Back in 2002, Stephen Spielberg’s Minority Report blew my mind with a vision of a near-future where technology has changed day-to-day life beyond recognition. There’s a brief scene where, as Tom Cruise walks past several billboards, the advertisements change as they recognize him. When he enters Gap at the end of the scene and is remotely retina-scanned, a holographic employee appears, greets him as Mr. Yakamoto, and asks how the assorted tank tops are working out.
Sixteen years later, that future is closer to fact than fantasy. We didn’t even have the words then, but now we describe this scene as AI-driven real-time hyper-personalization. Brands have already started to use facial recognition in advertisements, and our smartphones are used to provide personalized experiences. Innovative retailers are providing personalized experiences leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT).
The system of interrelated computing devices commonly called the Internet of Things is on a substantial growth trajectory. This is, in fact, one of the few indisputable truths about the space. According to a recent study, consumer spending on IoT solutions will rise from $72 billion in 2015 to $236 billion in 2020. Another study predicted that the number of connected devices will surge to 20.4 billion units in 2020, an increase of 319 percent from 6.4 billion connected devices in 2016.
This is explosive growth for the Internet of Things – a field that barely existed a decade ago. More technologies are arising every day, from smart refrigerators to WiFi-enabled coffee machines, and in-store beacons that use Bluetooth to beam ads directly to a consumer’s smartphone. Consider also that the number of smartphones owned worldwide is on the rise, placing technology in the palm of a consumer’s hand that can be used to deliver real-time, contextually relevant messaging anytime and anywhere.
The digital customer experience and the in-store customer experience have historically been two separate things; different teams controlled the levers of engagement in each space. At many brands, this is still the case – digital and physical are two separate universes that don’t interact on the back end.
What the Internet of Things has done, for retailers that have implemented relevant technologies like in-store beacons, is blurred the line between digital and physical interactions. When a retailer leverages the IoT, they can use someone’s digital interactions with the e-commerce website to inform their experience in the brick-and-mortar store.
For example: a consumer who uses their mobile phone to price check something in a retailer’s dedicated app may receive a coupon or some other notification when they breach a geofence or an in-store beacon recognizes them. Similarly, a retailer could target digital ads based on which parts of a brick-and-mortar store their customer was browsing in. This kind of contextual relevance in real time becomes very much possible with the Internet of Things.
We may be far off from the future of advertising portrayed in Minority Report, but the reality is that the growing number of connected devices that make up the Internet of Things offers a tremendous opportunity for savvy retailers. With the IoT in play, retailers can unify e-commerce and in-store experiences, creating a consistent path to purchase that seamlessly blends the digital and physical into one holistic journey.
What sort of interesting uses of the Internet of Things in retail have you seen? Comment below!