How IoT is being used with today’s mobile apps, Wi-Fi and RFID technologies to facilitate Autonomous Shopping

November 23, 2022

By: John Tomblin, Senior Solutions Architect
Glendale Bizz, a division of Sofvue, LLC
Printed with permission of Data Titan, Sofvue, LLC and the author

The retail industry will never stop evolving, and the way people shop for products is what drives it all. If someone building a regional mall back in 1970 were told that malls would become all but obsolete by 2030, they would have laughed you out of the building… but look where we are today. Virtually everyone shops online today, and as consumers continue to shop online, brick-and-mortar stores must adapt by using new technologies and strategies to stay relevant.

One of the next “big” leaps that is already happening is using the “Internet of Things” (IoT) that allows consumers to walk through a mall, dress shop, sporting goods or grocery store and use (IoT) to create an autonomous shopping experience using “smart shopping carts” that do all the work for you.  As a simple example, imagine you want to go to the grocery store to get this week’s groceries. Now imagine sitting at home and entering your order online using a web-based interface or mobile app, then going to the grocery store, grabbing a “smart” cart and following the cart through the store as it takes you exactly where you need to go to fill your shopping list. Take it one step further and assume that that cart not only takes you where you need to go, but automatically plots your path through the store so that it is the most efficient journey, with the fewest steps, telling you when you have multiple items on the same isle, saving steps and time. Side note:  If you know anything about how grocery stores merchandise their stores, then you’ll understand why the milk is still going to be at the back of every store… even if that’s the only item on your shopping list. That’s not going to change anytime soon.

Here’s some stats that help explain why IoT technologies and “smart” shopping systems are a wave of the future.

According to TechJury,

✅ By 2022, 29 billion devices will use some type of IoT.
✅ By 2025, there will be an estimated 64 billion IoT enabled devices.
✅ IoT technology has the potential to generate $4 trillion to $11 trillion in economic value by 2025.
Another study by ResearchGate found that using IoT related devices is a viable, cost-effective solution for most consumers. Further, smart shopping carts, or in some circles “smart trolleys” can even track what items are in a consumers shopping cart, and using RFID technology, allow consumers to use an automated checkout systems that complete the transaction, whether at a grocery store or a dress shop at the mall, allowing a consumer to walk into a store, select items, and walk out without ever talking to a sales clerk, with the entire transaction being initiated and completed using IoT technology.

How IoT can be Used to Improve the Consumer Shopping Experience

With IoT serving as the backbone, all the various endpoints can be joined together, items like smartphones, PCs, tablets, modems, routers, cloud platforms, and web-enabled application that perform different tasks using one or a combination of all these devices.

RFID technology is used to identify the items that the customers are looking for. The RFID readers connect with a mobile app that automate and retailers understand what their customers are looking for. This technology can also be used to allow consumers to check whether they have found everything they need before check-out.

Retailers can also use IoT solutions to ensure that the products are available in specific locations or even apply pricing and stock adjustments at any time, allowing a retailer to initiate a price change, even between the amount of time an item is placed into a cart and the time the consumer starts the checkout process.

How to Create an IoT Application for Autonomous Shopping

Here are a few important factors you need to weigh before tackling development of an IoT-based mobile application for your retail locations.
1. Spot the Right Problem in Your Retail Process

Start with identifying problems in your retail process that you know your customer is going to want to solve with IoT. You can do that by asking yourself some of the following questions:

✅ What are the most common issues that arise from this process?
✅ How much time does it take?
✅ How much money is lost because of these issues?
✅ Why does this happen regularly?
✅ How can IoT be applied to solve this issue?

It’s essential to define the problem using an ROI model of improvement. This will help you quantify how big the issue is and what will be required to solve the problem.

For example, suppose someone spends half an hour manually filling out paperwork each day after receiving shipments from vendors and suppliers. That would equal about 125 hours per year, or about $2,500 annually in lost productivity.

You can also consider asking your customers what they feel is not just a temporary inconvenience, but an actual pain point they would like addressed as soon as possible.

Last but not least, determine how you will measure the success of the new steps, so you know if your investment is beneficial or not.

2. Collect Relevant Data to Overcome the Problem

The next step is to collect relevant data. For example, if you want to decide what products to buy for your store, you will need the following data:

✅ When do most customers come to your store?
✅ What products do they buy the most?
✅ Where do they come from?
Also, when developing an IoT application to enhance the shopping experience using autonomous shopping carts, you should have all the details about your consumer’s psychographic profile, such as age group, gender, location etc.

You can collect this information conducting surveys by visiting your store locations and asking for their preferences. Once you have a viable data sampling, it’s time to analyze it and find patterns to drive future decisions. For example, if you notice that your customers are buying more of one color of t-shirts (e.g., black during the winter months and white during the summers), you can stock your store accordingly.

3. Develop a Detailed Plan that your IoT platform will solve
Begin with asking yourself,

✅ How many users will the system need to support?
✅ Are there any regulatory issues around collecting user data?
✅ What platform(s) will you create your app on?
✅ What features will it consist of?
✅ What will happen if a customer cannot (or isn’t willing) to download the app? How will it affect their shopping experience?

This is also where you decide where you need sensors and transducers for your application. Remember, both hardware and software must be designed together so that they work perfectly at every stage of the development life cycle (which includes design validation, physical environment testing, user acceptance testing, and deployment).
4. Design an IoT App That Reflects Your Brand

Your IoT application must reflect your brand and make the shopping experience easier and more convenient for customers. Your application should be user-friendly, easily accessible through the Apple and Google Play Stores, and simple enough so almost everyone can use it with little or knowledge of how it works. Please another way -- it must be intuitive.

 Use an Expert

In the era of rapidly changing technologies, it’s imperative to get the right help… not just any help.  There’s a big difference. When making your discovery and deciding which companies you should consider hiring, you should keep the following points in mind:

✅ Select a company whose office is within driving distance of your location. Distance is a relative term, so for our company, we drive all over Arizona and Southern California.  
✅ Have the company send you at least 20-30 letters of recommendation
✅ Talk to some of their recent clients to validate their work processes
✅ Ask for a list of web-enabled and mobile apps recently developed available from the Apple Store and Google Play Store
✅ Meet in person!

With an IoT application development company like Glendale Bizz, you receive the following:

✅ A team of architects, engineers, designers, developers and testers who have the experience your project needs.
✅ A dedicated Project Owner (PO) and Project Manager (PM) who are there to help guide your project from start to finish.
✅ Premier support during and after the project is complete.

Glendale Bizz has been designing and developing mobile and web-based application systems since 2004. To date, we have designed and developed over $22MM in solutions for companies coast-to-coast, and across numerous business segments. Give us a call to learn more about our recently completed projects, read recent letters of recommendation, and to discuss how we can serve both your project and your company goals. To learn more, contact us at 623-845-02747.

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