The Internet of Things in Brick-and-Mortar Retail: Major Trends To Look For In 2019

Jan 28, 2019

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While we are distracted by booming Black Friday sales and the upcoming winter holidays, the new year is fast approaching. Brick-and-mortar retailers are already planning ahead, preparing to tackle the top trends that are predicted to transform 2019.

Augmented reality, new communications methods like Messenger, and more retailtainment are some of the most popularly predicted trends—but they pale in comparison to the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

IoT has been a buzzword for years, but only recently have retailers begun to see it in action. Though it can sound like a complex idea, the Internet of Things can be defined as “the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the internet (and/or to each other).”

Sound familiar? Around the holidays, you probably hear at least one family member talk about everyone being “plugged in” all the time, and the IoT is really what they’re talking about.

The most successful retailers of 2019 will implement IoT technologies, and we can’t wait to see the improvements they make.

Streamlined Customer Experiences
The IoT is already helping retailers streamline the customer experience, especially the omnichannel experience, which  78% of retailers say is important or business-critical.

Tech-savvy retailers have already implemented omnichannel methods like Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS) services to improve the shopper’s experience. Shoppers can order online items to physical locations via their laptop or smartphone and pick them up from stores, receiving order confirmations and pick-up information through everything from Facebook Messenger to texts.

With the help of designated staff and combined online and in-store inventory management systems, these BOPIS services create an impressive, convenient omnichannel experience for shoppers.

In addition, smart in-store sensor technology provides brick-and-mortar retailers with access to valuable information about their customers. Acting on these insights, retailers can create visitor-tailored layouts, efficient staffing schedules, and successful events. These visitor analytics systems streamline the customer experience in subtle yet vital ways, ultimately boosting conversions.

The future of the IoT-influenced seamless experience is just starting to hit retail stores as well.

Automated checkouts, for one, are poised to become very popular. Amazon’s proprietary auto checkout, which relies on heavy surveillance, allows customers to walk out of the store without standing in line at the checkout counter—a convenience that’s sure to enchant shoppers as soon as it becomes more widespread.

Personalized Marketing Campaigns
Customized marketing campaigns, already a characteristic of the online shopping experience, is slated to become part of each and every brick-and-mortar shopping trip.

Already available for stores today, beacons are small, wireless devices that transmit wireless signals to smartphones and similar devices.

With this IoT technology, marketers can employ proximity marketing, which is simply marketing to people within a certain location, like inside your store.

Beacons can transmit to mobile apps, open the app, and present valuable offerings such as individualized coupons to inspire store visitors to make purchases or increase basket size. Regular customers will receive discounts based on previous purchases, while new customers will receive welcome coupons and useful information, like store maps and closing times.

These beacon technologies are slated to become more and more advanced, eventually acting as shopping assistants and offering shoppers personalized suggestions and recommendations based on past shopping trips and online purchases.

Stores like Macy’s, Rite Aid, Target, and Urban Outfitters have already introduced these technologies into their stores, and shoppers can only expect to see more of them in 2019.   

A More Human Experience
As industry leader Dough Stephens says, even though IoT can “allow for greater analytic capability and personalization of the [in-store] shopping experience”… “none of these things should be implemented at the expense of the wonderfully physical, human and kinetic nature of the store.”

It seems like a contradiction, but the more IoT technologies stores implement, the more human interaction shoppers will see in stores.

With all the upcoming innovations that will deal with small, repetitive, and tedious tasks, employees have much more time for human interaction.

For example, smart shelves will keep track of items to ensure they’re never out of stock, and ensure products are located in their correct places on shelves. These two tasks, which consume a lot of employee time, will be completed with ease by technologies that have sensors built right into the shelf. This technology’s ability to detect an item’s molecular make-up and identify it for tracking will also deter shoplifting behaviour—and send real-time alerts.

While it may seem a little (or very) far out, robots will soon be used in stores too. For customers who don’t feel the need to talk to human employees, these robots will complete simple tasks, like locating items and giving directions.

Lowe’s already has a robot like this. OSHbot locates products for customers and provides information on promotions and inventory, answering questions in both English and Spanish. Additionally, Japanese general merchandise chain Aeon Retail is piloting an RFID-enabled robot that tracks inventory at its flagship store in Chiba on the east coast of Japan.


With these new technologies, employees will be able to focus on customer interactions, providing personal recommendations and companionship to encourage store visitors to complete the customer journey and convert.

The future is closing in with breathtaking speed, but as you can see, the Internet of Things technologies are some of the most exciting trends to hit brick-and-mortar stores yet.

Ready to start integrating IoT technologies into your stores? Try in-store sensor technology today.

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