The future of retail is all about connected commerce

Amaze’s Matt Clarke says IoT is about to connect retail stores, both online and in-store.

The average lifespan of a company is now just 15 years, according to the S&P Index. The main reason for this is a failure to embrace innovation.

Kodak is a classic example. Although it was responsible for inventing the digital camera, the firm ultimately failed to embrace it and this led to its demise.

All too often boardrooms focus on margins and not the future and, difficult though it may be, there needs to be a shift in boardroom mentality. They need to invest in innovation in order to survive.

You only have to look at Blockbuster’s fate at the hands of Netflix to see that those who innovate and embrace change will succeed. Organizations like Uber, Amazon, Tesla and Airbnb are all doing so well precisely because they disrupt normal conventions. They use technology and innovation as weapons to challenge the norm.

So, what does all this have to do with connected commerce? Gartner says that Internet of Things (IoT) product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 million by 2020. ABI Research, meanwhile, has found that there were 16 billion active connected devices last year – and by 2020 this is projected to be 40.9 billion. That’s an impressive 75 percent growth.

But how will this technology actually be applied and what does it all mean for products and, ultimately, consumers?

Related: How Dandy Lab leveraged IoT for smarter retailing

Smart running shoes

Let me give you some examples. Imagine if your running shoes could track when they need to be replaced, using data collected each time you run and taking into account the distance you travel and the terrain you run in. Imagine if they then used this data to alert the shoe manufacturer’s commerce system to automatically order you a new pair of trainers, according to your personal specifications. In essence this would turn your running shoes into a subscription service.

The applications in the home are huge too. Your online grocery shopping could become a thing of the past as your fridge could automatically order products for you as you run out of them. This could even be extended to things such as shampoo bottles, which could sense when they are nearly empty and then be automatically added to your grocery list.

The applications are infinite, and this is good news for the future of the retail store. Key growth areas for connected commerce will include home automation, home appliance, automotive, wearables, health, groceries and DIY.

It is not just the applications that are infinite, so too are the associated disruptions to business.

Product design for example is going to be fundamental to connected commerce. It will also introduce another dimension to how consumers interact with the Internet.

Where will the traditional website fit into this new ecosystem? At the moment a brand’s website is at the forefront of its digital presence, the membrane between brand and consumer. While I’m not suggesting the traditional website is gone forever, there will be a shift in its prominence.

Related: 10 billion apparel connected in ‘world’s largest IoT deployment’

Content is king for the IoT

However, content will remain king in the IoT and connected commerce world. Here it is all about utility and content can be hugely valuable in terms of helping consumers to effectively use their new connected ecosystem. Content and commerce need to learnt to co-exist here and while content can perhaps initially get in the way of conversations, the story needs to be told to build relationships and add value to the user experience.

This isn’t to say that retail brands need to abandon their existing investment and digital ecosystem. Products may need to change as much as the consumer experience and business model. However, that does not mean you need to re-invent your digital estate.

Indeed, your CMS is often the only single source of truth amongst all digital assets and content within your business. It’s also a component of your ecosystem that can handle scale and load and the only platform that is capable of managing your brand experience. In addition, it’s agile and is gathering intelligence – so why start again? Instead, build on your existing investment.

The key here is the cloud. Not only is it a very efficient hosting environment, it is also possibly the only affordable way to actualise IoT. The challenge will lie in how businesses use the cloud to store instructions and manage data.

Related: 6 real-life examples of IoT disrupting retailers

Retail must adapt

What brands need to really keep in mind though is that as we start to redesign products, they’re only going to be powerful if they mean something to people. Consumers want things that are actually going to make life easier and so there has to be a real utility to these technologies. Contextualisation will be very important here.

Your organization cannot simply approach connected commerce and IoT as a box to tick or a gimmick. Just getting products to turn off remotely for example will not cut it. There needs to be real innovation and use.

This is why it is so hugely important, especially in retail, to carve out that time to innovate. You need to think about not only what you want to happen and where you want to go with new technology, but how they’re going to get there.

Matt Clarke is Chief Technology Officer at Amaze