“Consumers buy holes, not drill bits” goes the popular saying. For the past few months, I’ve been interacting with prospects and customers (from widely diverse fields) looking to implement Internet Of Things (IoT) in their day-to-day business operations and I thought this would be time to reflect on some key trends that I’ve observed commonly. By large, technology has been transforming products at a massive speed – more connected and highly smarter. Businesses not only want to provide improved functionality and capabilities in products, but they are thinking about transcending traditional business boundaries to make use of the digital data layer surrounding their products. And more so ever with customers who engage with it, as a means to provide them with intelligent sales, continued maintenance and support services. Staying ahead of competition is crucial and time is of the essence, now more than ever. So the question isn’t about whether or not to offer connected products, rather – how do you acquire, blend and organize data from these connected things, to derive and build deeper value out of it, using disruptive technologies like the Internet of Things.
Connected products provide information, in specific locations at a specific time
The subscription economy is upon us. Consumers are no longer amused by just the definition of your product – they want more. They want to best experience your products and services by the level of utility it adds across multiple channels. However, the greatest impact on businesses will be in implementing connected technologies into conventional business practises. This includes your products offerings – right from design, development and manufacturing to sales, marketing, maintenance and customer support, all by way of adapting existing tools and systems. For example, you sell air-conditioning units to business spaces. One of your units in a building begins to under-perform. Your IoT-enabled air-conditioner alerts you of the irregularity and helps you analyse performance trends over a specific period to identify root cause of the fault. This enables your business to keep track of product performance and quickly visualize impact of small changes anywhere, anytime, even after it leaves your factory or store. And by that you can intelligently schedule replacement, send service staff over to customer location, engage with the facility managed, all in real time and through control from a single, comprehensive dashboard.
Uber-ize the way you engage with your consumers, dynamically
Once your product turns smart and is connected to the cloud, the line between product, consumer and service is blurred. It becomes a part of a highly integrated, data-driven connected product solution, changing the perspective of how product control and consumer engagement are defined. Imagine you’re a garage business owner and the cars you service alert you of an engine problem before it occurs. Your IoT solution tells you that Car ABC has battery levels below critical, you run a remote diagnosis (and by that you eliminate a layer of human intervention, saving support centre’s time for those critical scenarios). You identify and mark it as a major issue, which automatically notifies your customer and assigns a ticket to your maintenance personnel’s mobile helpdesk application. Your account manager is automatically prompted on his/her CRM to check for battery warranty and place an order if required, while communicating with your customer in real-time.
The larger opportunity
The fact that you can now trace defects of products you sell and service, of knowing when the problem occurred, what caused it to happen, duration of product under-performance, which manufacturer supplied the part, when were they purchased – means, you can now run a report to single out a specific problem, share concluded data to all associated parties and act on decisions, timely and easily. And as more as you do this, the more innovation you unlock out of your product. Importantly, the ability to deliver efficient business services – to support more customers, to manage your billing as necessary, to bridge communication gap between teams and to focus on product innovation – you begin to understand your product through its lifetime, rethink business models and form new kinds of relationship with your customers.
This emergent behaviour is transformative at every level, with IT becoming an integral part of the product itself. The way businesses are being managed is changing for good and so are the underlying technologies that interact with products and people alike. This digitization radically increases the capabilities of organizations to intelligently utilize data and meet many operational and human needs, across multiple fields.