Depending on which report you look at, there will be anywhere between 24-50 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices installed worldwide by 2020—just a few years from now. Like anything hooked up to the Internet, these devices are capable of providing a huge supply of data that can help you better plan, save money and improve/simplify processes.
While most of us are well attuned to the consumer side of the IoT—your Fitbit, Nest thermostat, LIFX light bulbs, etc.—there’s an industrial manufacturing side to it as well; one that can aid in more practical and efficient product development and production, more proactive maintenance, streamlined manufacturing processes, and more. Given its capabilities and the benefits it offers, the IoT has a range of implications for manufacturing and those who hold marketing responsibilities. Here are key considerations you need to be aware of, along with one cautionary note.
1. The IoT Provides a New Perspective on Marketing and Messaging
When it comes to B2B marketing, data supplied by IoT devices is typically seen as an opportunity for improving product maintenance, operational performance and/or logistical attributes for a company. While this is true, the data also provides significant insight into a range of variables and usage situations that you may not have had access or insight into previously and can subsequently use to create more tailored marketing and messaging.
Because IoT devices can communicate how and when they’re used, and in what capacity, those usage patterns and scenarios can be readily translated into messaging and campaigns that reflect and address real life factors—enabling a stronger and truer connection with your potential and current customers. While you’ve made assumptions in the past about such things (and we all know what can happen when you assume…), you can now definitively know.
2. The IoT Provides a More Holistic View
Despite the cool factor for content development geeks, the opportunities afforded by the IoT are much broader than just message development. As such, manufacturing marketers need to take a step back and remember a customer’s experience is a holistic one:
- If your product or service provides a sub-par experience or doesn’t align well with needs or actual usage, a customer’s experience will suffer.
- The way in which you address customer questions and concerns (e.g., maintenance issues) directly impacts the customer relationship.
- Just producing and selling a product can short-change the customer relationship, one that should have long-term benefits on both sides. Do you want the relationship to be short-term transactional or long-term relational?
Utilizing IoT devices in your product design, means that it’s not just about the physical product any more. It’s also about how you use the data to:
- Improve your product design to better match usage conditions.
With IoT devices incorporated into your product, you’ll be able to understand its overall performance and make subsequent design changes and updates. For example, you may be able to tell when certain components fail and subsequently be able to enact a redesign.
- Discover additional, more proactive ways you can serve your customers.
For example, GE is selling aircraft engines, a traditional transactional sale. However, through the IoT devices that are integral to the engine, they are able to track when parts need to be replaced or if service is needed. As such, they have been able to expand their customer relationships beyond the equipment sale to providing service as well.
3. A Move Past Product to Service Engagement
IoT-enabled products will also change how your customers look at purchasing—eventually they may only consider purchasing ones that connect to a broader ecosystem. In this scenario, the customer will have a relationship not just with the physical product, but also with data and services that they can access from it and the related, customized services you can provide. Eventually, if you’re not on board with IoT in some capacity, you may be blocked from future growth.
The opportunity for taking the greatest advantage of IoT data hinges on customer trust. If you violate that trust somewhere along the line and start to get creepy with it, improperly use customers’ data or don’t honor their stated preferences, you’ll inevitably receive strong push back.
And that push back won’t just come from customers. On a global basis there are new regulations related to data usages. For example, a private right of action clause within the Canadian anti-spam law, which enables individuals and government agencies to start complaints, takes effect in July, while the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation takes effect May 2018. Whether things will tighten up regulation-wise in the U.S. remains to be seen.
The IoT is here. It’s up to you to find ways to incorporate it into your products and your manufacturing marketing.