The Internet of Things (IoT) sounds both magical and cryptic; those operating in the environment where its capabilities are being theorised, experimented on or even rolled out are deep into technology and its application. So deep that they can find it hard to explain in layman’s terms what it is exactly. It’s described as “the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data”. That can sound other-worldly – as if machines are operating themselves, but there are more practical applications of the IoT that make sense.
In the channel environment it’s no secret that online applications have begun to dominate: in contact centres, customers are no longer limited to voice calls, they’re able to interact using chat and chatbots, online channels, social media, email and via in-store facilities. This mass-migration to device-driven interaction, mostly via the internet, has revolutionised what companies need to do and how they conduct business. At the heart of that revolution is the need to shift operations towards being omni-channel in nature, seamlessly linking all of the various channels and interactions.
That’s where IoT could become a practical tool: The processes that drive omni-channel cannot be done manually. Rather, automated processes linked to connected devices and tightly integrated business systems could ensure that information is collated and used in a meaningful way for businesses.
The future of retail
Both omni-channel and IoT are in their infancy, however: we’re looking forward to a time when devices can record their own faults, contact their company of origin and be booked in for repairs (or even repaired remotely. More than this, though, the demand for an omni-channel experience in retail has created the perfect application for IOT.
“The Internet of things in retail is ready to be adopted by 70% of retailers across the globe for improving the in-store experience of the customers. Integration of e-commerce and in-store experience is important to deliver a proper omni-channel experience to customers. 78% of retailers agree with this.” – Zebra Retail Vision (ZRV) study, 2017
Since the need for omni-channel was first created in e-commerce allowing connected customers to purchase items from any device (phone, computer, tablet) and across any channel (like in store or online) round the clock, it’s most likely that IoT will find its most practical, application in retail, enabling customers to select purchases, buy them and receive them via IoT and omni-channel-driven processes.
Omni-channel aids with the flow of information. Connectivity is essential, otherwise the data being stored cannot be accessed. In this way, omni-channel – the seamless and effortless, high-quality customer experiences that occur within and between contact channels – and IoT go hand in hand in ensuring that ultra-personalised service is delivered to customers.
It’s not merely for remote applications, these solutions can tell you when a customer is in the store and where they are, then deploy staff to assist, customise the store visit and, for example, alert you when the customer is in the parking lot to pick up an online order.
The two concepts – omni-channel and IoT – hold immense potential when used together in the retail environment, and, when it comes to delivering excellent sales and customer service, your company can’t afford to be left behind.
By Wynand Smit is CEO of INOVO, a leading contact centre business services provider.