Seizing the opportunity with the Internet of Things

We’ve (nearly!) finished renovating our house, and decided this would be the perfect chance to fill it with smart technology to make our lives easier. First on the list was Nest — the learning thermostat that lets us control the temperature of our house from our phones. Then there was the smart home security system from Yale, which again allows us to use our phones to set our house alarm and check on it while we’re away. Lastly, we bought a smart smoke/carbon monoxide alarm we can switch off from our phones if it goes off when we accidentally burn our toast.

All of these items come from the world of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), most easily defined as ‘everyday objects connected to one another via the internet, enabling them to send and receive data to each other’.

When we installed these items, it got me thinking that no one brand or retailer currently owns the space of IoT. We’d heard of all the products we bought before, but they all came from different brands and retailers, and we felt a bit lost when it came to what to choose and how/if they would integrate with other smart products we owned. The trouble is, while you could argue that Apple and Google own the smartphone operating software space, and that Amazon is king of online retail, none of them have really taken hold of the Internet of Things. So what’s the opportunity for retailers within this space, and can one brand look to own it?

Apple, Amazon and Google are all pushing the IoT in their own way — mainly through connected home products, like Amazon’s Alexa — but there still seems to be plenty of room for a brand to put its stamp on the space, or at least take the first step in showcasing the products in an easy to digest format. And with Parks Associates (IoT Market Research Firm) predicting that there will be almost 55 million smart home devices in our homes by 2020, the opportunity is massive.

So how should brands/retailers approach it? Here are my thoughts:

1. Create a holistic customer journey
In store or online, customers should be shown how IoT products complement and enhance each other. For example, displaying smart products in a way that shows the user journey can help customers envision how these products can fit into their lives.

2. Make integration easy
Demos, videos, FAQs and gurus can help wary customers navigate their way through the wealth of products available and show how they can be integrated with their existing ecosystem of products. Many customers don’t even know that they already own an IoT device!

3. Think customer service
Having a dedicated support team or system in place for device failures or complaints will reassure customers that their expensive purchase decision won’t be money wasted if the product fails. This could include trouble shooting tips, providing service vouchers or a dedicated hotline.

4. Be relevant
Showcase to customers how the IoT products can offer a solution to their specific problem. Displays should make clear how to use the product and how it could improve the customer’s life.

The IoT is set to get bigger and bigger as technologies evolve and brands (especially those inherently connected to the IoT e.g. broadband providers) should consider how they can make their mark on this landscape and become the go-to destination for all things IoT. The space is up for grabs, so who’s going to get there first?

Cora Santa-Olalla
Senior Account Manager

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