Though they may seem traditional in comparison to today’s web stores, brick-and-mortar retailers still need the latest M2M technology to keep their business practices competitive.How is it that, in a time of always-accessible mobile gaming and state-of-the-art video game consoles, the boring, old board game industry is seeing unprecedented growth? As the Economist argues, there just seems to be something lost by translating gaming into a digital-only experience.For all the strides made in the omnichannel retail experience, the same can be said of most consumer-facing retail brands — shopping online simply makes retail therapy a little less therapeutic.Still, there’s no denying that retail has been forever changed by the digital-first, omni-channel, multi-touchpoint experience that most shopping “trips” now include. Brick-and-mortar locations are still on the list of omni-channel touchpoints that you can actually touch, but if retailers want to keep it that way, they’re going to have to think quickly. These companies must attempt the difficult task of replicating those factors that have made the digital shopping experience so successful -- all without sacrificing the natural appeal of making an in-store purchase.
The emergence of the Internet of Things, and specifically the industrial internet of things (IIoT), might secure the retail industry’s future. And not just from the back of the house: from the supply chain to fitting room, IIoT could revolutionize the entire retailing experience, and retail execs are starting to take notice. Spending on IIoT development in the retail industry alone is expected to exceed $2.5B in the next five years, and 93% of retailers have either already started implementing IIoT strategy or plan to by the end of 2015.The things that make the online shopping experience unique — personalized recommendations, trend tracking, inventory monitoring, virtual try-on, easy comparison shopping — can be brought to the physical retail space. As always in digital transformation, the first step is understanding and adopting the relevant technology. RFIDs, proximity locators, beacons, Bluetooth, GPS, and Wi-Fi are all some of the basic building blocks of creating consistent consumer experiences with the IIoT.When we talk about personalizing experiences, we’re not talking about a “Minority Report”-style system that can pull up your exact purchasing history and serve you relevant ads after scanning your retina. By removing the cookie-infused purchasing process of the web, the omni-channel in-store experience can still be personal without being invasive.Imagine mirrors that can suggest accessories to match the shirt or shoes you’re trying on, or beacon-assisted sale alerts that use the purchase history in your mobile wallet. Consider digital store assistance that uses your phone to help you find the right size, book or home tool within the location. Your in-store experience could even be transformed by the same recommendations engine that revolutionized shopping on the web.But the greater benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things for retail might be felt in the back of the house. Connected industrial devices can prioritize manufacturing, create workflows for production that reduce the need for manager attention, and accommodate manufacturing efficiency.The IIoT could even help ensure socially responsible processes by removing more possibilities for human error in materials sourcing. Production of everything from diamond rings to dishwashers could be internally regulated so that manufacturers never mistakenly cause harm by failing to take environmental impact or substandard global socio-economic thresholds into account.From the assembly line to the display case, the retail industry will be able to use the data-collecting powers of the IIoT to make their workflows more efficient, open up new job roles and responsibilities, and revolutionize industry models. Retail doesn’t have to imitate web shopping to meet the needs of a 21st century consumer -- it has to improve on it.