The Bigger Blog

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Bigger Boat Chief of Police Rob Lane donned his journo hat to pen a feature on the tech revolution currently sweeping through retail for AV magazine’s AV in Retail Special, bundled with the mag’s Dec/Jan 2015/16 edition. This is an abridged extract; you can read and download a PDF of the full version (including interviews with Unicol and Peerless-AV) here or read the digital edition here.

According to a survey conducted for law firm TLT’s Retail Growth Strategies Report 2015, published in January, more than half of the 100 top UK retailers planned to spend more on technology this year than they did in 2014. No surprise perhaps, and no surprise that two most popular areas of investment were expected to be websites / mobile apps and improving IT systems, with improvements ensuring that different systems communicate with one another also key.

Whether or not these predicted investments were carried through this year is a moot point, but it’s clear that UK retailers are tuned in to the fast-paced changes in consumer requirements that continue to inform and evolve the retail experience, with the Internet of Things (IoT) high on the agenda and an increasingly elastic dynamic between bricks and mortar and online retail outlets.

This is a market that – like its corporate AV cousin – offers huge opportunities for technology and content providers and facilitators. Indeed, according to another UK-based survey, by Juniper Research, retailers are set to spend $2.5billion worldwide on IoT-related technologies by 2020 – approximately four times more than the $670million that was predicted for 2015.

Juniper Research’s study states that retailers are at the cutting edge of the Internet of Things impact on businesses, with many looking to create IoT ‘ecosystems’. The use of Bluetooth-equipped beacons and radio frequency ID tags RFID tags to push relevant information to customers through smartphones and other mobile devices, alongside real-time asset tracking and pricing adjustments, gives retailers a competitive edge, said the survey.

According to Juniper, leading retailers using the IoT to generate an ‘ecosystem’ will “gain market advantage” with “in-depth business insight and an enhanced customer experience”.

Steffen Sorrell, a Juniper research analyst, adds: “Retailers such as Zara and Target are already taking advantage of the benefits offered by RFID asset tracking. Meanwhile, the beacon industry is expanding rapidly, used as a method to provide consumers with contextually relevant information in conjunction with their smartphone or wearable will enormously enhance the in-store experience.”

Suppliers and integrators of AV technology are advised to pay heed to the winds of change sweeping through retail, ensuring that their solutions dovetail with Internet-connected devices that support data gathering.