The Takeaway: The IoT is fast approaching, and you need to adjust and adapt your customer engagement strategies and resources accordingly.
The Internet of Things is one of the most exciting technological developments to emerge in recent years. As the IoT picks up steam, it will inevitably have a huge impact on companies in virtually every industry, opening up new opportunities - and creating new challenges.
Customer engagement could go either way in that regard. Handled correctly, companies can gain a major competitive advantage as they effectively incorporate the IoT into their customer engagement efforts. If they fail to adapt, though, the IoT may create serious headaches.
To best prepare for the age of the Internet of Things, you first need to appreciate these three key facts:
1) The IoT will be huge
It should come as no surprise that the IoT is poised for major growth. What may be surprising, however, is the sheer speed and scope of this development.
"There will be nearly 21 billion connected things on the IoT by 2020."
According to Gartner, there will be approximately 6.4 billion "things" connected via the IoT by the end of this year, up 30 percent from 2015. Even more significantly, the research firm believes that there will be nearly 21 billion connected things on the IoT by 2020.
Similarly, the IoT market is poised to experience a 33 percent compound annual growth rate through 2021, according to Research and Markets, at which point this space will be worth $660 billion.
Given these figures, it's clear that the IoT's influence will not be limited to a few select industries. What's more, this level of growth will inevitably greatly impact not just businesses, but also consumers.
2) Consumer expectations are going to rise
On that note: Perhaps the biggest impact that IoT expansion is likely to have on the consumer side is increased expectations. The Internet of Things is, in the simplest terms, a broad series of interconnected sensors, devices and machines, all collecting and creating massive amounts of data. Alex Bard, a senior vice president and general manager with Salesforce, explained that this will enable companies to identify service issues early, before they create real problems for their customers. As more businesses begin to deliver such preemptive customer engagement and support, those organizations that fail to adapt will be seen as less customer-centric.
That is why Harvard Business Review contributor Paul Weichselbaum recently claimed that the businesses that see customer engagement opportunities in the IoT will thrive while those that see challenges will come up short. To end up in the winning camp, though, firms will need to significantly update their processes and attitudes to account for a more data-focused approach to customer service.
3) Analytics will be key
That means analytics will be - and, in fact, already are - essential. Rick Hutley, clinical professor of analytics at the University of the Pacific, noted in a LinkedIn Pulse blog post that analytics lie at the heart of the IoT, but can only be fully leveraged when companies capture the necessary raw data. Similarly, Kissmetrics contributor Shayla Price emphasized the leading role analytics should play in customer engagement strategies.
To fully leverage the IoT for customer engagement purposes, then, analytics are invaluable. Those companies that start to move in this direction now will be best positioned to benefit as the IoT continues to grow.
What steps is your company taking to prepare for the Internet of Things?