Many elements of digital transformation are related to improving or expanding the customer experience. A great experience happens when customers are served personalized, contextual information that improves both their engagement and satisfaction. Such experiences are driven by gaining better knowledge of customers through better connections to them.
The challenge for marketers is having a limited understanding of customers’ needs. Insights are limited to basic customer information, browsing history and buying patterns. However with the increased adoption of mobile devices, social media and advanced analytics, marketers can improve their awareness and better meet customers’ needs with services that are relevant to them.
An Explosion of Customer Data in the IOT/5G World
With the advent of IOT, powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), IOT-powered connected commerce will soon take center stage. The rollout of 5G Telecom services will mean faster data rates, low latency and provision for connected devices, providing an unprecedented understanding of customer behavior, context, and thought processes.
Given the possibilities, it is important to prepare for a connected-commerce world where companies can maximize the benefits of these new avenues and data sources. How exactly is exponential customer data available in the light of IOT/5G advancements? Let’s look at a few scenarios:
- Manufacturers will embed sensors in their products that provide data about product performance. This in turn shares insights into customer-usage and device-performance patterns, which can be useful when designing new products.
- Sensors on products can give great feedback on customer habits, behavior and requirements. For example, smart refrigerators can provide data about customer consumption patterns of perishables like eggs and milk.
- Medical devices can remotely transmit health information to health providers.
- Smart lights and other smart-home devices can provide information about the amount of time spent at home, sleeping patterns, etc.
- Fitness trackers on smart watches and phones provide data about customer health and sleep patterns.
- Telematics data from vehicles’ onboard devices can enlighten companies about important information such as customers’ driving behavior and accident risks, as well as overall vehicle performance and health.
- Geo fences set around places like coffee shops and gas stations provide useful data about customer visits to these locations.
- Digital wallets offer great insights into consumption patterns and spending behaviors.
- IOT can help track a product’s geo position, which helps companies better understand the location, concentration and movement of their products.
- IOT-enabled devices can send alerts about their health and notify manufacturers’ support teams whenever there is an issue at a customer location.
- Sensors embedded in products can send data about utility patterns, which can then be used to send personalized customer communications.
The list goes on, but one can get the drift. The flow of data from IOT-enabled devices is immense, and the advent of 5G – with its faster connectivity and lower latency (which will revolutionize IOT) – means the data flow will increase exponentially.
These devices already gather, track and can send humungous amount of customer data, and we need the power/algorithms to process it all. But how we process this huge mass of data, and meaningfully, and how we interact with the world – these will be the game-changers. AI and Natural-Language Processing (NLP) can help companies understand how to work with that data and get a larger window into a customer’s mind.
IoT can capture passive, subconscious behaviors and identify patterns, which then can be turned into actionable information. Using data, it’s possible to know what the customer wants even before he or she wants it. Moreover, companies may gain a view of the customer journey that may be different than expected.
However, using AI and smart/connected devices to influence customer behavior is a double-edged sword. Enterprises must be careful about governing this data, else they risk manipulating customer behavior purely for their own ends rather than to educate customers or serve customers’ needs. Companies need to ensure that they are compliant with GDPR, PCI-DSS and other standards.
How Does the Connected Commerce Transformation Happen?
There are several exciting possibilities for using customer data to provide a connected commerce experience for customers.
- Improved logistics: With better tracking and connected devices, there is greater visibility of fulfilment processes. This enables companies to efficiently track each inventory item through the Warehouse Management Systems and help resolve fulfilment issues.
- Automated product replenishment: Understanding the customer’s micro inventory, i.e. when their supplies run out or when a device is due for maintenance, enables sellers to prompt the customer to auto order service, providing a very connected and personalized customer experience.
- Establishing long-term relationships: IOT-connected devices offer useful data about the consumer, resulting in better understanding of the customer’s needs and thought processes. This information can also be used for intelligent targeting of campaigns, promotions and discounts, resulting in a more-engaged customer.
- Influencing decision making through high-quality data: 5G connected devices will provide access to information that was previously unavailable. Identifying very customer-specific data, beyond buying patterns, can help organizations hyper-personalize their offerings.
- Aligning brand strategy: With more-accurate personal data, companies can leverage facets of customer behavior that were never previously explored and incorporate them into the brand strategy and potential brand realignment.
A Sample Connected Commerce Setup
In a typical connected-commerce setup (above), an IOT-enabled device makes a purchase on behalf of the customer based on its understanding of that customers’ behaviors due to AI/ML historical analyses. The eCommerce engine then enables seamless, automated ordering through a payment engine capable of handling automated payment scenarios.
Imagine the refrigerator automatically reordering eggs and milk based on its owners’ consumption pattern or stock status, or the ability to automatically add goods through grocery-store checkout. Imagine regularly using digital assistants at stores, or seeing dynamic window displays based on mobile geo-tracking. Some of these use cases are already being developed, and prototypes are already being developed, today.
What Must Organizations Do to Prepare for Connected Commerce?
Connected commerce will soon be a reality. IOT devices are already in the offing, and IOT -friendly 5G networks are already being rolled out. IOT-powered devices are here to stay, and they will transform the way organizations engage with their customers. So what does an organization need to do to get ready for the connected commerce world?
- Improve their capability to analyze IOT-powered data. Connected devices will provide organizations with data that’s much closer and more context-sensitive to the customer. The data they capture will not only be voluminous, but also different from data they’ve processed before. This information must be handled and processed using algorithms and resources that are capable of stepping up to make sense of it all. Companies must invest in scaling-up their relevant technology stacks and business processes accordingly.
- Enable various types of payments. The world of payments will soon change. Automatically placing an order and paying for it through multiple means using many IOT-enabled devices requires a system that can handle and process multiple types of transactions.
- Double-down on security. With devices automatically placing orders and making payments, security will be of paramount importance. With so much information shared across so many IOT-enabled devices, hackers will inevitably try to gain access to this valuable data.
- Be ready for brand repositioning. The data companies will gather will fundamentally change the way customers are perceived. Armed with this understanding, customers may also change how they perceive and engage with companies. If this new dynamic requires companies to reposition their brand, organizations need to enable and embrace that change.