And 79% percent of North American retailers are investing in such IoT business technologies as automated inventory verification and sensors on shelves, a new study finds.

Internet of things, or IoT, is already changing the way consumers connect with and shop from the web. It’s also set to change the way retailers manage their businesses, new research finds.

Nearly 70% of retailers are ready to make business changes to adapt to the array of web-connected technologies that’s come to be known as the internet of things, according to a survey of 1,700 retail decision makers from North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. The survey was conducted by Research Now and Qualtrics and commissioned by Zebra Technologies, a vendor that provides point of sale, inventory management, fulfillment and analytics services to merchants.

“Every inch of the retail industry is changing, from the aisles of the warehouse to the shelves of the store, and retailers are driving this change in a race to better serve customers,” says Jeff Schmitz, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Zebra.

Physical objects (things) that contain embedded technology to sense or interact with their internal state or external environment comprise the internet of things. For e-commerce, it could include an Amazon Echo device that allows shoppers to order products via the web by voice or a coffee maker that orders fresh beans via the web when supplies run low. But retailers also are using IoT to better manage their businesses with inventory verification, by placing web-connected sensors on shelves or by customizing store visits for customers using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth location-based technology to recognize when a specific shopper is in the store.

The 2017 Retail Vision study also finds that 65% of respondents plan to invest in automation technologies for inventory and planogram management by 2021. Planograms are visual representations of a store’s products or services that are used to help dictate a retail store’s layout.


The research includes responses from specialty stores, department stores, apparel merchants, supermarkets, electronics, home improvement and drugstore chains.

The report also finds: 

  • 78% of retailers say it is important or business-critical to integrate e-commerce and in-store experiences.
  • By 2021, 65% of retailers plan to explore innovative delivery services, such as delivering to parked cars.
  • By 2021, nearly 80% of retailers will be able to customize the store visit for customers because they will know when a specific customer is in the store via W-Fi or Bluetooth technology. This, Zebra says, will allow retailers to capture more data and customer insights.
  • To speed checkout lines, 87% of retailers plan to deploy mobile point-of-sale devices by 2021, enabling them to scan and accept credit or debit payments anywhere in a store.
  • 73% of retailers rate managing big data as important or business-critical to their operations.
  • Top sources of shopper dissatisfaction include inconsistent pricing between stores of the same retailer and the inability to find a desired item, whether it’s out of stock or misplaced within a store. 72% of retailers plan to fix these issues by investing in instant updates to their supply chains and instant visibility into inventory enabled by automation, sensors and analytics.
  • 57% of retailers believe automation will shape the retail industry by 2021—helping retailers pack and ship orders, track inventory, check in-store inventory levels and assist customers in finding items.

By region, the study finds:

  • 79% percent of North American retailers are investing in such IoT technologies as automated inventory verification and sensors on shelves.
  • In Latin America, 85% of retailers plan to use technology to personalize and improve the in-store experience.
  • 79% of retailers in the Asia-Pacific expect to support buy online, pick up at a designated location such as a store or a locker by 2021.
  • 36% of retailers in Europe know when specific customers are in a store and that percentage is expected to more than double by 2021.