IoT and the continuously connected customer
That challenge to brands—to sustain “infinite” customer engagement—comes from no less than Peter Drucker, the renowned author, teacher, and business visionary considered by many to be “the inventor of modern management.” Uttered more than a decade ago, his words are truer now than ever before. For brands, the customer experience has become the key differentiator, even more compelling than price.
Today, that differentiation has an added dimension. The omnichannel experience is widely considered a requirement for facilitating continuously integrated customer engagement, the loop can be closed at any number of virtual and physical touch points at any time. That makes knowing who and where your customers and prospects are and how they are interacting with your brand at every touch point—from your website, mobile app, Facebook page, and Instagram to their offline experiences at physical stores—essential to success.
Enter the IoT, the Internet of things
This is where the IoT exerts its ubiquitous power. Comprising a vast network of home-use appliances, gadgets, electronics, vehicles, and more with built-in sensors and software, the Internet of Things enables these “things” to exchange information and even control each other all along the network. (BTW: the terminology is not exactly new. Kevin Ashton, sometimes called the “father of IoT,” coined it in the late 1990s.)
No longer do consumers have to consciously access the Internet: it’s ever present. Millennials take the omnipresence of the Internet and its ability to connect them to the external world for granted. Gartner forecasts that 8.4 billion connected “things” will be in use worldwide in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. Total spending on endpoints and services will reach almost $2 trillion in 2017.
Marketers are taking IoT seriously.
The ability to track a consumer’s journey from one device to another without losing any of the information gathered is huge. Resulticks has already demonstrated the ability to use a voice assistant like Alexa and Google Home to interact with other intelligent devices and facilitate, allowing an Io-t enabled, continuous customer experience.
In this particular instance, a homeowner asks Alexa to adjust the room temperature. Alexa in turn communicates with the “connected” air conditioner, adjusts the thermostat, notifies the owner that it’s time to replace the air conditioner filter change, searches the web for the best deal, and places an order using the customer’s credit card.
As use cases like this proliferate, consumers’ expectations for IoT-enhanced experiences will rise exponentially. If a brand fails to fulfill those expectation, another brand will step in and do the job. Marketers not only must recognize the promise of IoT, they must deliver on it as well.
Where to begin
Here are some key areas where IoT can help marketers elevate customer engagement to a continuous, totally satisfying, real-time brand experience.
- Integrating experience and sales data. For example, a customer’s negative feedback regarding a service or product can be instantly captured, understood, and addressed. By acting immediately, the brand can mitigate any lingering unfavorable perceptions that might impact brand value.
- Connecting devices/products for predictive troubleshooting. Solving issues before they become problems gives consumers greater confidence they can rely on a brand to stand behind its product and to take care of its customers proactively.
- Improving customer relationships. Brands can use in-store beacons to identify a customer upon entry and then individualize the experience based on that customer’s past interactions or product browsing history, for example, by offering a discount on an item left in an abandoned online shopping cart.
- Achieving near 100% click-through rates. By connecting customers through all the channels and devices, brands can realize high click through-rates by delivering value in the right context at precisely the right moment.
- Enabling products to market themselves. The Amazon Dash button offers one example. A consumer need only activate a small WIFI-connected device to re-order a wide range of consumer products ranging from Tide detergent to Red Bull energy drinks to Dial soap.
- Enhancing the brand experience to improve retention and advocacy. For example, Uber can connect it’s app to a customer’s Spotify account to individualize the in-vehicle music and improve the quality of the rider’s experience.
As laden with opportunity as it may be, the IoT comes at a price. it’s a sea change for both marketers and martech service providers requiring new skill sets in technology, data handling, and secure governance for using data responsibly. By leveraging IoT appropriately, however, marketing teams can actually realize the vision of the “infinite” customer journey by continuously connecting, engaging, and delivering value throughout the entire customer life cycle.