This article was first published in the Winter 2014 issue of OnWindows
Over the past 12 months, the internet of things (IoT) has taken centre stage for businesses in every industry, and retail is no exception. Retailers are starting with their own things – their existing data, devices and services – and transforming everything from the supply chain through to the customer experience. And by doing so, they’re opening up new revenue streams and realising greater business impact.
When retailers leverage IoT, they can maximise efficiency, reduce time to market, streamline inventory and supply chain processes, and optimise work streams. They are pushing the boundaries of productivity to enable employees to focus on the things that matter most: the customer, the future and the bottom line.
Retailers can use IoT to connect products and services, then extend them to the mobile channels where customers increasingly spend their time — and their money. IoT also enables retailers to deliver more deeply individualised customer experiences than ever before.
Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA), one of the largest bottlers of non-alcoholic ready-to-drink beverages in the Asia-Pacific region and one of the world’s top five Coca-Cola bottlers, has implemented a system from Microsoft and digital marketing agency TKM9 that uses interactive digital signage to create an immersive experience at its beverage coolers. Customers can take a picture with the integrated webcam, alter their appearances with different hairstyles and outfits, choose music and log into Facebook to share the experience. They can interact through gesture and touch, and even use their mobile phones as a remote control. The solution works with multiple data streams, including geolocation and facial recognition technology, social media input and weather services, to personalise the flow of content to individual customers in real time. CCA has the potential to use the data collected to refine product offers and tailor individual coolers’ content to suit customer preferences.
And IoT can streamline business processes to enable new efficiencies and raise the standard of customer service. Royal Caribbean International worked with PAR and Agilysys to outfit its new Oasis-class luxury cruise ships — the largest in the world — with a system that connects shipboard data and devices to simplify everything from passenger shopping to equipment maintenance. Food service inspections can be done in less than half the time, and deeper data analytics enable staff to identify new ways to personalise service and offerings for passengers.
As organisations across the industry transform their businesses with IoT, Microsoft is investing heavily in staying one step ahead. Helping organisations build on existing technology assets, devices and data to derive value from IoT is a cornerstone of Microsoft’s vision for the mobile-first, cloud-first enterprise. Backed by the power of the cloud, solutions built on Azure IoT services enable enterprises to realise new levels of flexibility, customisation, collaboration and scalability.
Qualified retailers looking to learn more about Azure IoT services can attend a Quick Start session, a half-day workshop that offers not just information but the first steps of an actionable plan. Participants will walk away with tools and frameworks to start increasing efficiency, enabling innovation and transforming your business right away.
Overall, I really believe that we’re changing the game for retailers, enabling new heights in productivity, profitability and possibility in this mobile-first, cloud-first world. The past 12 months have seen extraordinary growth and change in the IoT industry, and I believe that we’ll see even more change in the year to come.
Barb Edson is general manager of internet of things and big data at Microsoft
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