For many retailers around the world, the busiest quarter of the year just finished with holiday shopping through Black Friday and Cyber Monday to Boxing Day. From supply chain optimization, to digital distribution, and in-store analytics, the retail industry has wholeheartedly embraced IoT technology to support those spikes in demand; particularly in scenarios where brands need to build flexibility, hire strong talent, and optimize the customer experience in order to build brand loyalty. In our latest IoT Signals for Retail research, commissioned by Microsoft and released January 2020, we explore the top insights from leaders who are using IoT today. We discuss growth areas such as improving the customer experience, the use of artificial intelligence to achieve break-through success, and nuances between global markets around security concerns and compliance.
Building retail IoT solutions with Azure IoT Central
As Microsoft and its global partners continue to turn retail insights into solutions that empower retailers around the world, a key question continues to face decision makers about IoT investments; whether to build a solution from scratch, or buy a solution that fits their needs. For many solution builders, Azure IoT Central is the perfect fit, a fully managed IoT platform with predictable pricing and unique features like retail specific application templates that can accelerate solution development thanks to the inclusion of over 30 underlying Azure services. Let us manage the services so you can focus on what’s more important, applying your deep industry knowledge to help your customers.
New tools to accelerate building a retail IoT Solution
Today we are excited to announce the addition of our sixth IoT Central retail application template for solution builders. The Micro-fulfilment center template showcases how connectivity and automation can reduce cost by eliminating downtime, increasing security, and improving efficiency. App templates can help solution builders get started quickly and includes sample operator dashboards, sample device templates, simulated devices producing real-time data, access to Plug and Play devices, and security features that give you peace of mind. Fulfillment optimization is a cornerstone of operations for many retailers and optimizing early may offer significant returns in the future. Application templates are helping solution builders overcome challenges like getting past the proof-of-concept phase, or building rapid business cases for new IoT scenarios.
Innovative Retailers share their IoT stories
In addition to rich industry insights like those found in IoT Signals for Retail, we are proudly releasing three case stories detailing decisions, trade-offs, processes, and results from top global brands investing in IoT solutions, and the retail solution builders supporting them. Read more about how these companies are implementing and winning with their IoT investments and uncover details that might offer you an edge as you navigate your own investments and opportunities.
South Africa Breweries and CIRT team up to solve a cooler tracking conundrum
South Africa Breweries, a subsidiary of AB InBev, is the worlds’ largest brewing company and is committed to keeping its product fresh and cold for customers, a challenge that most consumers take for granted. From tracking missing coolers to reducing costs, and achieving sustainability goals, Sameer Jooma, Director of Innovation and Analytics for AB InBev turned to IoT innovation led by Consumption Information Real Time (CIRT), a South African solution builder. CIRT was tasked to pilot Fridgeloc Connected Cooler, a cooler monitoring system, providing real time insight into temperature (both internal cooler and condenser), connected state and location of hundreds of coolers through urban and rural South Africa. Revamping an existing cooler audit process that involved auditors visiting dealer locations to verify that a cooler was in the right place, and tracking the time between delivery and installation to an outlet are just two of the process optimization benefits found by Jooma.
“The management team wanted to have a view of the coolers, and to be able to manage them centerally at a national level. IoT Central enabled us to gain that live view.” - Sameer Jooma, Director: Innovation and Analytics, AB InBev.
Learn more about the universal cooler challenges that face merchants and consumer packaged goods companies worldwide in the case story.
On the “road” to a connected cooler in rural South Africa, a field technician gets stuck in the sand on his way to the tavern.
Fridgeloc Connected Cooler at a tavern in Soweto, South Africa.
Mars Incorporated Halloween display campaign unveils new insights thanks to Footmarks Inc.
For most consumer packaged goods companies, sales spike during holiday times thanks to investments across the marketing and sales mix, from online display advertising to in-store physical displays. This past Halloween, Jason Wood, Global Display Development Head, Mars Inc., a global manufacturer of confectionery and other food products, decided it was time to gain deeper insights into an age-old problem of tracking where their product displays went after they left the warehouse. Previously, Mars was only able to track the number of displays it produced, and how many left its warehouses for retailer destinations. They found the right partner with Footmarks Inc. who has designed their beacon and gateway-based display tracking solution with Azure IoT Central to deliver secure, simple and scalable insights into what happens once displays begin transit. Several interesting insights emerged throughout the campaign and afterward.
"Information on when displays came off the floor were surprising—major insights that we wouldn't have been able to get to without the solution." - Jason Wood, Global Display Development Head, Mars Inc.
Learn more about challenges Mars and Footmarks faced scaling, pricing, and managing devices for display tracking in the case story.
Foormarks Inc., Smart Connect Cloud dashboard for Mars Wrigley showing display tracking solution using IoT sensors for the 2019 Halloween campaign.
Microsoft turns to C.H. Robinson and Intel for Xbox and Surface supply chain visibility
In advance of the busy 2019 holiday season and the introduction of many new Surface SKU’s, the Microsoft supply chain team was interested in testing the benefits of a single platform connecting IoT devices on shipments globally, streamlining analytics and device management. This Microsoft team was also thinking ahead, preparing for the launch of the latest Xbox console, Xbox Series X, and for a series of new Surface product launches. With Surface and Xbox demand projected to grow around the world, the need for insights and appropriate actions along the supply chain was only going to increase. The Microsoft team partnered with TMC (a division of C.H. Robinson), a global technology and logistics management provider who partnered with Intel, to design a transformative solution based on their existing Navisphere Vision software that could be deployed globally using Azure IoT Central. The goal was to track and monitor shipments’ ambient condition for shock, light, and temperature to identify any damage in real time, anywhere in the world—at a scale covering millions of products.
“The real power comes in the combination of C.H. Robinson’s Navisphere Vision, technology that is built by and for supply chain experts, and the speed, security, and connectivity of Azure IOT Central.” - Chris Cutshaw, Director of Commercial and Product Strategy at TMC
Learn more about the results from the recent holiday season and what Navisphere Vision can do for global supply chain visibility in the case story.
Navisphere Vision dashboard showing IoT Sensors activity, managed through Azure IoT Central.
NRF 2020: Retail's Big Show is happening in Manhattan from January 12 to 14. Azure IoT and other experts including retail solution builders Attabotics, C.H. Robinson, and CIRT will be in attendance.
Read more about IoT Signals for Retail report.
Get started with Azure IoT Central today.
Learn more about the solutions being used by these customers today.
- Footmarks Inc. Smart Tracking asset tracking for consumer packaged goods companies.
- CIRT Fridgeloc solution.
- C.H. Robinson Navisphere Vision solution.
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