The Connected Retail Store: Bringing Online to On-site

The Connected Retail Store: Bringing Online to On-site

This piece was originally published in the March/April 2020 issue of electroindustry.

by Neil Egan, Director, Communications, Acuity Brands Lighting

Back in the 1990s, thanks to the internet, online shopping emerged, bringing with it profound innovations, including the now-dominating mobile platform.

With this mobile platform, shoppers have taken control. They search, research, choose, pay, and ship—all whenever and wherever they want. Still,  when they enter a physical brick-and-mortar store, they’re provided the same level of control as was available 40 years ago. This is where connected store innovation helps converge the two disparate shopping experiences, by introducing a modern infrastructure and platform. Retailers can leverage the connected store by enabling connected shoppers to take control of their in-store shopping journeys.

That connectivity is facilitated by the overhead LED lighting infrastructure and is a prime example of Internet of Things capabilities working at their peak. Brick-and-mortar retailers are increasingly using the grid ceiling’s LED lighting outfitted with advanced sensor beacons to enable precise indoor positioning. The lights, embedded with Bluetooth® Low Energy and visible light communication technologies, act as all-in-one access points for indoor and adjacent outdoor environments.

And this solution has pinpoint accuracy that can target down to a specific aisle and item in store. These systems can then enhance retailers’ apps with digital indoor maps that provide shoppers with location and navigation support within the store from their mobile device. This capability helps retailers convert missed sales and cross-sale opportunities.  Examples of this in practice include customers who can locate products more easily, reducing their store exit without product purchase.

What does a connected store do?

The connected store is where everything—shoppers’ mobile devices, shopping carts, store associates’ scanners, displays, end caps, etc.—is digitally linked throughout the store, and each thing’s location is recognized in real time. Retailers thus get a bird’s-eye view of what is happening, moment by moment, on the sales floor.

In the IoT-enabled retail environment,  shoppers already connected to the internet are further connected to the physical store, empowered to take the shopping experience into their own hands—just as they do when shopping online. The “where” and “when” data fed to a retailer’s mobile app allows shoppers to access information they’ve never had before, such as “the product you’re looking for is (here),” and “the bathroom is (there).” This logic benefits the retailer as well because store associates can use their time as product ambassadors vs. traffic controllers.

In a connected store, retailers can also adjust customer traffic patterns and store design based on collected data:

  • Knowing how many shoppers are in the store— by hour and by day—to help schedule the right number of associates in the specific sections of the store
  • Receiving alerts when shopping carts are waiting longer than three minutes at the check-out counters to indicate to store managers that they may want to open more cash registers in response to heavy demand
  • Seeing where bottlenecks are created so managers can consider moving products out of the way to improve the flow of traffic for shoppers in a rush

With the growing deployment of connected stores, smart, connected LED lighting can assist retailers in tapping the potential to benefit both shoppers and their own operations. This new technology will help retailers take the “where” and “when” data and make extraordinary deployments in “how” it is used. ei

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