The holiday season is an incredibly busy time. From preparing for celebratory events with co-workers, friends and family to completing holiday shopping, consumers feel immense pressure to accomplish many tasks within a short timeframe.
To guarantee they have the time needed to enjoy the holiday season, Americans now begin their holiday shopping earlier. According to the National Retail Federation, 61% of consumers surveyed in early November 2021 had already started their holiday purchasing, up from 59% in 2020.
During the shopping season, promotional days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday drive the annual spike in retail sales. Consumers flock to brick-and-mortar stores or shop online to obtain the best deals on products and goods. Once purchased, these goods are frequently shipped across the nation to their final destinations. In 2021, a staggering 3.4 billion packages were estimated to ship between Black Friday and Christmas Day. Holiday retail sales are forecasted to rise again this year, with shipments expected to increase even earlier.
What is driving this new trend to buy sooner each holiday season?
Answer: the global supply chain and resulting consumer concerns about product availability. According to McKinsey, of the consumers expected to shop earlier this holiday season, 51% said they were concerned about a potential lack of availability, 45% were worried about slow shipping times and 44% were planning ahead for “unexpected challenges.”
These consumers are taking action to mitigate unplanned issues this holiday season. It’s time for retailers and supply chain managers to adopt the same proactive approach.
IoT Sensors Solve Supply Chain Challenges
Today’s Internet of Things (IoT) consists of billions of physical devices connected to the internet which continually collect and share data. IoT-enabled sensors can be implemented to track and monitor products and packages during the holiday season. Whether you’re a consumer tracking your online shipment from the retailer’s warehouse or a distributor tracking your cargo from overseas, low power, long-range sensors can be used to ensure that the location and condition of the shipment is consistently visible.
There are a several commonly used technology solutions that deliver connectivity for these IoT sensors. Cellular networks or Wi-Fi may be used for higher-bandwidth applications that require larger amounts of data, such as mission-critical or video-heavy applications. Traditionally, cellular is limited in range and usage beyond land-based deployments. Alternatively, Low Power, Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) can deliver large amounts of small data sets across a long spatial range. LPWAN is often used for long-range or remote sea- and sky-based deployments.
Tracking products and assets across an entire supply chain is not easy. There can be unexpected challenges that occur which may delay or potentially destroy the entire shipment. LPWAN is reliable, secure and delivers accuracy in tracking products from the factory to the final delivery location. This real-time accuracy and insight helps organizations optimize their workflows and reduce operational costs, while also mitigating a potential disaster or product loss before it occurs.
How these Sensors Help Consumers
IoT-enabled sensors operating on the LoRaWAN standard are deployed within products and in cargo holds to track the location and condition of products. For example, from the instant that a consumer orders a product, Semtech’s LoRa-enabled sensors can track the shipping process. This starts with the product being pulled from a factory shelf and packaged into a cardboard box for shipment. That box is added to a larger shipment of similar products or goods heading to the same location.
The LoRa-enabled sensor continuously captures and transmits data to an operations team in a remote facility. The facility operators monitor the data transmitted and receive alerts in real-time if an error or discrepancy in the product or shipment occurs.
In addition to tracking traditional packages, sensors can also be used to manage temperature-controlled shipments. During the holidays, this may be used for shipping food or flowers to loved ones. Truck cargo holds are climate-controlled and ensure a regular temperature—regardless of the exterior conditions—to preserve products and minimize spoilage.
Management facility operators have real-time visibility into the shipment and, should the cargo temperature rise or fall too much, operators can take immediate action to address this issue. If there is an anomalous reading in the cargo area, operators can immediately contact the driver who can address the issue in the cargo hold.
With the holiday season approaching, consumers can be assured that sensors using LoRa are helping to alleviate holiday shopping concerns and frustrations. Factories and retail distributors are increasingly using IoT technology to track and monitor their goods to ensure safe, efficient and on-time deliveries.