The IoT, or Internet of Things, provides incredible opportunity for companies to connect with their customers and build customer loyalty. With market predictions indicating increasing shifts toward artificial intelligence and the development of devices that can use data from customer experiences as a prescient marketing tool, achieving IoT connectivity is of paramount concern for companies looking to expand their market and drive growth.
What is the IoT?
The Internet of Things is, in short, the concept of any device being able to connect to the Internet and/or to other devices. This includes anything with an on/off switch, from mobile phones to wearable devices and even to household appliances like your dishwasher or the alarm clock that wakes you up in the morning. Additionally, the IoT can refer to components of machines both small and large, whether it’s a part inside your coffee maker that can receive data, or the engine of a Boeing jet.
In other words, the IoT is a worldwide network connecting people to other people, people to “things” (machinery, devices, etc.), and things to other things. For example, wearable devices like the FitBit that monitor elements of your personal health and fitness possess the functionality to share that information to the company and to other devices.
Predictions regarding the IoT and its potential for growth vary widely, but across the board the projected numbers regarding connected devices are well into the billions. General Electric has estimated that the IoT could generate over 11 trillion dollars annually by 2025, with nearly three quarters of that amount represented by business-to-business sales. While this and other similar projections remain largely speculative, one consensus is clear: the Internet of Things has changed the way human beings connect, which means that it has also revolutionized how businesses need to interact with their customers.
Here are a few reasons why businesses should be leveraging the IoT in order to increase customer loyalty:
Consumers crave technology
In a digitally-driven global environment, customer expectations continue to change as the sheer amount of possibilities for connection radicalize the buying experience. Today’s consumer possesses unprecedented access to knowledge and requires a personalized, convenient and cleverly targeted buying experience.
The smartphone transformed the consumer’s buying journey from being relatively linear and predictable into a twisting and ever-evolving path that, without the relevant know-how, can be difficult for companies to follow. The ability to access any piece of information immediately at any moment in time has created an environment where customers expect more from brands and businesses than ever before.
Ironically while IoT connectivity causes this issue, it can also solve it. Connected devices and systems capture important customer data, companies then turn the data into knowledge, and the knowledge is then built back into the customer experience as improvements are made to the product or special deals are offered. Any kind of technology that enables the capturing and sending of data (for example, a wearable device like the FitBit) simultaneously enables the company to build highly personalized profiles of their individual customers. This kind of intensive and ongoing data capture means that not only will customers expect personalized experiences from the product or brand in exchange, but also that the brand is then armed sufficiently to meet that need, having mined and analyzed the data.
Better understand your customers
Companies now have the opportunity to use customer-driven data to track buyers’ habits and build engagement by creating new product features, tweak existing features to better suit their customers’ needs, or offer other special perks. By connecting to real-time customer experiences and reactions, the IoT can help businesses better understand who is buying their product, when they are buying it, and how their marketing efforts might adapt accordingly. For example, data that Coca-Cola was able to gather from vending machines on college campuses enabled them to determine that the purchase of beverages experienced definitive spikes prior to certain television shows coming on. By giving Coca-Cola insight about their customer demographic, this information aided the development of targeted marketing campaigns.
IoT connectivity enables companies to adapt products to how consumers are using it right here and now, answering "is this working?” more quickly than has ever been possible before. With the rise of intelligent automation and many companies expecting to move more of their everyday functions toward AI, devices and systems will have functionality to actually initiate customer service by responding to issues before the customer may even be aware of them. This signifies an overall shift to proactive customer service, opening possibilities especially significant for business-to-business interactions that might include sending replacement parts for malfunctioning machinery, or vending machines that can send a digital signal when they need to be restocked.
Meeting customers’ needs in every industry
The IoT is not only revolutionizing the world of retail and everyday consumer products, but also offers significant and unprecedented opportunities for other industries. Healthcare companies are taking advantage of the IoT to develop products that effectively connect patients, physicians and medical devices into one integrated whole. Point-of-care devices like handheld ultrasounds can deliver information immediately to a computer database. Patients can monitor white blood cell count from home and send data directly to their physician using an app. As medical device innovations continue to stretch and adapt to the possibilities afforded by IoT connections, the future of healthcare is changing beyond what many could have imagined even just a decade ago.
IoT in the workplace is yet another frontier for new product development driven by customer data to build engagement. In an office, smart desks that monitor your work habits can offer intelligent prompts like warning you when you’ve been sitting too long. Amazon’s digital assistant unit Alexa can do everything from starting conference calls on time to automatically dimming lights in a boardroom. Specially designed sensors on a construction site can capture the entire digital history of a build and deliver that information to building owners and insurance companies. The possibilities are, in short, as startling as they are exciting.
Creating customer loyalty is essential for business success. More than ever before, companies must tap into the here-and-now experiences of their customers to build relationship and drive profits. The Internet of Things can be a difficult world to navigate, but if managed correctly the possibilities for customer connection can drive incredible growth, even in the most competitive market.