Five ways to benefit from IoT in eCommerce cover slide

Five Ways to Benefit from IoT in eCommerce

CTO of Onilab Alex Husar, writes about five benefits of using IoT in eCommerce and how Cassandra can be a solution to the data requirements of setting up IoT infrastructure.

Image credit: Unsplash

How do we describe the Internet of Things? What are the advantages of IoT in eCommerce? IoT is a group of interconnected physical objects with embedded sensors. These objects use networks and cloud software platforms to perform their tasks, such as:

  • communicate with each other;
  • exchange data;
  • analyze information about the world around us. 

For example, you have a faxing machine. You want to connect it to your computer and streamline document exchange. So you sync it to your CRM, using Salesforce fax integration or any other solution. That’s how your IoT ecosystem works.

How does it apply to the world of trade? When it comes to retail, these things include:

  • RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags;
  • infrared in-store traffic meters;
  • satellite and Wi-Fi tracking systems;
  • digital signatures;
  • kiosks;
  • shoppers’ mobile devices.

IoT allows online retailers to upgrade their customer service, namely: 

  • understand the context, such as the time and location of the customer;
  • identify when they need help or incentive to buy;
  • act proactively, i.e. giving clients what they need before they ask for it. 

Now I will expand five IoT application areas that are particularly significant in eCommerce.

Five Ways to Leverage IoT in eCommerce

1. Smart Inventory Management and Predictive Equipment Maintenance

The first step of implementing IoT in eCommerce covers product storage. IoT sensors, as well as RFID tags, have completely changed the way inventory is organized. These sensors and tags can obtain all critical item information, such as:

  • the type of goods;
  • their availability;
  • their expiration date.

Note that it happens without the need for human intervention. In the case of business owners, it assists in monitoring both the quantity and quality of the product. Customers also benefit from smart inventory management. They can check the product’s availability and its status.

What does predictive equipment maintenance mean for eCommerce? It can reduce energy usage, avoid equipment failures, and detect other issues.

Suppose a retailer uses refrigerators to store products. What if we connect them to sensors? They will transmit data to control food safety, including:

  • malfunctions that can increase energy consumption;
  • the temperature on the shelves and in the compartments. Is it low enough for perishable products? If not, they inform the system about it;
  • among others.

What else has revolutionized inventory management? Inventory management has advanced significantly with the introduction of smart shelves. These shelves count the number of things on hand and can reorder them if necessary, preventing items from becoming unavailable. They lower the risk of human mistakes and the number of working hours required.

For example, there is an IoT system in the Levi’s Plaza stores in San Francisco. Each product has RFID tags attached. They transfer data to the cloud, where it’s processed to see the full picture:

  • how much of the product is left;
  • what and when customers buy;
  • which items a retailer needs to replenish;
  • which are still in stock.
RFID tag being placed on a pair of jeans from levi strauss.
Screenshot taken on the official Levi Strauss & Co. website

2. Iot in eCommerce Supply Chain Management

The next step the product goes through is transportation. That’s where IoT devices can help by tracking an item’s route. They predict an accurate arrival time and prevent lost or incorrect deliveries. IoT sensors and RFID tags inform businesses about what’s going on with their products, such as: 

  • location;
  • delivery speed;
  • weather conditions;
  • the driver.

So if the weather is inappropriate or the route is busy, it will slow down the delivery speed. The system comprehends it and sends a signal to the business owner to change the course or notify clients of the delay.

Customers enjoy the gadgets since they can receive automated messages about the goods and when they will reach their door.

Amazon, for example, employs IoT-enabled robots to manage the assembling and packing of an order and other duties. The eCommerce giant also tests drones to pick up and deliver things, known as the Amazon Prime Air service.

Google, Tesla Motors, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Nissan connect IoT and automobiles to create driverless gadgets. Though they are more widespread in the form of slow-moving robots in warehouses, self-driving vehicles will transport the purchased items in the future. To name a few, Domino’s partnered with Nuro to launch autonomous pizza delivery in Houston. The experiment started in April 2021.

Image of a self driving delivery vehicle from Domino's
Screenshot was taken on the official Domino’s Self-Driving Delivery website

3. Better Product Maintenance and Creating a Smart Home Ecosystem

IoT in eCommerce can assess products and items remotely and analyze their conditions. For example, how does a customer use a product? Can the system predict and prevent its malfunctions?

If the merchant receives a note about some issue with the product, they can call the consumer to alert them and offer to repair or replace the device before any problems arise. IoT, among other things, can notify the user if the object is lost or stolen.

How can smart home systems work in tune with eCommerce? The devices can influence how customers buy products online. A customer won’t need to spend time and search for the desired thing. Instead, they can instruct their voice assistants to order it under certain conditions.

4. Refining Marketing Campaigns with Personalization

One of the ways how data collected from IoT devices become helpful is personalized offers. What do you do with the client’s information? You can leverage it to improve the tailored experience and reduce customer churn

For example, if a consumer buys an inflatable pool, the system can send this information to an online store. Retailers use it to offer him a barbecue grill, swimsuit, or sunscreen.

Insurance companies are already analyzing drivers’ habits received from car rental firms. Where do they get it? They process data from IoT devices, namely: 

  • GPS;
  • movement and speed sensors;
  • smartphones;
  • etc.

Insurance companies give discounts to cautious drivers and set higher rates for those who exceed the speed limit. eCommerce companies can follow this pattern and offer special discounts for winter tires, glasses, or other vehicle-related goods.

5. Consistent Shopping Experience

The Internet of Things helps create an omnichannel experience. Before placing an order, a person examines all the available information. They can study products on the go, check social networks, ask questions in chats, etc.

At this moment, eCommerce businesses track their movements. Why do they need it? Suppose a person decides to open the site from the desktop after interacting with the brand on other devices. The system must determine that it’s the same client as from the phone.

Connecting mobile and desktop marketing will help you guide customers through a cohesive experience and increase their average check. It also applies to voice assistants, smart TVs, and refrigerators.

If online stores identify devices of the same individual, they can market to the person rather than the machine.

Summing Up: What Are the Challenges of IoT in eCommerce?

IoT applications in eCommerce have no ceiling. From product storage to warranty and marketing, online store owners benefit from connected devices.

But what stands behind IoT? It’s big data. You need to gather and parse terabytes of customer information and patterns.

That’s why IoT devices require large databases with high scalability and real-time responsiveness. And solutions such as MySQL, MongoDB, and similar can be of little help.

One of the remedies can be Apache Cassandra, which has built-for-scale architecture. It helps you manage millions of operations or concurrent users every second, making it ideal for IoT deployment.

How does Cassandra provide scalability? For example, a user can add nodes to existing clusters while they remain active. Once you have full control of your data, you can customize your communication with the client and cater to their specific needs. And that’s the best way to realize the actual value of the IoT in eCommerce.


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