As internet of things (IoT) become more embedded into our daily lives, businesses are starting to recognise the benefits to new ways of working. With data collection and connectivity becoming increasingly familiar, companies working in retail want to know what they can do to improve efficiencies, while also adding value to the customer experience.
John Wise, Marketing and Sales Director of BBP tech, the company behind a range of products that use chips to communicate and share data, explains why he is meeting with business leaders from the retail industry to ask “Do you want chips with that?”.
Wise comments: “The beauty of the chip, and why I get so excited about them, is because they don’t have to be visible to read. This makes them a far more viable option for those who want to communicate data to customers without the need for unsightly barcodes.
“Chips can become part of the design of a product without a customer ever knowing that they are there. They can also carry more data, which is tamper resistant as it can be locked, further increasing the number of applications that chips could be used for.
“Take a typical retail setting. You have a clothes rail that is stocked on a morning and then on an evening someone has to go along and scan every item in turn to collect the data that is used to record sales and check stock.
“Now, consider if each item was chipped. All you would need to do is run a scanner or mobile device down the line – even from a distance – and it would record all of this data in seconds, saving you time and money.”
Despite the benefits to chips, it can be difficult to change people’s attitudes to a process that they have in place and that their technologies and current infrastructure will support.
“We could all stand still. We could do things the same way that we have for years but how is that going to make us more productive and more profitable? We have to change and adapt to keep up with the pace of an increasingly global market.
“The high street has suffered over the last decade but the reason people go out to shop is for an experience. What chips will allow is for the basic purchase of an item to become more engaging, more interactive and more immersive. Brands can build loyalty through offering exclusive content, access to new launches and ranges – it gives them the chance to make the customer feel valued.
“The ease of using chips means that they can be applied to almost every item that we purchase. If brands work creatively they can use the chips for multiple uses; communication, connectivity and importantly to reinforce safety and security.”
Like any innovation, chips have been available for some time and are becoming more widely used but as they are yet to become a commodity product there is a variable on cost per unit. Wise explains why this shouldn’t stop brands from experimenting with IoT.
“We have a really exciting opportunity with chips and to dismiss them due to the cost implication would be a mistake. Like anything, I appreciate that the numbers need to add up but certainly for luxury brands, chips should be common practice.
“The value that they add far outweighs the costs if brands act smart and work with retailers to come up with products that can offer real and valuable insight. Shopper habits can be monitored, along with frequency of purchase and engagement beyond the boundaries of a shopping outlet.
“Chips range from a few pence to pounds depending on how advanced you need them to be. Brands need to decide if they feel that the data that these chips can hold will have a lasting impact on the experience that they give the retailer and the consumer.”
As mobile phones are frequently used by a larger consumer audience than ever before to share information about products and services, chips can bridge the gap between brand and purchase. Wise explains.
“Smart phones are no longer about a generation gap, most people have mobile technologies that can be used to communicate and share information about a product and service. What brands need to do is to make sure that they are capitalising upon this and making the most of the opportunity that this presents.
“Using chips you can programme and design a label that will become interactive giving customers the chance to access unique content or to learn more about a product when it is scanned. Using near-field communication (NFC) consumers could even have access to promotional materials without having to scan anything – their phones would simply pick up the data.
“The opportunities for brands really are endless if IoT is embraced and considered as part of the customer journey when products are designed.”
As an organisation that already uses chips within transport tickets and smart multi-modal travel cards, Wise gives his predictions for the years ahead.
“Times are changing and we have these technologies available to us. What is important is that brands work with companies that have the knowledge and experience to give good advice and recommendations that will make sense.
“Having worked in this sector for more than a decade, and with the development of chips for a similar amount of time, I can see that it won’t be too long until we walk into a supermarket and rely on this technology to scan all products without having to place them on the conveyor belt at the cash point or pass them over a counter.
“Just think about the time and hassle that this will save. People can pick up items, place them in a basket and they will be scanned and paid for on leaving the shop. Not only will this save the customer time but the retailer gets the value from stock checking, security and protection.”