By networking physical objects with embedded sensors, actuators and other devices that can collect or transmit information about the objects, the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to completely change the food industry.
A carton of eggs, sports-drink bottle, bag of frozen vegetables or even the in-store shelving displaying these items now has the potential to be connected. Each could have a unique Internet address, which means it could be counted and tracked. IoT promises to turn everyday interactions with food products into data for logistical and marketing applications. Its adoption is underway.
The number of IoT-connected devices worldwide is expected to reach 13 billion this year.1 Slightly more than one-fourth of companies worldwide use IoT devices, up 22 percent from last year.2 More than eight out of 10 of these companies say they have gained a competitive advantage because of these devices, including improvements in process and productivity, customer service, costs, consistent delivery across markets and new revenue.
Food manufacturers and retailers can leverage IoT to increase sales, lower costs and boost shopper loyalty while delivering consistent, personalized service. Designing IoT functionality into food products is expected to win big with consumers and businesses that want to save time and money. The IoT makeover is going to be revolutionary.
Personalizing the Food-Shopping Experience
Supply chain costs grind food retailers. However, IoT devices are predicted to enable businesses to improve just-in-time delivery. Products can be accurately tracked through the supply chain and quickly routed to locations where there is higher demand, creating opportunities for more sales and less food spoilage/waste.
In stores, sensor-enabled smart shelves are able to determine the gender and age of passing customers, and then display targeted advertisements or informational messages about products or recipes. Cameras and motion sensors can detect when a shopper lingers in front of a display and alert a store employee, who can respond to the shopper’s specific location to provide product information or recommend related goods.
IoT can also help track the location of delivery packages and whether they have been opened. This functionality enables brands to upload promotional offers while the package is in the store, but change the information to recipes when the sensors show the package has been opened at the delivery address.
For example, in the home, Egg Minder, a wireless egg tray, is an example of a device that enables consumers to see via an app how many eggs are in their refrigerator and determine how fresh they are.3 In-tray LED lights indicate the oldest egg, while push notifications alert consumers when they’re running low.
Designing for the Mobile Shopper
Already, nearly two-thirds of consumers shop for products on their smartphones while they’re inside a brick-and-mortar store. That’s a huge opportunity for packaging and in-store displays embedded with IoT devices to deliver information about food products, especially about their sources and nutritional value and to reinforce messages about freshness, organic and special needs, such as gluten-free.
However, only 25 percent of mobile users have used a retailer’s mobile app on a weekly basis.4 Concerns about privacy, the complexity of app development and consumers’ lack of knowledge about the capabilities of their phones and tablets continue to hold back IoT adoption.5
These consumers, understandably, are concerned about how information regarding their shopping habits and purchase preferences may be used. Marketers need to make it clear that IoT devices gather personally identifiable data only if consumers opt in.
Even so, consumers say that they are willing to buy products and services that optimize the use of their time. Look for growth in apps like AisleFinder that offer food product information and navigation to help consumers quickly locate products in the store.6 Brands, too, could benefit significantly from asking consumers to register and, in exchange, offering them more personalized experiences, such as coupons, discounts or additional information about the product or related products.
Other apps are programmed to automatically launch and provide consumers with recipes and suggest related foods to try — all triggered by signals sent from IoT sensors in food packaging on the shelves near where the shoppers are walking.
Designing for the Mobile Shopper
Technology is already transforming the food products and packaging industries as retailers realize they are now going to be able to tell if a shopper is driving or walking, where on the store floor the shopper is located and what direction he/she is moving.
But this information is only as good as what you do with it. Show your customers the advantages of using IoT devices by offering them relevant, personalized shopping experiences. IoT devices are putting people at the forefront — it is critical that your marketing do the same.
1 IoT Daily, “IoT Marketing Base to Triple to 39 Billion Connected Devices,” July 28, 2015.
2 IoT Daily:, “78% of Businesses Aware of IoT, 27% Have Projects Going,” July 9, 2015.
3 Progressive Grocer, “Grocers Can Use ‘Internet of Things’ to Their Advantage,” June 12, 2015; and, Marketing: CPG, “Internet of Things: Ready for Prime Time in Consumer Packaged Goods,” November 26, 2014.
4 mCommerceDaily, “What Mobile Shoppers Want in an App: 54% Product Images, 53% Product Reviews,” June, 14, 2015.
5 mCommerceDaily, “Tapping into All the Smartphone Sensors,” June 23, 2015.
6 Euromonitor International, “Top 10 Global Consumer Trends for 2015.”
Pete Healy, VP, Account Planning, gyro Cincinnati