No one could exaggerate the importance of customer experience. Selling is no longer about sales, but about how the customer feels. You could easily lose a customer to a competitor charging twice the price just because they made them feel better than you did. So, customer centricity is the name of the game.
And, let’s face it. Our attempts at delivering a smooth, holistic experience across multiple channels is all a bit messy right now. We’re working hard, but have a long way to go. The technology is out there, but transformation takes time. And before we’re even close to completing it, along comes IoT…
So What Do We Know About IoT?
IoT means that even things like toasters, washing machines, lights, toys, juice cartons, jewellery, and refrigerators will have connectivity—all collecting information for a greater purpose.
And with Gartner predicting that over 26 billion devices will be connected by 2020, it’s about time we all learned why! Why is having billions of devices online and talking to us (and each other) so transformational to our lives?
What Marketers Have All Been Waiting for
Marketing professionals have spent years perfecting the art of depicting a pattern from amongst the random dots of the impressionist painting they have of their customers and calling it a persona. They give it a name, like “Jane”. And they give it a biography, like “works in IT, married with kids, loves animals, wants to find ease in her life”. And then they market to Jane. Somewhat successfully, it has to be said—using personas is a great way to deliver tailored content that engages. But it’s still a little clunky.
Here is your typical customer journey: “Jane” searches your mobile site. She pops instore for a gander. She visits your website from her MacBook. She likes your Facebook page and shares a video to earn a 10% discount. She orders online and requests delivery to her work address.
What have you learned? That Jane is a multi-channel customer? You knew that. That she appreciates discounts? Who doesn’t? You basically learned what products she was interested in, her work address, and the name of the receptionist there.
Jane’s name isn’t Jane, it’s Katharine. Her favourite place for lunch is Munchies. She rides to work by tram every day except Friday when she walks through the park and meets Brad for breakfast at YumYum. She has a cat but she has run out of cat food—she frequently does. Her gym membership was just renewed but she hasn’t been there for months. Her recent trip to Rome created an increased interest in Italian food. She orders in on a Thursday because she volunteers at the homeless shelter.
What information you collect and use depends on your business needs, but basically, you are no longer calling Katharine “Jane”, and you’re not creating marketing around her assumed persona, but around who she is.
Making Things Personal
For brands, this kind of rich contextual information is gold dust. When combined with traditional experience feedback, real-time and actual-location data coming in through multiple connected devices on an unprecedented scale paints a photo-sharp picture of your customer, and are then actionable on an incredibly precise individual level for unparalleled customer experience across previously untapped touchpoints on the customer journey.
According to an Accenture report, a whopping 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that recognizes them by name, makes recommendations based on past purchases, or knows their purchase history. RaptMedia found that 63% of consumers see a brand in a more positive light if it gave them more valuable, interesting, or relevant content.
Beauty company, L’Oreal, is working on giving connectivity to objects like lipstick or mascara, as a way of tracking customers and delivering on-the-go marketing.
Leveraging IoT for marketing requires blending technology know-how with customer understanding so you can automatically adjust your communication based on a specific customer’s current needs and location to create a seamless, impactful customer experience.
By proactively reaching out in a tailored fashion, companies can demonstrate how much they value their customers. Targeted campaigns are more successful, less wasteful of your resources, and provide a better sense of ROI, while also delivering a great service to your customer.
Win-win by definition.
Businesses Benefit Big
Whereas Jane’s online purchase was the business goal, Katharine’s is arguably less valuable than the information gathered over the course of her interaction with the brand and ongoing use of the product, which is still sending in customer experience-enhancing information…
You see, once IoT has delivered innumerable insights to your Marketing teams and won over the customer for life, it then starts delivering invaluable insights to your Product Management and R&D teams as they are finally learning exactly how their products are being used.
Vacuum cleaners could be redesigned to respond directly to customer requirements. Corporations could learn more about how employees work most efficiently. Start-ups can see clearly where their efforts should be spent, even changing course completely. Cafés could track where their to-go cups end up for a better idea of where to open up their sister branch. And stores could get a clearer understanding of customers’ travel to or through their building.
Coca-Cola recently collected data from various vending machines and learned that there were clear location-specific buying patterns, like spikes in sales on college campuses just before a specific television show aired. Information like this brings much deeper understanding of customer demographics.
By combining product sensor, diagnostic, and user interaction data, companies can get absolute product transparency; learning how customers are actually using their products—enabling companies to quickly update features or amend future models to respond directly to customer wishes and behaviours. In real time, companies can learn what is working and what is not, and they can make data-driven decisions around product design, new products, and how to best position their customer support, all of which leads to more satisfying products and experiences for consumers.
So even what’s good for you is good for them!
Life Enhancement for Customers
So do customers really want this level of personalization? Despite some valid concerns that we’ll discuss in a bit, I think the answer is ‘yes’.
According to Forrester, 77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or spent more with a brand that personalized service or experience.
IoT done right can create personal relationships with customers in which they feel nurtured, protected, and valued. We are becoming highly connected beings and we expect our lives to become easier for it—with technology taking some of the complication, difficulty, and time-pressures off us. And IoT is superbly placed for brands to be doing just that…
What about a printer that automatically orders new toners when running low? Or a washing machine that lets you know the filter needs cleaning? Or the dog collar that helps you find Fido under the neighbours mulberry bush? What about the airline that, recognizing a delay, automatically offers free on-board Wi-Fi in compensation? Or the refrigerator that keeps stock of its contents and creates shopping lists (or even orders) for you? Or a pizza place that has your order hot at the exact time of pick-up? What if a wearable helped companies reduce waiting times? Or monitor diabetic customer blood sugar levels for pharmacies that could send instructions as to how to adjust insulin shots?
These things would make a big difference in a customer’s life, and some already do. Smart brands are testing the new ground for life-enhancing service through ultra-connected living.
BMW has installed sensors under car trunks to enable trunk opening by foot motion. And the door will put up some resistance should you try to close it with the keys still inside. If you do succeed in forcing it closed, the BMW Assist service can unlock it for you remotely.
Health Buddy from Bosch is a device that monitors and records the vital signs of patients who prefer to be at home than in hospital and keeps medical staff informed of any changes.
Keeping IoT Real
A key concern around IoT is privacy. Customers want to know that their personal details are safe and that you’re not collecting stuff you don’t need. Believe it or not, you don’t actually have to know someone’s personally identifying information to deliver the kind of experiences you want to deliver, so it pays to keep things lean and to the point. Your audience needs to feel it can trust you. Know what creates those amazing experiences and just learn what you need to deliver those.
An opted-in audience will love your IoT initiatives, but only if you aren’t harassing them. There’s a fine line between sending timely notifications about their favourite coffee being on special offer just around the corner, and feeling like they’ve got Big Brother on their backs. Unsolicited or overzealous communication can backfire—actively harming the customer’s experience of your brand—and you’ll soon see them opting out and heading elsewhere.
Getting the Photo-sharp Picture?
The Internet of Things is transforming the way companies and customers interact—bolstering customer engagement, strengthening retention, deepening loyalty, and optimizing service delivery. It will necessitate a significant shift in perspective for us all.
Companies that shy away from the IoT revolution will ultimately lose ground to their competitors who see the opportunities it heralds as it gathers pace marching towards us.
IoT is the strongest tool yet in bringing coherence to our omnichannel customer experience strategies and insights into which way the brand should be going; helping us learn what customers really want, when they want it, and how they want to get it, and helping us engage them—wherever they are, whatever they’re doing, in a way that truly enhances their daily lives.
Who wouldn’t want to be the brand on the other end of that!?