Alright, I know you may be already thinking “is this guy trying to start a new buzzword or something?” The quick answer is no— but if you think about it, the term “IoT,” or internet of things, was created to frame all applications devices, and potential internet uses, along with their associated implications. So what about Digital initiatives? Just like the internet, which has so many applications that helped spawn the term “IoT”, digital is a term that is also widely used and has many potential applications. Therefore, I would argue that we need the term DoT and a new entry in Wikipedia!
What is the Digital of Things?
I caution my daughters about relying on Wikipedia, as opposed to good old reference books that are supposed to have validated and cross-referenced information. However, I really liked Wikipedia’s summary on IoT: “The IoT allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit.” I suppose this is true depending on the degree of integration that you are trying to accomplish.
So what about Digital? Like the IoT, it has become a highly used, ambiguous term. Retailers read and hear all kinds of things from events, vendors and industry peers on how to “go digital”. Your digital of things, or “DoT,” could be based on your personal view of how digital impacts your life or how it impacts your customers. Just as the internet of things allows IT systems to directly interface with devices on a network in an attempt to allow for optimization of a specific process (manufacturing, data collection, etc), the digital of things framework allows merchants to directly interface with their customers through digital channels (images, video media, messaging, smart notifications, etc) in an attempt to better understand consumer behavior and optimize marketing campaigns.
How Can You Apply DoT to Your Business?
Popular retail digital applications focus on leveraging the point of sale (POS), site signage and mobile smart devices as a means to keep your customers engaged, rewarded and incentivized to come inside and buy more from you. There are also DoT initiatives to help you stay compliant and avoid fines. Let’s review DoT in terms of these key retail focus areas.
Retailers are optimizing POS and leveraging back office systems to support DoT initiatives. Some retailers provide data to on site HD screens that can offer daily deals/promotions focused on top selling items to customers to increase their awareness and stimulate impulse buys. Similar HD screens can support interactive food orders and self-checkout, and can display attractive pictures of goods to help stimulate sales. Outside store signage that now has embedded HD screens, can use the same promotional images to entice customers to not only fill up on fuel for example, but park the car and come inside the store. Retailers have deployed this capability with the help of their POS vendors, often with the help of other vendors who specialize in content creation and delivery to your retail site.
Many exciting DoT initiatives have been deployed and are being further developed to use your customers’ smart phone as a means of staying close to your customer. One particularly exciting method leverages “perimeter marketing” to detect when the customer is close to your site and push notifications to their mobile device, prompting them to take advantage of a promotion or targeted offer. Upon “swiping” texts and images on the smart phone screen, consumers immediately access your mobile application and digital coupons or offers you’d like them to see. By the way, this push notification brings them back into your mobile application, where the customer’s points or other rewards are stored and you can deliver more digital marketing messages to them.
Compliance is essential and DoT offers lots of its potential. If you are a retailer that prepares and sells fresh food to customers and has to deal with FDA regulations or environmental compliance, both the Federal Government and compliance support vendors are developing solutions to keep you in compliance. The FDA requires retailers and quick service restaurants to educate customers on ingredients and make FDA warnings transparent. FDA compliance can be achieved by using the same in-store screens or mobile applications to provide ingredient details like MSG content, trans-fat, etc. Environmental controls regarding food storage temperatures, validation that a food preparation area has been cleaned, etc. can be delivered to the manager’s back office system or to accountable employee’s smart phones.
Based on these few examples, what could DoT also mean to retailers? I would also like to propose “DoT: Creating opportunities for more direct integration with your customers to influence their behavior by incentivizing and rewarding them. Fostering consistent compliance that protects margin and operational consistency, by providing more direct integration with your retail site.”