If you Google the definition for the Internet of Things (IoT), in nearly every search result, you will find it described as a “network of physical objects”. And yet, as was well articulated in Ken Grady’s recent guest blog , perhaps the real opportunity and end-game of the IoT era is the creation of relationships, and not just between these physical objects, but rather with the customers or users of them. Regardless of what industry you work in, most of us get fixated on the latest cool gadget, and the IoT is no different to this. What this means is that we tend to focus all of our attention on the physical objects and not where I would argue the real value is – the data that these objects both generate and consume. In fact, I suspect that the vast majority of data generated by IoT devices goes unanalyzed.
Marc Benioff, Salesforce’s CEO, said at Dreamforce15: “It’s not an IoT revolution. It’s a customer revolution.” A statement that I would wholeheartedly agree with. The IoT definitely has the potential to change the way consumers act. However, this will likely only become a reality if we start to mine and use the data from these IoT devices. In Ken’s Mini Cooper example, this means the car communicating with his local dealer’s service department that the car is ready to be serviced and them automatically contacting him with some dates and options for performing the service. If this was reality, it would not only revolutionize Ken’s experience, but also enhance his love for the car!
Ask any marketer what one of their most important tasks is today and you will likely hear the term “voice of the customer” – the process of attaining an insight into a customer’s needs, wants, perceptions, and preferences. Regardless of the industry, and putting the important topic of privacy to one side, the IoT has the potential to deliver this data and, particularly in B-to-B industries, in ways that would have been very challenging previously.
At New England Biolabs®, our customers – the individuals who actually use the products that we make – are scientists in different laboratories around the world, studying, for example, the mechanisms behind diseases, such as cancer and diabetes. However, the data that we most often obtain, regarding the purchases of our products, are the names of the Purchasing Agents who place the orders, and not the names of the scientists themselves.
One of NEB®’s tactics to address this “gap” in our customer insight is our IoT freezer, NEBnow®. This device sits in the scientists’ laboratories, allowing them to directly access NEB’s products, the instant that they need them. This new purchasing channel adds a greater level of convenience for the scientist. However, the value to NEB is what we can do with the data that we are receiving regarding these purchases.
For the first time, we are able to combine this purchasing data with other sources of customer information – both internal, such as technical support inquires, and external, such as the scientists’ publications in research journals – to develop a much more holistic picture of their needs and how we can better support them. With marketing automation solutions, we can then target these scientists with contextually relevant communications, whether it be with promotions, relating to products that they are not buying from NEB, but appear to need, technical tips for how to improve the performance of the products that they are buying, or simply to congratulate them on their latest breakthrough that was published using them.
Although we are still compiling and analyzing this IoT data, the early feedback, from simply knowing who some of our customers are for the first time (~4,000 new contacts to date), is that we are gaining market share and experiencing accelerated revenue growth. Only time will tell whether this particular IoT device will prove to be this marketer’s “dream source of customer insight”, but my advice to you, if you are already in – or thinking of entering – the IoT space, would be to not forget about the value of the data!