Why IoT is key to the UK retail sector’s post-Covid recovery

By James Bristow, SVP EMEA, Cradlepoint

The forthcoming wave of vaccinations promises to restore the UK’s economy to a more stable position. Nonetheless, we must consider the possibility that changes in consumer behaviour may linger even when lockdowns and social distancing are a thing of the past, as well as how different sub-sectors within the industry will be affected. Will physical stores bounce back? Or has online shopping now taken a permanent lead?

Preparing for every outcome

While these two scenarios are diametrically opposed, the Internet of Things (IoT) could help in both situations. Comprising a dynamic network of sensors, devices and equipment, the IoT makes it possible to view and interact with physical objects as easily as files and folders on a computer. In other words, the IoT creates a digital overlay that sits across the physical infrastructure of retail stores, effectively facilitating the agility of online shopping in a physical space.

It will require investment, but securing the future is a goal that pays dividends. Here we look at the solutions the IoT has to offer in these two scenarios.

Unlocking efficiency at every stage of the supply chain

Preparing to mitigate the negative outcomes in this scenario requires retailers to take a hard look at the systems they have in place, identify areas in urgent need of greater efficiency, and implement new IoT tools to address them. Real-time supply chain, for example, relies on inventory sensors and POS data integrated into a direct communication system with supply chain partners, triggering automated manufacturing and production systems and adjusting stock delivery schedules accordingly.

Innovations such as live product tracking and same day delivery have recently tipped the customer experience race in online retailers’ favour. To attract new customers and retain their business, brick-and-mortar stores must emulate the dynamic, digital and personalised experience offered by their online counterparts. This can take the form of Interactive digital displays & kiosks for hyperpersonalised shopping experiences, or even Roaming POS, where queuing is eliminated as tablets carried by staff process customer payments anywhere in the store.

LTE & SD-WAN branch networking: laying the foundations for the future of physical retail

Regardless of which scenario becomes a reality, the first step toward retail IoT is cutting the cord on fixed broadband connectivity and setting up a private in-store network running on LTE. Also known as wireless WAN (WWAN), this solution offers retailers greater levels of flexibility thanks to out-of-the-box connectivity and unparalleled reliability through multiple network channel management.

The second foundational requirement for retail IoT is SD-WAN. With the sheer quantity of network applications running in most branches, cloud monitoring and troubleshooting features – including automated alerts – SD-WAN enables retailers to cost-effectively manage WAN conditions at widespread locations. Crucially, SD-WAN also allows secure VPNs to be established in a matter of minutes, providing robust protection for devices and sensitive information, such as customer payment data.

Survive and thrive in the future of retail

The past year has been an uphill struggle, not least for retailers contending with limited footfall in their physical stores. Investing in new technology may not be top of mind for all retail businesses in the immediate future. But for those who are able and willing to make small adjustments to innovate may find they are able to unlock efficiencies in their supply chain, improve their in-store experience and attract and retain new customers once lockdown restrictions start to ease.

Comments are closed.

    Inspired Lighting Skyscraper – Nov 19
    Recolight right-hand skyscraper April 20
    Perspex right-hand skyscraper March 21
  • A1 Retail Twitter

  • Search