Contact sales

If there’s one thing that has always plagued retailers, it’s employee productivity.

We live during an era of innovation and connectivity – an era of the Internet of Things (IoT). The High Street now has access to a slew of devices and solutions designed to not just deliver a better all-round experience for customers but also give employees a boost in their daily productivity. By implementing IoT, supplemented by a reliable and robust network, businesses can satisfy two of their most crucial goals with ease.

The IoT Revolution

In case the concept of IoT is relatively new to you, we can start with what it is. Basically, it’s a network of devices connected to the Internet that’s designed to share data and information with other IoT technologies. These devices are equipped with sensors and actuators that allows seamless data sharing, which can range from a smartwatch tracking a heartbeat, to sensors in fields actively monitoring moisture levels in the soil. By the close of 2024, experts predict that worldwide IoT devices will exceed 207 billion devices – it’s clearly not showing signs of slowing down.

We’ve already seen the IoT revolution start taking place in our homes thanks to connected devices that control lighting and heating settings, and that transformative power is certainly being felt in businesses. IoT, for example, has made an impact in healthcare thanks to real-time health monitoring and remote patient access, as well as in our cities via traffic control, smart street lighting, and greater insights into sustainability.

The ability to collect data and act off these in-depth insights means multiple industries have seen an incredible boost to their overall efficiency. In retail, it’s the same story.

Applying IoT in Retail

Retail remains a highly competitive industry, and during this latest era of digital transformation, retail leaders are more open to the idea of implementing IoT-enabled devices to get an edge over the competition. Collecting wide swaths of data from multiple sources gives these brands a deeper insight into how customer behaviours are changing, and where improvements can be made across the supply chain. All in all, retailers can become more efficient thanks to the IoT revolution.

The ways IoT can be used in the retail sector are numerous, with these specific examples being instrumental in boosting employee productivity and streamlining daily operations.

Predictive Maintenance: Anticipating Disruption

When equipment stops functioning and assets begin to falter, immediate repairs must be performed to keep essential pieces of machinery working. Downtime on appliances such as refrigeration units puts precious produce at risk, while also draining manpower resources as maintenance workers look to address these issues. These failures also harm the reputation and bottom line of a brand as they lose operational efficiency.

The risk of downtime and lengthy repairs can be mitigated through predictive maintenance. Equipping vital pieces of equipment with sensors and utilising machine learning algorithms means outages can be predicted well ahead of time, eliminating costly downtime while simultaneously cutting down energy overconsumption.

Optimising energy usage during peak hours of operation can reduce energy consumption, extend the lifespan of equipment, and ultimately save employees time replacing essential assets.

By scheduling maintenance before a breakdown occurs, retailers remain fully operational and minimise the impact of downtime. Equipment availability can grow by 5-15%, and employees can focus on other tasks besides maintenance. It all helps towards employee productivity!

Smart Shelves: Optimised Inventory Management

Constantly restocking and replacing store inventory is a timely, manpower-heavy commitment. Devoting employee time to stalking between aisles and looking out for diminished stock takes up too much time, especially when they must manually update prices due to demand outstripping supply. Indeed, customers that have made their way to a physical store, only to find their desired items are out of stock will leave dissatisfied, potentially impacting their impression of a brand when making future purchasing decisions.

The introduction of smart shelving technology makes inventory management far more streamlined and efficient. Thanks to radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, cameras and weight sensors, these shelves utilise the IoT network to accurately track product supply and, once a particular product is about to run out, trigger the resupply process. Retail leaders can enjoy a reduction in out-of-stock scenarios and maintain adequate inventory levels, especially with their most popular items.

Better yet, employees are no longer devoting time to manually monitoring shelves and can dedicate their time to customer service and other essential tasks.

More employee time can be saved by incorporating digital price tags into these shelves, as prices can be altered based on real-time demand and inventory levels, removing the need to manually change prices. As decision makers gain further insights into product performance and how best to optimise the supply chain, staff can be more effective during resupplying.

Self-checkouts: Streamlined Automation

Long checkout lines are one obstacle all retailers can relate to. 68% of customers have highlighted lengthy queues as a reason for choosing not to shop in traditional stores, with a further 59% not willing to wait in line. As customers become frustrated by having to wait patiently, checkouts themselves are the most labour-intensive, time-consuming areas of any retail front.

While the prospect of human interaction means traditional checkouts will remain, it’s another aspect of a retail store that requires a significant labour investment that takes staff away from other tasks that require greater attention.

Self-service checkouts are the most common form of IoT-powered solutions that have set up shop across the country. 74% of customers can accept automated technology replacing staff at checkouts, with a point-of-sale (POS) terminal handling multiple payment methods alongside barcode scanners and both sensors and cameras to detect any anomalies during payment.

