Even though the Internet of Things (IoT) is still in its infancy in relation to ecommerce, it is set to have a huge impact on the industry. It is a future that involves ordinary devices working with other objects via an internet connection.
This is what the IoT is all about, “intelligent” devices having the capability to communicate with one another to simplify everyday life. But the impact of IoT will not only affect how people live their lives, it will also have massive implications for ecommerce businesses as well.
To get more insight on the growth and impact of IoT, Forbes Insights joined with Hitachi Vantara to ask more than 500 senior-level executives around the world how IoT initiatives are working in their companies. The survey showed that across many different industries and regions, the IoT is quickly becoming a key competitive differentiator in businesses. “The year 2017 is when the Internet of Things became operational,” says Patrick Bass, the CEO of thyssenkrupp North America. “This is the year [the IoT] really went to work.”
Keep in mind that we are only just beginning to experience the impact of IoT, yet business owners and managers already understand that it is a big deal. The Forbes-Hitachi survey findings state that of the 500 executives asked, 64% said that the IoT is important or very important. Not one executive said that it was unimportant to their company’s future.
We have some insight as to how the IoT is expected to affect businesses overall, but what will it mean for the ecommerce industry specifically? The impact looks very promising.
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things is basically various devices connected to the internet and working together. This internet connection allows the devices to collect data, analyze the data, and create new operations from those insights. It may include technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics, and it uses wireless communications, sensors, cloud, storage, networks, and more.
For example, imagine you have a refrigerator that has the technology to send an alert when you’re running out of a particular food item. It also automatically adds that food item to your grocery list, and in some cases, sends an order request to your local grocery store for the item.
That is how IoT works.
How Will IoT Impact Ecommerce Businesses?
Ecommerce continues to grow and evolve as technology advances. Consumers are more likely to make purchases online as their lifestyles adapt to these new technologies. It’s crucial that ecommerce businesses learn to leverage technology to improve customer engagement and overall satisfaction.
The IoT is quickly becoming a way for ecommerce businesses to do that – quickly and efficiently. In fact, it’s expected that retail spend on IoT will reach $2.5 billion by 2020.
Below are some of the ways that IoT will shape and grow the ecommerce industry in the very near future.
Warehouse management will be improved with the addition of IoT devices and tools. For example, the use of robots in the warehouse (a technology already in use by Amazon) can automate and enhance the effectiveness of picking and packing purchased products. The current warehouse robots used by Amazon are able to load packages up to 300 kg and move at 8 km/h.
Additionally, IoT will benefit warehouse management by ensuring that preventative maintenance is performed on equipment. One example is placing sensors on forklifts that will alert employees when maintenance is needed. This can help reduce loss of productivity due to malfunctioning or out-of-service equipment.
Supply Chain Management
It’s essential that the whole supply chain process for ecommerce businesses moves smoothly and effectively. When one part of the supply chain is faulty, it affects the operations in all other areas. IoT can streamline the supply chain process so that products move from one stage to the next without interruption. It allows ecommerce business owners to track products from the production or manufacturing stage through delivery to customers.
GPS and RFID technologies aid in tracking products as they are in transit, providing key information about location. It’s also helpful in estimating delivery times and preventing shipments from being misplaced or lost.
In addition to the IoT advancements in warehouse management, handling inventory management will be much easier with the help of IoT. The use of sensors and RFID tags allows real-time management of stock, which helps streamline the entire inventory system. Human error is significantly reduced in the stocking and reordering of inventory. Monitoring becomes seamless with immediate updates to inventory and visibility at-a-glance across all channels.
Smart shelves can be used to help reduce customer complaints and dissatisfaction regarding out-of-stock products. They can track how many products have been sold and place orders automatically to resupply the shelves.
All ecommerce business leaders will agree that creating a great customer experience is the key to success. Customers are savvier than ever, and they want to have shopping experiences that are easy, personalized, and engaging. IoT allows businesses to set themselves apart from the competition in the view of their customers.
Personalization has become a buzzword in retail, and IoT provides the technology to personalize many aspects of the customer experience. It enables retailers to create personalized advertising and marketing for a specific group of customers. It can also identify shopping patterns in online browsing and search trends, which allows businesses to offer specific products to a targeted group of shoppers.
IoT will make it easy to tailor products, services, and special promotions to the shoppers who are more likely to make a purchase. And the more data collected, the better technology will be at understanding customer behavior and implementing marketing strategies accordingly.
As more devices become a part of the IoT, more information can be gathered to improve customer experiences. The ecommerce industry will see sales growth, improved operations, more intuitive websites, and better consumer intelligence. The possibilities truly are endless.
You don’t have to make the leap to new technologies all at once. Consider making changes like upgrading your ecommerce inventory management system to an automated solution like ecomdash. It has many features that will put you on the IoT path, including inventory sync, which is key to updating product levels across all your sales channels automatically.
To try ecomdash and simplify your inventory management, register for a free 15-day trial.