Most consumers have heard about cashier-less stores, where people grab what they need and literally go. This is just the first rumble of the revolution that is reverberating across industries.

Gartner analysts predicted that by 2022 over half of major new business systems will incorporate continuous intelligence that uses real-time context data to improve decisions.

Connected information from sensors based on the Internet of Things (IoT), plus machine learning and analytics, revolutionize the consumer and employee experience. A consumer buys a teddy bear after browsing the nearby action figure display then receives a discount offer on the ninja they picked up and held the longest: How did the store know so much about them?

Sensors on the bears transmit  in-store behavior to company systems instantly. Meanwhile, cameras detect empty spaces on the shelf when they pick up the bear, alerting workers in the warehouse that the store shelf needs replenishment. Workers act faster to replace those bears because the items were positioned to shorten pick, assembly, and packaging wait times.

New Paths to Foster Customer Loyalty

Such personalized and operational efficiencies are not far-fetched. In this video interview at SAP TechEd, Lars Dannecker, development manager at SAP, demonstrated how retailers could instantly turn onsite buying behaviors into greater revenues from happier customers.

“Using SAP Data Intelligence, retailers can immediately connect sales activities to the information in SAP S/4HANA, extracting valuable nuggets, like what shelves need restocking or which special offers might interest the customer based on their buying history and in-store behavior,” said Dannecker.

Dannecker added that SAP Analytics Cloud can capture and analyze data from products that are flying off the shelves ─ or not  ─ and conclude which products are likeliest to be purchased together from what locations. Store managers can boost sales with the ideal product display plans. Sales managers can make more realistic pipeline predictions. Marketing departments can anticipate what customers want with greater accuracy. Human resources can align staffing plans to actual customer demands. Executives get the full business performance picture for fact-based decisions leading to stronger results.

Connected Intelligence Goes a Long Way

According to Forrester’s latest customer experience (CX) research, near-real-time or in-the-moment experiences will become table stakes for many businesses. Increasingly, companies will be in the hot seat to retool everything, including contextual data, operations, and automated systems to keep pace with real-time CX signals. Forrester analysts forecasted that business, technology, and CX leaders will develop holistic automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotics game plans.

Consider the intelligence behind the scenes in the teddy bear buying example. Machine learning algorithms calculated the marketing campaign likeliest to meet the customer’s interests. Calculations were made based on that person’s demonstrated interests in the moment. The marketing team automatically knew whether or not to deliver an offer through a text or email because the customer had opted in and shared their contact preferences.

“If you picked up a ninja toy figure and a backpack with the same theme, the retailer could conclude that you’re an active sports fan,” said Dannecker. “The retailer texts you a discount for sports-related items in a new store that’s opening up later that month. The data directly supports the promotional campaign to get people in that store. The only way to gain this kind of intelligence is by sharing information across different systems.”

Retailers could also instantly map where customers spend the most or least time in stores – adjusting display locations for improved sales. Or, they could predict sales based on simulated, in-store product positioning models.

“Bringing all this information together, from consumer behavior in the retail store through the warehouse and factory floor, helps companies drive greater efficiencies in business processes and operations so they can deliver a more personalized customer experience,” remarked Dannecker.

It is not unrelated that Gartner predicted, by next year, over 40 percent of all data analytics projects will relate to some aspects of customer experience.

All of this reminded me of an old cartoon where two characters were standing in front of a store map that read, “you are here.” One turned to the other and asked, “but how do they know?” With a projected 40 billion people connected to IoT devices by 2025, and increasingly connected information across company systems, only organizations in-the-know can effectively manage the customer experience.

Follow me @smgaler