Their main goal is to improve a store’s operational efficiency by reducing the amount of time customers must wait, processing their purchases faster and boosting the bottom line.

Self-service is a major factor behind making retail operations more cost-effective, as all available resources are maximised fully, particularly labour. With one member of staff overseeing self-service operations, other team members are free to focus on other business-critical tasks, such as focusing on customers who require greater assistance. Employees can get more done during their regular shifts as customers gain the power to enjoy a more personalised shopping experience.

Foot Traffic: Understanding the Customer Journey

One metric that provides critical insight into a physical store’ success is foot traffic i.e. how many customers enter a store. It’s no surprise that footfall corresponds to revenue generated; the more customers that visit, the higher the chance of a sale being made. Foot traffic data is vital in understanding customer spending behaviours, in addition to peak shopping times and popular areas of a store.

Without accurate real-time data, High Street businesses miss out on fully applying these insights into not just maximising customer experience, but managing how staff are deployed. Stores need to alleviate the risk of over-staffing during quieter hours or positioning staff in areas that aren’t as popular.

IoT-enabled foot traffic monitoring via sensors and cameras can help to construct ‘heat maps’ that visualise traffic flow and dwell time data to better understand customer behaviour. Traditional methods of collecting foot traffic data, such as head counting, are subject to basic inaccuracies and don’t deliver a deeper examination into how a customer spends their time while in-store. By deploying IoT solutions, surges in demand can be anticipated and store layouts can be changed to optimise space, and potentially increase sales thanks to strategic product placement.

In terms of employee efficiency, having a more accurate picture of foot traffic means a better chance of over-staffing during quieter hours of operation. A more flexible approach to staff scheduling can be achieved thanks to real-time data, with customer-facing teams able to be deployed in zones with higher traffic.

Overall, employee time can be better used thanks to advanced task allocation and, when operating in customer-heavy zones, potentially boosting conversion rates as well.

The Supply Chain: Beyond the Storefront

What can truly make or break a retailer’s overall success is the supply chain itself. Modern supply chains now encompass a variety of departments, stretching from suppliers and raw materials right on through to warehouses and delivery logistics. Managing this complex operation becomes more complicated when external factors are thrown into the mix; for supply chain leaders, two of these concerns are geopolitics and inflationary pressures.

With delays and stock shortages becoming more frequent due to these circumstances, an ongoing struggle to hire skilled workers and retain their talents makes supply chain management even more difficult. It is more important than ever to equip those working in the supply chain with the skills and tools needed to improve their efficiency and find ways to make their jobs much easier.

A digitally transformed supply chain is one that incorporates the Internet of Things and gives rise to innovative ways of working. GPS and RFID tags allow products to be tracked more accurately, while also assessing their current conditions and making sure they maintain their quality thanks to reporting on temperature and humidity. These sensors can alert delivery drivers to alter their routes to make sure these items are delivered before they spoil.

Greater visibility in these kind of operations means High Street businesses can find new ways to streamline transit processes and ensure stock is preserved on arrival. By making appropriate changes, supply chain employees can be more efficient with this transparency in the products their transporting. Telematics systems that collect weather and traffic data can also help delivery drivers find less disruptive routes and further cut down on the time it takes to make a delivery

In the warehouses themselves, IoT can redefine how inventory management is carried out. Similarly to how RFID tags can monitor stock levels in physical stores themselves, these same tags can help with ordering new shipments in case of greater future demand. With order picking making up 50% of fulfilment centre operations, an IoT-powered picking system gives employees the means to see where inventory actually is before they start their shipment ordered.

Collecting more of that data over time gives warehouse managers clearer insights into how they can alter layouts to make sure popular items are more easily accessible and improve operational efficiency. By streamlining this process, shipments can go out sooner and make sure products are delivered on time – whether it’s further along the supply chain or to the customers themselves. Either way, both employees and customers benefit.

IoT Implementation Starts with a Reliable Network

By 2025, the IoT in retail market will reach $35.6 billion in value, and it’s clear that taking the time to invest in the Internet of Things brings a multitude of benefits to retailers. However, implementing IoT isn’t as simple as snapping your fingers and watching self-service checkouts manifest before your very eyes.

The High Street must consider how to address cyber security concerns and how to best manage the swatch of data being collected from across the business. The costs of adopting IoT solutions, aligning them with existing systems, and getting staff trained to properly use them can add further complications. However, with proper planning and firm foundations, businesses can flourish thanks to the Internet of Things.

That flourishment, of course, needs a reliable network to support this influx of devices that need to share real-time data without any disruption. Working alongside a managed service provider like Gamma means having a network that’s robust, secure, and always operating at peak performance. Backed by in-house expertise and proactive network monitoring, elevated connectivity is within reach that not only supports greater IoT implementation, but helps to re-imagine business communications.

With a network like that, your customer and employees will thank you for it.