person looking at a smartwatch
PHOTO: Fabian Albert

Companies hoping to succeed in 2019 and beyond (and what company doesn't?) must continuously up the ante on the customer experiences they deliver. 

According to research from customer experience consulting firm Walker, by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. To win customers over and create loyalty, companies need to carefully consider the customer journey and align their messaging, goals, objectives and design across channels and devices to deliver seamlessness and consistency. 

Simply put, if customers experience a snag in their user journey, they may be lost forever.

The IoT Omnichannel Evolution Comes With Challenges

The internet of things (IoT) has become a key factor in delivering enriched customer experiences. The IoT enables a new level of engagement based on the insights derived from the wealth of data collected by machines and users. I call this the “IoT omnichannel evolution” and it’s becoming more and more prevalent thanks to the growing affordability of sensors and actuator technology. According to Goldman Sachs and BI Intelligence, the costs associated with sensor technology have declined by 50 percent in the past decade, which is speeding up adoption of the technology.

Of course, while the IoT holds a lot of promise, it comes with its own set of challenges. As it becomes more common for sensors and other devices to monitor not only location, but also daily experiences such as the appliances people use, the cars they drive and more, questions start to arise about ownership of that data. Consider the data generated from each card swipe in a subway system, such as journey time, destination, etc. Who owns that data? Is it the transit company? The city? Consequently, how can we ensure security and privacy of that data and the customers it comes from? 

More research, thinking and legislation is needed to effectively address them.

Looking beyond ownership, the data deluge leads to another challenge: how to generate valuable insights from the wealth of data. The quantity of IoT data being gathered is too massive to be sent back to a centralized data center. The world of “real-time” analysis is upon us and growing exponentially, and organizations need to determine how best to harness the information and convert it into actionable insights.

Related Article: IoT Trends in 2019: Where We're At and Where We're Heading

Journey Mapping and the IoT: Remember the 3 P's

As companies develop their customer strategy, journey mapping is one process that has helped my clients effectively leverage data. Journey mapping helps them gain a clear understanding of what people who utilize their products or services experience — while taking into consideration current devices, future IoT innovation that will continue to make smart devices “smarter,” and channels that will potentially be a part of the journey.

As businesses conduct their journey mapping exercise, it’s critical to include the “3 P's” — proactive, predictive and personalized experiences — as part of the examination. Below I’ve outlined each as they relate to the IoT omnichannel evolution and the advanced solutions that are quickly becoming critical for long-term viability.

Proactive Experiences 

Most interactions begin with customers initiating action, either through the use or purchase of a product or a service. With IoT integration, this can be flipped: systems can proactively initiate actions based on the data being captured on a continuous basis. In the industrial manufacturing industry, for example, IoT solutions can now forecast maintenance problems or determine the remaining useful life of a component or machine critical for production. Timing for replacement can be proactively suggested to users thanks to sensors. An application such as this gives manufacturers the ability to avoid expensive downtime and greatly improve the customer experience.

Related Article: Securing the Internet of Things: Government Action Likely in 2019

Predictive Experiences 

IoT can help predict and/or preempt customer actions based on captured data and real-time access to data models in the cloud. Consider connected cars, which are essentially becoming another digital platform that runs software for improving all aspects of the driving experience. Eventually, IoT applications will predict driver actions at a rate that will help make autonomous vehicles safer. Sensor data from radar, cameras and night vision are already playing a hand in predicting driver actions and helping drivers prevent accidents.

Personalized Experiences 

Providing content that resonates, engages and gives customers a sense of satisfaction throughout their experience, from the moment they conduct a search or interact with a product to the end of their customer journey, should be a major consideration for any company. Personalization can create a more satisfying customer experience, while facilitating higher unit sales, and IoT enables this personalization by capturing user behavior and preferences seamlessly. For example, if a customer has been browsing for an item online, they can be convinced to purchase it by being offered a special bundle on that item and a related accessory when they enter the store — a case of smart proximity marketing. IoT is on track to further enhance personalization for retail and beyond by tapping into the well of data from devices such as smartwatches, door locks, appliances, security systems and more.

When we think about companies that are already providing “3P” experiences, the big tech disruptors — Amazon, Apple, Google — immediately come to mind. These companies are investing in ways to capture customers’ eyeballs and stay with them throughout the day with relevant experiences. An example of this is the connected home, where digital devices created by innovative companies are on target to provide more and more services — from the ability to “talk” to smart devices and appliances within the home to making proactive shopping offers and suggesting banking options.

Related Article: Why the Future of the IoT Depends on Digital Policies

This Trend Isn't Going Away

IoT technology is by no means perfect, but holds a lot of promise and potential. Questions remain around data ownership, and there’s no easy solution “yet” for processing and analyzing the vast amount of data that IoT devices are producing to gain actionable insights.

That said, the IoT omnichannel evolution is here, and it’s gaining traction quickly. You don’t need to be a tech giant to provide the “3P” experience — you just need to be smart when it comes to the strategy, including journey mapping.