Online shopping boom!
Online sales and shopping are no longer considered new concepts. However, we can't deny that for many, online shopping has only recently become commonplace and just a prevalent way of buying as going to shops.
The first real online sale dates back to 1994 and the first object to be exchanged for an online transaction was Sting's Ten Summoner's Tales album. Within a few years, consumer products and online shopping began to thrive.
We all experienced a time where we had five choices max within a retail store and to settle our choice, we eventually ended up with the product that we had heard of during a TV commercial or something that was recommended by a friend.
Today's buying experience has changed completely and with online stores and retailers such as Amazon, Alibaba and many other eCommerce web sites, we now have a choice between 15 products in the same category.
Gaps to be filled
What worries many retailers isn't so much whether you sell online or you're out of stock, but that their offline shopping experience needs to have the technology and modernity typical of online sales to be eye-catching to buyers.
Everyone appreciates it when they are recognized during their virtual visit to online stores. But unfortunately, this is something that isn't happening during offline shopping where they feel totally ignored when they enter the physical store of the same brand.
In Italy, many studies have been touching upon this issue. Letizia Redaelli has highlighted the results in the article Retail, Integrating Stores with the Digital, where she said, "The figures speak clearly. Despite the online sales boom (18%), for fashion and luxury brand purchasing, 51% of Italian consumers continue to prefer the store where they can see and touch the product. Despite this, more than a third (34%) claim to have had a more disappointing experience than the online one and one in ten people said they were recognized by the retailer online but were completely ignored when they set foot inside the physical store."
Technology: IoT (Internet of Things)
Nowadays a number of devices keep you connected to the internet, even if you don't realize it. In fact, there are more and more devices capable of communicating with each other in a data exchange ecosystem. Such an ecosystem can be defined as IoT. (Get a better understanding of IoT and the many other disruptive technologies today in our FREE ebook: 2017 IT Trends: Digital Transformation)
The sales world turned out to be lagging in adapting this technology as the cost of infrastructure is high.
The most common way to bridge this gap is through loyalty cards and programs. From the buyers' point of view, this could bridge the gap to a certain extent, but from the point of view of the supplier, there's still too much information that needs to be collected be able to customize the buyer's shopping experience.
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Recently, Amazon stepped forward by opening a shop for its employees where customers are recognized at the store's entrance via their smartphone, and the rest is all automated. Just pick a product and leave the store. All their movements inside the store are recorded, as well as their purchasing choices and their interests. And that's not all. There's no need to make long queues at the exit. As soon as you leave, they will receive the credit card debit immediately. In other words many "things" in the shop connect to the same system and the internet at the end of the path.
Implementing this in Europe is definitely complicated because of privacy laws and has already presented a challenging issue in the past for big players such as Google and Facebook. It's even more complicated in places like Italy where credit card use isn't is as common as in the United States or other countries.
Despite all that, one thing is clear: this is the future of the retail! It is, without a doubt, the next step. As an IT company, we are dedicated to constantly ride wave of technological progress and to invest in research and development to meet the various emerging market demands. That's why we've come up with Tagmate.
In 2016, following a customer request, we studied and exploited the technological capabilities available and designed a solution that could help bridge the gap between online and offline shopping.
Tagmate aims to collect customer information through NFC tags and unify them with their own online data to create a customer digital identity that's unique and rich in information and complete.
Tagmate is a platform that contains an Enterprise Service Bus, which acts as the glue for various architectural components, a rule management engine that oversees application logic, and a business intelligence platform that allows you to analyze data collected on behavior of the customer.
During the development of the project, we worked on some use cases, and among them, treasure hunt has proved to be the most important for fashion and clothing retailers. The idea is to equip the shop with a welcome screen that reads the customer's NFC tag as soon as they enter the store through a reader. The tag can be supplied in the form of key rings, bracelets, rings, etc., but existing NFC identifiers such as those on smartphones or contactless credit cards can also be used.
By touching the reader with the tag, you will be welcomed as a known customer and, based on the information gathered, will be provided with custom offers. However, a personalized promotion remains hidden and the customer, in order to find it, will have to wander around the store by touching the various product readers with their tag until he or she finds the especially reserved discount. During the search process, attempts are made on the various clothing items, with the aim of better understanding the tastes of the specific consumer.
Subsequently, the collected information is added to the data collected earlier to perform various analyses, including sentiment analysis and the famous what-if analysis, with the help of the business intelligence module contained in Tagmate.
This will not only allow sellers to fully understand their customers, but at the same time will offer customers a much better and more customized shopping experience, providing them, for example, a set of information-based tips that have been collected in previously.
This is an example of what the evolution of ICT can bring to businesses, but its applications are many. Smart refrigerators and washing machines, smart homes, and smart cars are the most commonly used applications and probably the most popular for IoT technology. However, the evolution of the ICT and its strength still lies in integrating the data and tools that work on these data.
The world of IoT has always been a topic of interest for many. This is why I've gathered some of the most interesting technologies and trends in the 2017 IT Trends: Digital Transformation ebook. Get your FREE copy now!