The Right Product at the Right Place at the Right Time: Differentiating the Shopper Experience through IoT & Supply Chain Management

John OBrien
Guest Contributor

In this new era of retail, getting the right product to the right place at the right time for consumers is key for differentiating the shopping experience, and the Internet of Things (IoT) empowers brands to optimize the performance of their supply chains.

According to Accenture Technology Vision 2015, in the world of retail, customer experience matters most – 89 percent of retail leaders believe that customer experience will be their primary basis for competition by 2017 and beyond. A big part of that customer experience is getting the right product to the right place at the right time. Acuitas Digital members and their clients are deploying the Internet of Things (IoT) to enhance the performance of their supply chain and to ensure the best customer experience.

Valmarc Corporation, part of the Acuitas Digital alliance, deploys a technology called Universal Interactive Serialization to take any product and, using mature and proven technology, give it a digital identity on the Internet of Things. This is accomplished by assigning a unique digital identity to every “thing,” often via a machine-readable serial number carried by a 2D bar code or RFID or NFC tag. Each and every unique item can be uniquely supported by a database containing all related data, from product images to product composition, including quality and sourcing information.

This is the foundational technology for Valmarc’s Total Vision (VTV) System. Giving the product a unique identity allows transactions to be tracked in real time, providing big data to better control and manage your business. Valmarc designs, deploys and manages the system as well as provides software and services for you to get actionable information with minimal fuss.

Where customer-product interaction is strategically valued, Valmarc most often deploys a data matrix or QR code on a garment tag, label, or hangtag. The unique ID is created with the item and linked to information on its purchase order at the factory so it can be tracked throughout the supply chain. 2D codes are selected for customer interaction because more smart phones can access information provided by the brand to enhance the overall customer experience (RFID is too battery draining for most smart phones, but NFC is also available).

Using a smart phone, the curious customer can access information ranging from ethical sourcing data to sustainability, product options, or brand information. Shoppers can even link with their favorite social media to share their experiences, wish lists and new acquisitions with their friends in a secure environment. Since the customer initiates the interaction with an affirmative scan and controls their privacy, the interaction is rarely considered invasive or offensive to the customer. Plus, the brand instantly knows what specific product the customer has in hand and can respond appropriately.

The customer interaction also provides actionable insight to product managers while there is time to exploit market trends. If a “red” item generates three times the consumer scan response as a “green” item in any particular district or region, product can be proactively redirected in transit to meet demand and exploit the opportunity. You don’t have to wait for retailer feedback via reorder rates to react to these trends. Out of stock in that size? Provide the option to order for home delivery in your “endless isle!” Fast fashion is redefined.

The Valmarc Total Vision System provides actionable information to the brand from sources throughout its supply chain. Product scanned at the factory informs the brand about the availability of product and its expected arrival in “real time.” An informed supply chain can react and minimize disruptions as the pace of commerce and time-to-market gets tighter.

Comparison of order data to consumer scan data can quickly locate diverted, grey market, and even counterfeit product in the supply chain. Is the product where you expected it when the consumer scanned it?  Crowd sourcing puts thousands of “brand inspectors” in the field virtually “free” – as the consumer scans for information, your database is amended with product and market location information. Analysis provides actionable intelligence for brand protection and market management.

Additionally, many product brands, particularly those in the luxury retail segment, often lose visibility to their end customers through the screen of retail partners. Consumer scans of the product can direct your customers to warranty and brand loyalty programs, bringing you closer to your actual markets.

All of the data generated by the VTV System is owned exclusively by the brand. Various data carriers can be seamlessly integrated in VTV to offer a more complete picture, such as RFID tags on shipping containers used to link information about each of the unique items contained in the container, case, or box.

Valmarc manages the data exclusively for you use. If you elect to share some with your supply chain or retail partners, we can assist you.

Soon, almost everything will be connected to the Internet of Things. The Acuitas Digital alliance can help guide your brand to success.

About the writer: John O’Brien is the director of business development at the Valmarc Corporation, where he works with brands to protect their products using solutions built from proven, off-the-shelf technologies.

Join the #retail conversation with John on LinkedIn and Twitter @AcuitasDigital, as well as at