The Role of IoT Connectivity During an Economic Downturn

IoT connectivity is changing retail.

The proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) adoption in retail is opening new pathways to business resilience at a time when it’s needed most.

With severe macroeconomic headwinds causing major market volatility, the margin for operational error is razor thin – meaning retailers must be positioned to deliver consistent customer satisfaction at every touch point. It only takes one poor experience for a consumer to stop doing business with a brand for good.

This heightens the importance of leveraging purpose-built IoT solutions to amplify operational efficiency and quality, and, in turn, customer satisfaction. In that sense, connectivity is the key component of the equation. Siloed solutions produce static results.

But when IoT-enabled devices are interconnected and working in unison within a retail facility, it generates a continuous feedback loop of real-time telemetry data that can be leveraged to enhance staff efficiency, optimize on-shelf availability, improve food quality, drive asset protection, and bridge gaps between food safety and loss prevention.

And the sum of all those parts? A clear path to profitable revenue generation at scale, which is vital to weathering an economic downturn without a clear end in sight. Now more than ever, a holistic framework of IoT connectivity is critical to maximizing the power of retail digital transformation amid market volatility – giving organizations the asset visibility, product traceability, and data-driven decisioning capabilities they need to emerge from the volatility unscathed. 

24/7 Asset Monitoring and Management

For retailers, failing to store perishable products and prepare food in alignment with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) standards can have a direct impact on customer health and brand loyalty. However, throwing away everything that could have been exposed to spoilage-causing excursions without definitive confirmation further accelerates food waste.

There are also times where an exposed product may not be deemed “unsafe” to consume, but did experience a reduction in quality due to the excursion. Then, the customer who bought that product later finds it spoiled at home two days later, causing them to form a negative perception of the brand and, in turn, opt to shop from an industry competitor next time.   

An integrated framework of IoT connectivity combined with workflows in place to probe food for heating and cooling HACCP compliance empowers retailers to proactively avoid that scenario. The continuous temperature monitoring insights are viewable through a single pane of glass, and bolster food freshness by sending real-time alerts and automated reports to a digital dashboard when temperature or humidity excursions are detected.

This allows employees to immediately take corrective action before it causes a negative outcome, and also prevents unnecessary food waste by removing guessing games from the equation. In turn, retailers can ensure every discarded item is justified and every safe-to-consume product remains on a shelf.  

Thirdly, IoT connectivity is imperative to avoiding expensive equipment repairs and operational downtime during a recession. It enables facility operating teams to remotely monitor the performance of critical control point assets like storage freezers and refrigerators so they can perform preventative maintenance and routine repairs.

By digitalizing the end-to-end maintenance monitoring and task management process, facility operations workflows are no longer subject to “sorry, I forgot” situations that are every retailer’s worst nightmare. If equipment is starting to show early signs of problems, the solution notifies personnel to act on it and prevent serious issues. If equipment is working properly but due for routine repairs, the solution reminds personnel that it’s time for a tune-up.

The Employee Empowerment Effect

Periods of economic downturn call for an all hands on deck approach to labor where every member of the team has a role in the success of the greater enterprise. However, retailers are currently struggling to retain employees. According to a McKinsey & Company study, nearly half of frontline retail workers and 63% of retail managers consider leaving their jobs within three to six months of being hired. This attrition, per the study, is often derived from being forced to complete tedious tasks that have no social benefit or are not connected to the organization's mission.

IoT connectivity is the ultimate employee empowerment tool. From streamlining compliance procedures to eliminating irrelevant inventory check-ups, it takes the minutiae out of day-to-day operations – allowing retail staff to replace disconnected and inefficient manual processes with AI-driven digital decisioning that boosts their productivity.

By automating tedious tasks like compliance reporting via IoT connectivity, employees instead have more time to focus on the most meaningful aspect of their job: delivering an exceptional customer experience. The end result extends beyond employee productivity alone, concurrently creating a happier and more engaged workforce that is inclined to remain with the organization long-term.

While retailers can’t control the reality of our current economic environment, what they can control is how they respond to it. Through the integrated adoption of facility-wide IoT connectivity, organizations can position themselves to rise above the uncertainty for better business outcomes that drive revenue.

Guy Yehiav is president of SmartSense by Digi 

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