The Internet Of (Business To) Consumers

The Internet of Things is changing the nature of B2C interactions…

It’s accepted that better connections equal better business, but over time, what it means to be a connected business has changed. Although who you know is certainly important, what you know is making a comeback… And it has been helped considerably by the ongoing development of the Internet of Things. The IoT enables the analysis of unstructured data taken from any connected item, making it easier to collect and explore. All industry sectors have come to recognise the benefits of tracking the exchange of information between devices, particularly when these devices are in the hands of consumers. How has the IoT changed customer journeys, and what does it mean for business to consumer (B2C) relationships?

Know thy customer

IoT’s strength lies in gathering data about how well products and services perform, and how they are used. If companies can understand how people interact with a certain product or service, they can shape it to better suit consumers. In many ways, customer experience has become just as important as price and product performance. But how exactly can sectors use the IoT to build better brand experiences? In retail, a clothing brand could use a fitness app to tap into the exercise that a customer does on a regular basis and suggest items to complement those activities. Sportswear brand Under Armour, for example, released a digital health and fitness network called Under Armour Record. Through the Record app, the company can advertise clothing, shoes, and other products that might suit the lifestyles of individual users.

The IoT is such a powerful tool for improving customer journeys that it can often involve endorsing another brand. In insurance, Aviva  has partnered with Canary smart home cameras to give customers peace of mind and cut down the number of claims that are made. Ocado has also teamed up with Amazon‘s Echo device to enable customers to top up their grocery orders simply by telling Alexa. Eventually, a smart coffee machine will recognise that its owner needs to order more coffee every three weeks, and automatically alert Alexa to add coffee to the grocery order. Ocado learns about the coffee habits of its customers and can send related offers or promotions, at the same time as matching supply to meet demand.

What does the IoT mean for B2C relationships?

More connections creates more information which creates more opportunities. The availability of customer data has enriched connectivity and given businesses far more to work with when it comes to understanding the use of products and services. The rate of IoT’s expansion is evidenced by the growth of IoT providers like EVRYTHNG. The company states that it can turn products into ‘the ultimate owned digital media channel for […] consumer engagement’. EVRYTHNG’s IoT platform allows clients to offer consumers real time rewards, bonuses, and messages based on time, place, product, historical data and lifestyle data. As a result, customers could quickly lose interest in businesses that fail to leverage data to provide a personalised dialogue. Customer experience will rely on how close a company can get to their consumers, and how well they facilitate a continuing digital interaction. So far, this has included the use of apps, and smart home devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home. These informative platforms constantly keep their users up to date about the products they own, opening up sales opportunities. But as the IoT gradually encompasses more and more items, perhaps customers won’t need to open an app or talk to Alexa before Ocado, for example, realises that they need coffee. Through connected products and services, companies will no longer need consumers to communicate, and highly anticipated digital supply networks will flourish.

The Internet of Things has made it even easier to know thy customer, and create a dialogue that extends well beyond the point of sale. In any case, many of today’s businesses (particularly those that offer subscription services) do not have a defined point of sale because the customer journey is ongoing. While this requires more effort on the part of the business, it’s also an opportunity for transformation. Getting the most out of IoT connectivity, however, relies on the correct use of both structured and unstructured data. Gathering data is no longer the problem – now, organisations have to work out how best to use it.

How else could the IoT bring companies closer to customers? Will conversational platforms continue to act as a bridge between company and customer? Have postmodern business models eradicated the traditional point of sale? Share your thoughts and opinions.

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