Internet of Things – The Coming Chaos and Opportunities in Customer Experience

In the Age of the Internet of Things (IoT), ordinarily dumb things will get smarter, data will get noisier and Customer Experience will get even more chaotic. Happily, for prescient brands, out of chaos comes brilliance.

Most brands think of the value chain linearly:

Supplier —> Manufacturer —> Distributor —> Retailer —> Consumer.

Every company fits in some version of that flow. Digitization has caused an explosion of channels to touch potential customers to the right. And there is no end in sight.

Think of the number of channels on your smartphone alone. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, on and on. And new ones are popping up everyday. The cost of creating new channels has been reduced to a small team of talented developers, supported by a cloud infrastructure cheap enough to put on a credit card. Word gets out about these apps (via existing channels) and they are adopted at hyper speed.

The thing is… it’s about to get a whole lot messier.

This chaos has left brands scrambling. Brands have started to focus on the channels to reach customers, since the potential and possibilities “seem” infinite. But Customers end up in notification hell. Coupled with the need to react real-time, brands are in a content war, causing customers to be overloaded and blind to brand messages. Unfortunately, the focus on channels has created broken promises and miserable experiences for the customer.

The Internet of Things is going to make the current digital transformation seem puny. What happens when every physical object has embedded network connectivity? This is where brands must make the choice between adding to the chaos, or providing the responsive connection. Here is the real opportunity to provide smart targeted experiences, either in the micro-moment or on-demand.

Suddenly, life is better.

Experiences can be tied directly to what is happening right now, reinforced with context provided by previous activities and interactions. Having trouble hooking up your new, fancy Blu-Ray player? After 5 random button presses, the Blu-Ray device displays a How-To tutorial on your phone or opens up a real-time chat with support. No more social media complaints, fewer store returns.

Imagine how grocery shopping could be changed with IoT. Buy Sunbeam Bread and put it by the toaster. The bread wrapping has a NFC tag which let’s the toaster know it has 10 slices. After 5 days, the toaster automatically adds bread to your grocery list on the phone. As you walk down the bread aisle at the store, a competitor like Wonder Bread pops up with a coupon on the shopping cart digital display. IoT not only provides utility to the buyer, but impacts everyone in the value chain, from the manufacturer knowing demand, to the retailer knowing what to stock.

Unlike physical products of yesterday, a networked object can gain new functionality. Think of your mobile devices, phones get regular updates, being improved and constantly made more productive. Why can’t the toaster get smarter?

The New Customer Experience Foundation

The skills to identify and take advantage of these opportunities will need to permeate more thoroughly inside of brands. The ability to understand the cloud, how a brand’s products will interface with 3rd parties, how the products will be able to provide more functionality over time, how to analyze the massive influx of data (if you think Big Data is big now, wait until there are a trillion devices connected), and finding more ways to engage customers will be the foundation of Customer Experience.

Today, it is no longer a set of individual activities that drives perception. It is not simply a campaign; it is not a call to the contact center only. It includes products and services working tirelessly in the background, trying to figure out how to be useful and relevant at the right time and place for the specific customer. That is Customer Experience personalized, valued and in the moment.

What is your strategy for the Internet of Things?