IT Trends 2018: Transforming customer experiences and business outcomes with the Internet of Things (IoT)
It was in 1909 that Harry Gordon Selfridge, founder of Selfridges, coined the phrase ‘the customer is always right’ and went on to embed the philosophy across his retail empire. It is a term that has never been more relevant than today as market noise makes it increasingly difficult for organisations to sound out above the crowd. It is within customer experiences and focused business outcomes that success lies, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is one of technology’s most powerful tools designed to transform these through connectivity, data and insight. This is one of the findings of Dimension Data’s Hybrid Cloud 2018 IT Trends.
More than just a collection of sensors and devices
IoT is far more than the sum of its parts. It goes beyond a multitude of devices enhanced by a multitude of sensors connected to a vast network. It is a vital cog in the successful engine of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the era of digitisation. With IoT companies can leverage technology in ways that they haven’t been able to before and it lends itself to generating deeper insights that can be used to fine tune business processes, change strategic direction and enhance customer service.
Implemented with clear business outcomes that have been developed in accordance with the unique challenges presented by sector and industry, IoT can reduce costs and risk, support the organisation’s steps towards compliance within the areas of healthy and safety, and improve client experiences. It even has the potential to grow new revenue streams in new markets. It is one of the most powerful tools that the organisation can use to transform customer experience technologies, embark on omni-channel strategies and engage with customers across platform, place and preference.
According to the Zebra Insights Intelligent Enterprise Index, the two areas where enterprises are using data generated from IoT solutions are in improving customer experiences (70%) and safety (56%). This is followed by 53% looking to use IoT to improve cost efficiencies, revenue and open up new markets.
The bridge to success
The bridge that IoT builds from the physical to the digital forms only one small component of its potential – it doesn’t matter how many devices are connected or how many sensors there are, they are useless without the ability to understand the data they generate. To fully embrace the potential of IoT, the enterprise has to act on the data that it creates.
The enterprise must focus on business objectives at the outset and develop an solution that wraps the potential and capabilities of IoT around the data and the ability to extract that data. This allows for the organisation to then gain the clarity it needs to customise the actions that it takes, to expand into new revenue streams and to ensure that the data is appropriate and relevant. It can also use this data to fine tune how it engages with its customers, whether it is business to business or the end user. The ability to see where the pain points lie instantly creates an opportunity to change how the business approaches the customer or addresses the issues that impact on deliverables and outcomes.
A clear outcome
To deliver real business value, the organisation has to place IoT hand-in-hand with big data and analytics and develop a robust and agile ecosystem that is tied into measurable business outcomes. There is a significant role that technology providers play in introducing innovation and collaboration, creating solutions that bring the IoT ecosystem together. However, innovation needs direction and the business has to be specific as to what it wants to achieve as it moves deeper into the realm of IoT.
Some outcomes are, of course, standard across business and sector – cost reduction, richer business insights, improved safety standards and health, compliance with environmental factors – but others are industry and organisation specific. Any implementation requires that there be an awareness of the nuances that shade each vertical, sector and customer, and understand how it can resolve specific challenges using technology intelligently. If a business recognises the problems it faces, then IoT opens up a vast landscape of solutions that can be targeted to address them. IoT does not solve one problem for all business eventualities.
Understanding the data points
If data is the new oil and IoT the machinery that creates and extracts it, then, to continue the analogy, it requires the refinery to process it. The algorithms and technology applied to the data have to be very focused on the outcomes. Even customer experience is a very nuanced outcome that has to be both industry and company specific.
- In healthcare, IoT is used to transform patient experiences and clinical care using video, sensors and devices to detect problems such as patient falls or to monitor people under sedation. It could also be used to track blood samples to ensure they aren’t lost, or that they are processed in order of urgency. IoT provides the ability to track the samples, improve the process and change the client experience.
- In retail, fresh produce can be tracked from farm to shelf, ensuring that it remains fresh throughout the supply chain. It can support both end-user and retailer in ensuring quality and freshness, and can mitigate issues around delays, unexpected breakdowns or challenges within the supply chain.
In the connected city, along with the advent of 5G, IoT can potentially transform traffic control, increase information availability, improve citizen engagement and even citizen adherence to regulation and documentation.