Making the connection

How the internet of things engages consumers and benefits business

Our industry faces a challenge; connecting with consumers is  becoming increasingly difficult. You have to do it where they are spending more of their time: on social media, smartphones, tablets, and apps. There, you have to hold their attention long enough to engage them in the relevant conversations that translate  to ecommerce sales, or convince them to go to a store. We are transforming marketing, sales, operations, and supply chains as a result. It’s a challenge but it’s not the end goal. It’s just the beginning.

Every product, every process, every person, and every place leaves a data trail, and that data trail can be captured, tracked, shared, combined, mined, and analysed. The result is ways of better understanding, not only your own operations, but also what consumers want, what they need, how to offer it to them, and what they are willing to pay for this. Data aggregated from multiple sources and devices can be turned into unique, actionable insights which can inspire new products, and new services, which enhance consumers’ lives and the way they experience the world, whether they are part of the West’s aging demographic, or the burgeoning middle class in an emerging economy.

To turn this inspiration into reality, consumer focused industries can build value networks – loosely-coupled collaborations within the supply chain, across industries and with consumers themselves. These networks can wrap products and services around consumers and their demands. Gradually, such networks will replace the value chains that have been the backbone of consumer industries for years (for more information on value networks, please see “Rethinking the Value Chain: New Realities in Collaborative Business” by The Consumer Goods Forum and Capgemini1).

It’s a huge opportunity. Companies can either grasp it, or wait for other players to do so. Every market is ripe for disruptions and the Uber effect knows few limits. Startups can spring from anywhere in the world and quickly reach a global market. Competitors can migrate from other industries too. Apple disrupted the music industry; Amazon, the market for hosted software.

There is a concept that can help. It can provide the foundation for the necessary transformation, but it comes with previous baggage. The internet of things (IoT) arrived with a bundle of technology buzzwords which gave it a bad name. But don’t shoot the messenger. Think instead about the business benefits it can bring.

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