BearingPoint as partner of the ESCP "Retailing 4.0" Chair is committed to contributing to building bridges between the academic world and companies. As part of this engagement, the BearingPoint Retail, Luxury and CPG team mentored the writing of a series of articles of ESCP MSc students and shared insights on major retail stakes. Enjoy your reading!

A joint perspective - IoT in Retail: state of play and perspectives (3/3)

Implementing IoT in a business can offer a lot of benefits but also requires some installations. In the analysis section below, recommendations on how to implement IoT will be given together with limitations about the technologies.

There are a few prerequisites to implement IoT in a Retail organization

  • Firstly, a reliable item identification process must be implemented and industrialized to ensure the accuracy of the data flowing. Rules for the industrialization process need to be set up to make the system reliable, for example in case of new items creation. 
  • A reliable IT solution with a solid platform and potential associated mobile applications interfaced with the retailer’s ecosystem is required. The ladder must be secured, able to absorb a large amount of data, offer geographical coverage with features enabling multi-language…
  • The application of these IoT technologies has another very important prerequisite: Network. Having a strong wi-fi connectivity and a robust network powered by state-of-the-art hardware is essential to make use of the value added this technology brings, to the customers, the staff and the corporation.    
  • To link the IT solution to the network, another prerequisite would be the IoT equipment. In fact, verify country certifications are valid, set up appropriate equipment supply chain and ensure equipment deployment procedures prepared. 
  • An organization to support this solution needs to be implemented covering retail operating hours. Moreover, there is a real need of being accessible in working languages to provide quality support to users.

Leading the change is key in IoT implementation 

To implement the internet of things one must holistically approach the issue.
One aspect to tackle is a user centric approach: any connected object or platform should be easily understandable by its user, as a “plug and play” approach the setup time should be decreased to the minimum to optimize the process. In addition to that, managing the change is a critical aspect in implementing such technologies; workers will have to shift their way of working from a manual effort to a more analytical way. In this situation, communication should be on point to explain to all the users of IoT technologies its importance and its efficiency. This communication should be meant for convincing the users of IoT that this change is beneficial. 
To be able to implement such technologies, another aspect to focus on is staff training, to ensure a smooth process implementation and to secure adoption in the long run. In fact, if the staff on the ground has issues manipulating these connected objects and end up performing wrong scan readings for example instead of enhancing processes. A train the trainer approach could be implemented in this situation, where intense hands-on experience could be practiced so that a transfer of knowledge between key users and peers could happen.
Finally, implementing IoT technologies subsequently leads to new reporting KPIs creation that can be automated and translated into dashboards to improve the supply requests faster.

IoT comes with some limitations, thus requiring expertise to overcome challenges

Now looking at limitations, some physical limitations are observed. RFID tags can be inactive if used with metals, liquids or with an important products density. 

 

  • Secondly, an accurate scan can be compromised due to a misidentification of the product from the beginning of the process to ensure a faultless and accurate reading of the items.
  • Thirdly, connected devices that store information might cause privacy concerns in customer minds. Can it be used to collect information from the environment? Where will the information be stored? And who can access them? To which end? All these questions could be asked by customers; to answer these concerns, retailers should follow the GDPR regulations set by the European union to ensure the safe process and storage of all this data.
  • Finally, one last limitation to investigate is to study and then apply the correct balance between IoT devices and human capital. IoT should be leveraged to relieve humans from repetitive tasks and enhance their efficiency while they can concentrate on more value-added tasks that only a human is capable of. Thus, this effort transfer to more valuable tasks will help gain more productivity and efficiency.

Authors: Marion Revol, Smain AlouaniInès Depotter, Ted El Haddad, Pauline Moins, Alessandro Pisu, Giacomo Vercelli

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