‘phygital’,” said Ryan Goh, vice-president and general manager at Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific.

“Shoppers today are technology-savvy and have high expectations for a digital and connected shopping experience, creating both challenges and opportunities for retailers vying for sales on all platforms.”

Some 88% of APAC retailers expect to support online purchases and in-store pick-ups within the next four years, while 76% noted the importance of integrating e-commerce and in-store experiences.

By 2021, more APAC retailers will know when a specific customer is in a store, thanks to location-based technology that will be implemented by more than 75% of retailers in the region.

To improve customer experience and speed up checkout lines, APAC retailers are also planning to invest in mobile devices, kiosks and tablets to increase payment options.

Singapore electronics goods supplier Gain City is already using virtual sales assistants in the form of self-service kiosks with video analytics capabilities to tailor its offerings based on customer demographics.

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