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Ambient Commerce Gives Consumers New Ways to Shop, Boosts Spending on IoT

By Ken Briodagh
October 24, 2018

According to the latest report from GlobalData’s Thematic Research Team, Ambient Commerce, which combines technology with the physical space associated with retail stores, will offer consumers a whole new way to shop.


“The worlds of online and offline retail are merging and ambient commerce sits in the middle,” said Ed Thomas, Principal Analyst for Technology Thematic Research, GlobalData. “This is why Amazon and Alibaba, the world’s dominant online retailers, have both invested billions in acquiring stakes in physical retailers. Having gained a physical foothold on the high street, these retailers are now heightening the retail experience by experimenting with ambient commerce in stores.”

Ambient commerce describes a new form of shopping which makes use of sensors, coupled with artificial intelligence (AI), to help customers select and pay for their goods, without the need for keyboards or cash registers.

Two main models are emerging in the ambient commerce value chain: the Amazon Go version of ambient commerce, where computer vision, sensors and machine learning technologies enable customers to ‘grab and go’; and the Chinese version of ambient commerce – popularized by Alibaba, Tencent and JD.com – which uses less in-store IoT infrastructure, but is likely to take off faster because it is based on existing smartphone technology, coupled with QR codes.

Ambient commerce will drive expenditure on IoT connected devices and on IoT software and services in the retail sector. By 2020, the retail sector will spend $5.3bn on IoT software and services, up from $2.7bn in 2018, according to GlobalData estimates. Over the next two years, the retail sector will emerge as the fifth largest spender on IoT software and services after the government, transportation, utilities and manufacturing sectors.

“We can expect many more strategic alliances and M&A deals as old-world companies seek to join the new ambient world, and the insurgents broaden their bases and round out their tech infrastructures,” said Thomas.


Ken Briodagh is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience under his belt. He is in love with technology and if he had his druthers would beta test everything from shoe phones to flying cars.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

Editorial Director

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