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How magic mirrors, floor sensors and other IoT devices are revolutionizing stores

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NRF 2018 is all about retail transformation. But which roles in the retail world are driving that transformation? And how are they doing it? The answer, of course, is that all retail roles—from marketing to store operations to supply chain—have a part to play in the reinvention of the industry.

For more on the Internet of Things’ contribution to this sea change, we spoke with John “Smarty” Smart, IBM’s Internet of Things App Factory Offering Manager, who focuses on buildings and retail. In his view, the use of IoT and AI are ways to make more efficient and personalized stores.

What role does store operations have in the big transformation that’s required of retail today?

Most retailers are looking to reinvent the store experience to contend with the Amazons of the world. Some retailers are consolidating stores, but the stores they do have they want to be very engaging with shoppers, so that customers won’t just go online and order something from Amazon. IoT is a very powerful way to do that.

What are some of the ways retailers are using IoT?

There are magic mirrors that let customers virtually try on an item in different colors. There are mobile apps that engage shoppers in their journey through the store. There are sensors in floors that can let retailers identify where the lines are backing up and allow managers to free up other check-out lanes. The whole world of IoT is exploding with all kinds of interesting products that can be put in the store to make it fun for the shoppers and more convenient.

How can IoT make the store experience more personalized for customers?

A customer’s phone is an IoT device in itself, and it can be a gateway for a whole range of personalized experiences in stores. If you come into a store with your phone, we can start tracking you at different parts of your journey, then communicate with you at different points. If you’re going to pick up something you bought online, a retailer can send you directions to the store. A retailer’s mobile app can know, if you opt in, when you walk into the store, and it can say “Welcome, we’re here to help,” and answer any questions you might have.

Can that personalized experience cross over from online to the store?   

Sure. One idea is that you have your phone in your pocket when you walk into a store, and if you’ve been on a store’s website maybe looking for soccer balls, as you walk into the store there might be a video display, and suddenly a commercial on soccer balls starts playing.

For more on retail reinvention check out IBM at NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show January 14-16 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

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