Smart companies know their customers. How smart are you?

August 25, 2015

Smart companies know their customers. How smart are you?

I recently had the opportunity to visit Jabil’s Blue Sky Innovation Center in San Jose. It is an amazing place with an ambiance that feels open, inviting and on the cutting-edge of innovation. But beyond how it looks, I was intrigued by the focus of the campus. The idea behind Blue Sky is to provide an environment where Jabil’s customers can collaborate with each other and Jabil to add new and innovative capabilities to their products. Jabil began as an electronics contract manufacturer but has evolved to support the entire product lifecycle. The company offers services from designing product packaging to engineering services, sourcing components, and actually manufacturing the product. At the Blue Sky Center, we observed the process that customers go through when working with Jabil to brainstorm new ideas and test prototypes. One of the most notable capabilities that Jabil brings to bear is the Internet of Things (IoT) and leveraging the technology of the partner network to connect products.

IoT opens up a whole new world for companies looking to innovate and stay relevant with customers. Without the ability to understand how customers are taking advantage of your products and services, it is possible to miss emerging opportunities. Imagine if traditional cab companies had been able to anticipate emerging customer needs before Uber was able to become a threat? And the hotel industry is on a similar track with AirBnB. Disruptive startups like Uber and Airbnb are leveraging data and connected devices to closely match offerings with what customers want. They are constantly tweaking how those needs and wants change the requirements for their services by leveraging the data that IoT technology serves up. In sharp contrast, many industry giants have failed to adapt their offerings and continue to struggle to connect with and win the loyalty of their customers.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an emerging technology that is giving companies new, powerful insights into how customers consume products and how these products perform. Marketers, R&D teams and product managers now have access to huge volumes of data that they could have never imaged just a few years ago. Capturing and analyzing data from sensors offers the potential to quickly adapt and transform products, to introduce new capabilities, and to enhance the customer experience. IoT data opens up new revenue opportunities, innovative business models and allows companies to adapt to market competition.

Data has become the lifeblood of corporations. Accessing the right data at the right speed to make informed decisions has long been the objective. With the IoT, it’s now possible to capture data from highly distributed devices both on the factory floor and from devices used by consumers. The pervasiveness of connected devices, advances in storage and analytics technology, and storage commoditization is allowing companies to leverage sensor data in new ways.

Connect with customers and deepen relationships. Creating a long-term relationship with customers after the point-of-sale is difficult. The point-of-sale is no longer a single point of interaction but is instead the beginning of the relationship. The Internet of Things has the potential to completely change the relationship between companies and their customers, providing valuable the insights from customer/product interaction. These insights can open new lines of business, allowing organizations to offer new services and develop new applications.

Understand how your products are used. Connected devices allow companies to understand how customers are leveraging their products at key points in the lifecycle. From collected data, companies capture demographics, use trends, product quality feedback, and inventory insight – which all enable targeted marketing and better customer alignment. In one example, a large beverage company was able to uncover that vending machines near college campuses had higher consumption levels prior to the airing of a popular television show. The company was able to adjust their inventory and availability of that one product accordingly.

Quickly adapt products and design new offerings. As data begins to flow from products, new design opportunities quickly emerge. Traditionally, organizations had no choice but to rely on anecdotal customer feedback from surveys and reviews to understand how they were doing and by then it was too late. Those days are over. By leveraging sensor, diagnostic, and user interaction data from connected devices, companies get full insight into how products are performing and being used. This makes for a far more powerful experience for both the provider and the consumer – as long as the data is leveraged for constant improvement.

Miss the wave and you’ll regret it. The internet of things is transforming the way smart companies get smarter by building better, longer-lasting relationships with their customers based on a data-driven understanding of trends and behaviors. The best way to get started is to collaborate with your team members and your partners to come up with concrete solutions that can drive new revenue sources and new business models. 

Judith Hurwitz , , , ,
About Judith Hurwitz

Judith Hurwitz is an author, speaker and business technology consultant with decades of experience.

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