Innovative Solutions For Retail And Logistics In Smart Cities

How retailers can retrofit their business with tech trends in smart cities

The audiences at the Retail Design Expo (leading retail design event of Europe) were informed that retailers should be taking advantage of the smart cities around the world to connect with the shopper of the future. Indeed, smart cities have the innovative solutions for the retailers to redefine their business strategy and take the shopping experience to a whole new level.

Renato Lucio de Castro, executive director of Baumann Consulting, said at the event, “Smart cities can be a very good laboratory to develop, test and refine the new business strategies for the global retail industry. It is about putting disruptive retail into places where the technology is already there.”

He further added, “Smart cities are nothing if not relevant to retailers now… Big data, omnichannel, E-payments and all the challenges of working with fast changing and disruptive technology are intricately connected to smart cities.”

Savvy retailers have already tapped into the potential smart cities. For instance, Tesco in 2011, conducted an experiment in Korea where the commuters waiting at train stations were allowed to scan pictures of grocery items pasted on the walls through their iPhones. This would enable them to have the food delivered when they arrived home. At the same time, Hong Kong witnessed the launch of ‘McDonalds Next’ –  a triumph to align with the future trends that include interaction, omnichannel and fresher food.

This was just the glimpse of how retailers can retrofit their business with tech trends in smart cities. Check out more of it discussed below!

High-tech Devices For Retail Stores

1. iBeacons

Which technologies are set to shape the future of retail industry?iBeacon is a tiny yet very smart tech device that can be attached to anything, anywhere. It instantly transmits radio signals when the customer comes in close proximity. These radio signals are then picked up and interpreted by the customer’s smartphone. For example, a retailer who sells electronic gadgets can have an ibeacon attached to one of the store shelves. When a customer comes near the shelf, an automated push notification will be sent to the customer’s smartphone. When clicked, the user will be directed to the retailer’s online store where he would be able to see the product’s specifications, pictures and pricing.

Like this, iBeacons can create an added value for shoppers while they are at the store. And this is definitely going to be an asset for the retailers as people already love using the smartphone while shopping. In fact, according to a Survey commissioned by Google reveals that more than 66% of the smartphone users make purchase decisions using their phones while they browse through the items in a brick and mortar store.

But, a retail store needs to have at least one mobile application for the iBeacon to work. These devices are already being used by pioneering retailers like the Timberland, Alex and Ani and Kenneth Cole. The ibeacon initiates a push notification with a personalized greeting and exclusive offer as soon as a customer enters the store.

Case Study – As per GIGAOM, a survey during the pilot of this technology in New York and Boston revealed that more than 90% of the shoppers who visited Timberland, Kenneth Cole and Alex and Ani were highly likely or likely to use an in-store mobile experience again. An impressive 35% conversion rate out of 75% open rate was reported by the retailers. This clearly indicates that people not just appreciated the personalised offers but also responded favourably to making purchases.

2. Point Of Sale Technology

Apart from iBeacons, there is another innovative technology that can give customers an exciting experience. The technology is called point of sale (POS) that enables customers to make payments for a product quickly, securely and smartly.

One of them is Apple Pay that was launched quite recently. The app can be accessed either through iPhone, Apple Watch or iPad when the customer wants to pay for the purchase. The only thing they need to do is present their device to the in-store contactless reader with their fingers on Touch ID.

Besides, ‘Apple Store Experience’ a bigger innovation by Apple, has already made its mark in retail industry by gaining the tag of being one of the most effective technologies in the retail industry. This technology enables the store staff to service and completes the checkout process for the customers from anywhere in the store. This feature creates a mobile point of sale that eliminates the need for long billing queues. Indeed, this also saves the store from cut down on sales due to walkouts resulting from long checkout queues.

Another great thing about the deployment of this technology is that a retailer can use the mobile POS system to initiate sales outside the actual store. It brings in a great opportunity for retailers while setting up kiosks, pop-up stores or stalls at special events. Amazingly, this kind of technology makes it possible for retail industry to break the boundaries and create a smarter shopping experience for their customers, anywhere.

What Are Smart Cities Upto With Logistics?

Of course, retail and logistics go hand in hand. So a smart retail strategy also involves the role of innovative technology in logistics.

Smart City Logistics is that innovation introduced by the Luxembourg Institute for Science and Technology. It is a decision support mapping software tool designed to help local authorities and smart city planners manage the urban freight transportation challenges more effectively. The software was developed as part of the Last Mile Logistics (LaMiLo) project initiated by the Institute for Sustainability. The software provides online information to the authorities so that they can create sustainable freight plans simultaneously helping them to reduce carbon emissions, congestion, air and noise pollution in the city.

The Smart City Logistics is an open source platform that uses Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to map a range of helpful data on traffic measures, delivery and transport facilities, access restrictions, districts, population, land use and carbon emissions. At present, this mapping platform is actively being used to gather useful data in three European capital cities namely London, Luxembourg and Brussels.

Going forward, the Smart City Logistics provides a route selection feature that finds out the shortest roadway for a delivery vehicle considering parameters such as access and weight load. This can significantly help in making the delivery trip more optimum while saving on fuel and time. Most importantly, it can help in overcoming traffic congestion which is one of the major challenges in smart cities.

The results provided by the technology will help planners in identifying innovative and sustainable solutions for urban logistics network in smart cities. In addition, the maps are freely available for everyone to access, people can add their own data, create more helpful data and at the same time share this knowledge with other cities around the world.

These solutions have a great impact on businesses, consumers as well our environment. It is important to consider the socio-economic aspect of the same giving rise to comprehensive sustainable solutions.

Even the cities in developing countries can substantially make use of such tools and applications for smart retail and logistics. These solutions are evidently not just confined to be focused on increasing sales and customer satisfaction.  It has much more to offer. We just need a broader perspective and the rest will find its way through the collaborative action.