The Internet of Things (IoT) is big and getting bigger.
Fueled by some incredible buzz, the IoT is driving big data analytics and helping companies make some big money in the process. Almost every day a new startup bursts onto the scene with a new IoT product or service.
Given all that, it should come as no surprise that major players in tech like Google and Apple have committed some significant resources in staking their claim to a slice of the IoT space.
So it’s hardly a shock when we hear about massive tech companies like Samsung are equally eager to make major investments in this sprawling opportunity. But just because IoT has a firm footing in large enterprise doesn’t mean that smaller businesses are out of luck.
The barriers to entry into the IoT space are still relatively low — low enough to make it feasible for small players to get in on the action.
Don’t get me wrong. It's not cheap: A small business could easily be priced out of the IoT market unless it effectively keeps scale in mind when looking at IoT projects. But if a small business approaches it right, it can walk away with an IoT project that doesn’t break the bank.
Of course no business wants to invest money in a project that doesn’t have a return on investment (ROI). But when you invest in improving your customers' experiences, ROI is a pretty safe bet.
The IoT is vast, and potential opportunities for a small business are plentiful — even on a budget. Technologies like near field communication (NFC) and Bluetooth low energy (BLE) make connections simple and interactions easy for customers.
If a small business is already developing an app, then it is fairly easy to integrate some IoT features and then deploy some sensors or beacons around a physical location like a retail shop or office.
Making Sense of Sensors
A few small sensors could add a lot of depth to the customer experience for a smaller business.
Beacons can provide product descriptions, marking information or news of special promotions to customers who within their proximity. An NFC payment system would allow customers to pay without having to take out a credit card.
Both options can go a long way to enhancing their customer experience.
One of the ideas I have always liked and thought small businesses could get a lot of benefit from is an automated queuing system that customers can access from their smart phones. Think of it in the case of something like a barbershop or hair salon.
A beacon can be used to authenticate that the customer is physically at the location and allow them to enter the queue for service through the app. Then they can easily monitor their progress in the queue through their phone. No more guessing games as to how long they have to wait or when it will be their turn for service.
Data, Data and More Data
And what would be the Internet of Things if it didn’t generate data? An app like the one mentioned above would allow a small business to track how long their customers wait for service.
It could also provide more granular data about peak traffic and optimal staffing patterns. That same data could also be used to fuel a customer rewards program, giving benefits to business owner and the customer, keeping everyone happy.
The Internet of Things covers a myriad of areas that a small business can investigate to improve operations and enrich the customer experience. That's a winning strategy, for any size business.