The online purchase trend is growing rapidly globally, with the top three online e-commerce retailers making £79.44 billion as of 2017. This trend is not slowing down anytime soon, and global sales are estimated to hit 3.18 trillion sterling pounds by 2021. Attracting new customers and gaining customer loyalty is an important aspect to any e-commerce retailer, and thankfully the Internet of Things (IoT) has come to their aid.  IoT interconnection of devices through wireless networks has made the transfer and sharing of big data files possible.

With this, online retailers are able to create a digital footprint linking customers, processes, and things. This enables them to provide quality services and have a transparent supply chain that results in increased revenues. The application of new technologies such as IoT presents a lot of opportunities in the e-commerce sector.

Smart Inventory Management

Stock management for online businesses ordinarily involves a lot of challenges. Using IoT, e-commerce businesses have been able to minimise these challenges. Radiofrequency identifier chips (RFID) have made tracking of inventories in the warehouse easier. Development of smart shelves enables an online retailer to easily find the correct item in a warehouse when an order is placed. In addition, smart shelves help detect when stock is running low and order more automatically when the reorder level is attained. This helps maintain clients since lack of stock turns off clients who in turn go to look for alternative stores. 

Temperature monitors have also been developed through IoT advancements. The monitors help maintain an optimal temperature in a warehouse, especially for online retailers dealing with temperature sensitive products. Where there is a temperature drop or rise, an owner is notified so that action can be taken to rectify the anomaly before any damage occurs.

Developments of smart robots is another revolutionary aspect in e-commerce inventory management. Using smart robots helps increase efficiency and minimise human error caused by fatigue and repetitive nature of inventory management. An example is the Amazon robots that are able to load parcels weighing over 300kgs at fast speeds. This has helped increase savings by e-commerce businesses by cutting on costs of hiring store managers.

Integration With The Smart Homes

Smart homes are the most common application of IoT by consumers. There’s a steady growth in the UK’s smart home market. Statics show that as of the end of 2019 more than 6.8 million homes will be fitted with smart home devices. Apart from making life way more convenient and safe and protecting pets left alone at home, smart tech devices are now being used to shop. People no longer personally browse for items they want online.

Homeowners nowadays just command their google assistant, Alexa, to make purchases. This presents a problem for e-commerce businesses. When the digital assistant is ordered to make a certain purchase, it will select similar products for requests by different people. This means only top items in a list get chosen, ignoring the rest completely. Through IoT, however, online e-commerce businesses are able to appeal to AI assistants by optimising their websites with google search algorithms.

Integration with smart home Amazon Dash buttons has also helped improve e-commerce. The button enables one to instantly order an item that is about to run out. Once connected with a smartphone, it automatically places an order via wifi when pressed. This enables online retailers dealing with durable items to maintain relationships with their customers over a long time. A good of this is a fridge fitted with the dash button that automatically makes orders when supplies in the fridge run low.

Improved Logistics Management

For e-commerce businesses, the ability to make deliveries on time and in perfect condition attracts customers. Using RFID chips and GPS developed through IoT, one is able to track an order from placement to delivery. An online retailer is able to access information on traffic, weather, speed of the delivery vehicle and details on the logistics crew. With this information, a retailer can accurately tell a client when to expect the delivery. Cases of misplaced or lost shipments are also minimised reducing losses.

Enhanced Customer Interaction And Satisfaction

Quality feedback from customers is a power fool for any e-commerce business to gauge customer satisfaction. Using platforms such as product review monitoring, an online retailer will be able to automatically review, analyse and provide feedback to customer queries promptly. With personal data brought together through IoT, e-commerce businesses can collect data on the lifestyles and habits of customers. Armed with this data online businesses will be able to provide personalized experiences which increases satisfaction. When a person, for example, turns on a smart heater, the device sends information to an online store. The online store can then, in turn, recommend a sweater or hot cocoa to the customer.

With e-commerce, marketplaces are now available in the comfort of our living rooms. Coupled with IoT advancements, consumers and online retailers are assured of convenient transactions and better shopping experiences. Though interconnection may present challenges such as protection of data privacy, the above-mentioned advantages outweigh the disadvantages for both the customer and online retailers.

Article source: Katlyn Eriksen

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