A decade ago, ecommerce was just starting to take off, mainly in the hands of larger retailers. Today, anyone with an internet connection can launch an ecommerce retail operation from the comfort of their own home, thanks to customizable templates and platforms. The ‘Internet of Things’ is in the same position that ecommerce was 10 years ago – it already exists in many forms, but as the technology grows in leaps and bounds over the next few years it will become something that impacts everyone, and could be a very useful tool for small-scale ecommerce entrepreneurs. Here are a few ways that the IoT and ecommerce go hand in hand.
What is the Internet of Things?
Amazon’s Internet-of-things strategy takes shape
So what is the Internet of Things, anyway? Also abbreviated to IoT, in its most basic sense it refers to a group of connected devices that are able to communicate with one another over a single network. Think of smart gadgets that can synchronize files, or all-in-one home control systems that can regulate temperature, security, and energy use with a single touchpad. Using sensors and high-speed data transmission, the Internet of Things allows machines to communicate in two-way channels.
Benefits for Ecommerce Retailers
Large businesses have been using sensors to track inventory and manage shipping logistics for years already, but this type of technology is now becoming more widespread as major telco companies like Nokia Networks and others are offering IoT services. There are a number of benefits for ecommerce retailers with this type of technology. To begin with, it can be used to better manage inventory. Many ecommerce retailers are dealing with inventory that’s stored in warehouses at a distance, making it hard to monitor at the hands-on level. With sensor tags, it’s easier to track inventory and send alerts if an item goes missing from the warehouse. Inventory can be tracked to increase efficiency. If you deal with perishable products, IoT sensors can also be used to make sure that the storage temperature is at the correct level, sending automatic alerts if the temperature fluctuates. Deliveries can be tracked in real-time, allowing you to send accurate updates to customers online.
Benefits for Small Business Owners
Smartphones play a central role in the development of the Internet of Things for ecommerce purposes. Promotions can be more highly targeted, which is ideal for small business owners who don’t have the massive advertising and marketing budget that a larger company would have. Instead, you can send promotional alerts based on the customer’s preferences, location, and habits for more effective results. It’s easier to adjust your efforts according to scale, making ecommerce more realistic for developers and entrepreneurs. Payment and delivery are more streamlined for consumers as well, making the buying process easier on both ends.
The Bottom Line
For ecommerce business owners who may work alone or as part of a small, basic team, the Internet of Things can help fill in the gaps to save time and money. When your products are able to communicate with delivery vehicles and your central computer, you are better able to get a feel for the big picture of your business and improve customer service along the way. Today’s ecommerce consumers expect constant updates so that they know exactly what they’re getting, and when they’re going to receive it. The IoT helps automate this process to a large extent, improving standards for electronic commerce.