For several years now, a connectivity revolution has been slowly brewing all around us; everyday objects like recycling bins, dishwashers, and smoke alarms are going online one by one, adding to the fabric of the Internet that connects us all.
As we connect ever more items to this Internet of Things (IoT), the relationship between consumers who use the objects and the brands that manufacture them will invariably change. For businesses looking to stay relevant in the era of IoT, learning to manage and leverage the new dynamic in brand-consumer relationships will be key.
Here are three ways these relationships are already changing, as well as how businesses are adapting to the IoT.
1. The IoT creates direct brand-consumer channels
With the possibility of countless objects in our lives going online, simplicity and ease of use are key to maintaining the value of IoT. Early attempts at IoT integration have seen manufacturers eschew simplicity by adding interfaces to objects that turn them into computers. Rather than create new UIs for every object, manufacturers are now leveraging mobile devices and applications as the universal interface already chosen by consumers. Product management applications allow for the remote control of objects from a single device. This keeps the IoT manageable for consumers, but also creates an additional benefit for brands.
Product management applications serve as a direct line of communication between brand and consumer; in addition to offering control of an object, apps can push things like recall information, best practices, and relevant content straight to the customer. This type of engagement is highly valuable for brands because consumers are making a conscious decision to open an application specifically to engage with their product.
In order to nurture this engagement, however, brands must be sure to offer a seamless authentication experience. Asking consumers to create new accounts to access their thermostat, garage door, and sprinkler system goes against the IoT mantra of simplicity. Avoid this misstep by giving consumers the freedom to authenticate with their established social identities. This makes authentication a painless process for consumers, avoids forgotten passwords for rice cookers, and lets customers get to using their “things” as soon as they get them home.
2. Data streams offer ways to improve the brand-consumer relationship
The real value of the IoT for businesses and consumers alike is the continuous stream of data that will be created from connected objects. Harnessing this data presents an opportunity for brands to improve their product and targeting strategies. However, finding ways to capture, store, and then derive meaningful insights from these perpetual data streams presents challenges to businesses.
To meet this challenge, businesses are turning to consumer identities and cloud-based databases. Leveraging consumer identities through social authentication enables brands to easily trace all data streams from their products back to individual customer profiles across any channel. Routing these streams into a database designed specifically to manage and sort this data in the cloud saves IT departments from building new infrastructure from the ground up.
As consumers interact with their products, this data accumulates over time to provide ever more accurate insights into product usage and customer habits. Businesses who make use of this behavioral data are able to form much closer relationships with single individuals up through whole demographic segments by offering tailored products or usage suggestions.
3. Security and privacy necessitates trust-based consumer-brand relationships
Will we really need an anti-virus for our coffee brewers? That is one of the questions consumers are asking themselves as security concerns over the IoT rise up to meet its promising potential. In fact, concerns over IoT security and privacy are shared by the majority of the global population. A recent poll across 11 countries pegs 70% of the population as having concerns over infrastructural data breaches, while 60% is concerned about how any collected data will be used (TechRepublic).
For brands, nurturing consumer trust in the IoT is a two-step process. First, businesses must take concrete action to guarantee infrastructural security and data privacy. Second, businesses must transparently communicate what these actions mean to consumers.
As mentioned previously in this post, investing in a specialized cloud-based database to store consumer information is a sound infrastructural decision. To be sure of contracting a vendor that can handle the needs of a modern enterprise, verify that their database meets security protocols such as Safe Harbor Certification and ISO compliance. To ensure transparency, clearly inform consumers how their data will be handled at the time of product authentication. Key things to communicate with consumers include how data will be collected, how it will be used, where it will be stored, as well as pertinent safety and privacy certifications.
For brands investing in IoT, valuing security and privacy as much as their consumers do is the only way to build a relationship founded in trust.
Remaining Relevant in the IoT
If building customer relationships was hard before, the IoT promises to make the task an even more difficult proposition. However, failing to to do so in a world where even the simplest of objects will be directly connected to our lives guarantees irrelevance.
These predicted changes are not the only way the IoT will affect your business: to learn more about all things IoT, download our free resource, “A Marketer’s Guide to Navigating the Internet of Things.”
By Alex Nunez