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Leveraging connected devices in 1:1 customer relationships

Jun 21, 2019
4 MIN. READ

Connected devices should enhance the overall customer experience.

Connected devices, the internet-enabled everything, which span from Fitbits to fridges, are fundamentally changing both the way we live our lives and the ways in which we engage with brands, products, and services. In fact, Statista estimates that by 2020 there will be 6.58 connected devices per person around the globe. And in developed economies, the numbers of devices per household is truly staggering; a Cisco estimate predicts the average North American household could have up to 13 devices by 2021.

With this many devices in the marketplace, it’s obvious that the range of capabilities available to consumers and businesses is quite broad. These devices are capable of more than just delivering cool experiences, useful features, and functionality to users. Many brands are using devices—from smart phones to tablets to smart thermostats—to collect information about their usage, or the users themselves, and relay this information back to a provider. When harnessed correctly, these devices are generating a veritable treasure trove of first-party consumer data which can be used to personalize the consumer experience, tailor offers and experiences to the individual, remove friction, and enhance the overall customer or user experience.

The ups and downs of connected devices

Today, brands are leveraging collected data to add to their core offering and continually improve the services they offer. Ring, the maker of video doorbells and home security products, has created a “Neighbors” product which allows individuals to get real-time crime alerts from users and law enforcement in their communities. It even allows users to view videos from incidents to help identify and deter criminals. Ring also allows users to publish alerts about missing pets. Through Whistle, a pet GPS and activity monitoring device, users can set activity goals for their pets and monitor their locations. Most interestingly, however, is the ability to add and remove users who are then able to assist with searching for a pet on the lam.

While these examples highlight the benefits connected products can offer, consumer skepticism and concern persist. The primary concerns are related to privacy and the vulnerabilities these devices and data can expose. Recently, consumers learned of an Amazon patent which may allow its Alexa technology to record every word spoken by consumers, even without its “wake word.”

To assuage these fears and deepen their connection with consumers, it’s important for brands to keep some key guidelines front-of-mind as they roll out connected devices or seek to add these types of features to existing products.

Anticipate and predict, but don’t be creepy

There’s a fine line between being informative and helpful and being creepy and intrusive. To me, this line is best defined as the one that separates anticipating and making suggestions around what a consumer may want to do, compared to overtly indicating that your technology believes it knows what the consumer is going to do. For example, Amazon is excellent at suggesting products which may be of interest to the consumer, despite the fact that they fall in categories far afield of what the consumer is currently reviewing. On the flip side, Apple Maps pushing a notification that it is X minutes to a frequently visited destination (that I haven’t selected) is creepy to me. While the technology behind the scenes is doing something similar by recognizing patterns in behavior, what separates these examples is how the assistance is conveyed. Long story short, it’s better to ask than to tell.

Before you ask the customer to do more, simplify what they are already doing

New functionality is cool and can open up new opportunities for business, but it often comes with asking the user to do more with your product or brand than they currently do. As a brand rolls out a connected device or adds connected features to its product, a good benchmark for driving adoption is whether it becomes easier for customers to use their product, not whether they are using it in new or different ways.

Focusing on ease of use can demonstrate empathy, one of the key drivers of loyalty uncovered by ICF Next’s Humanizing Loyalty research. The easier it becomes to use the product, the more likely the consumer is to use it more.

Consider how Traeger Grills connects its suite of smokers and grills. Smoking meats is a complicated, time-consuming process that requires knowledge and constant attention. Traeger’s WiFi enabled grills provide customers with information on the current temperature of the meat and the smoker, which allows them to focus elsewhere while the grill automates its temperature control. Traeger’s app contains a number of guides, recipes, and tips. These features have made it easier for consumers to do what they already were doing, which should inspire them to use it more. But one can imagine a world where data collected by the app and device would allow Traeger to personalize learning resources and guides to the users’ level.

Always strive to live up to expectations, admit fault when you don’t.

Two additional key drivers of emotional loyalty are trust and reliability. Inexorably linked, failing to deliver against these can be devastating to your customer relationship. Of course, customers expect your product or service to work at the level they expect. And for any type of product or device, when it fails, the brand needs to own it. But when it comes to connected devices, brands are dealing with potentially sensitive personal data.

When something goes wrong, it’s critical to inform customers quickly and let them know how it is being resolved. The consequences are dire when brands aren’t forthcoming with this information, especially when that something is a data loss or breach. Transparency and honesty can go a long way in establishing, and maintaining, a trusting, mutually beneficial, two-way customer relationship.

Above all, these three recommendations boil down to making sure that a connected experience respects consumer as individuals, values their time, and delivers on its promises. While the products may be revolutionary, consumers’ needs remain relatively simple.

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By Ned Shugrue
Ned Shugrue
File Under
  • Engagement