How the Internet of Things (IoT) is already improving the customer experience

Posted June 16, 2016

Proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) promises a world where connected objects think on our behalf, automate mundane activities, and help us to live better, more efficient, comfortable – even healthier – lives.

Promises are easy to make, but execution is more complex. Still, despite the complexities inherent in connecting millions of devices through tiny sensors, companies are already proving that IoT is a game changer that can bring forth tremendous business value, particularly as it relates to the customer experience.

And the benefits of IoT are not some far-off dream. Here are four ways IoT is already transforming the customer experience:

1. Enabling a better retail experience

One way that IoT improves the customer experience is by optimizing the retail experience. For example, the grocery retailer Kroger has installed temperature sensors that ensure refrigerators and freezers are running efficiently and effectively in their stores. Temperature spikes in the refrigerator case can make cold goods go bad. By alerting store managers and facility engineers when the mercury hits dangerous levels, Kroger is able to ensure the product remains safe for customers, while reducing inventory shrinkage.

Further, an IBM article published by Forbes describes how IoT is enabling retailers to send customers special offers, coupons and information based on their location in the store. IoT sensors can also inform retailers when an item is about to become out-of-stock, and even reorder, making sure customers can always find the item they are looking for.

2. Providing convenient and speedy access to services and experiences

Minimizing wasted time is a critical element in a pleasant customer experience. Disney’s MagicBand, a wearable device, allows guests to easily navigate the theme park experience with speedier access to rides, restaurants and hotel rooms.

Here’s how it works according to a CSO Online article: “The Disney MagicBand is a wrist band with a chip carrying a unique identifier and a radio which sends and receives RF signals both through contact sensors and through long range sensors in the parks and resorts (bands do not carry personal information). Disney combines the band with a guest’s fingerprint (and PIN for some things) as positive identification of a guest’s identity and uses it to provide a wealth of services and capabilities that are enabling guests to experience Disney in a new way.

Guests are able to sign up for front-of-the-line access for major attractions or character appearances, find empty parking spaces (and their car at the end of long day), or even locate a missing child. Furthermore, the bands can be used to unlock hotel rooms and pay for meals, souvenirs or other items during the trip. Not only is it an effective way to increase personalization and convenience, but it also reduces the time that would historically be spent in long lines – the ultimate detractor for theme park guests.

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3. Identifying problems and proactively resolving customer issues

Another way IoT improves the customer experience is by anticipating customer issues as they arise, giving companies the opportunity to proactively resolve them. Utilities firms like PG&E use smart grid technology, smart meters and smart thermostats that offer new services such as enhanced outage management services, improved distribution system monitoring capabilities, automated budget assistance, and energy use notifications. The system can actually anticipate outsized energy use for a given customer and send them a proactive alert, enabling the customer to adapt their behavior for greater cost savings.

Moreover, delivery companies like FedEx and UPS have also taken advantage of IoT by deploying tracking solutions to help them monitor their deliveries, providing customers with the exact location and up-to-date arrival time of their packages. Customers no longer need to worry about when their package will arrive thanks to IoT.

4. Automatic inventory replenishment

How many times have you thought of cooking an omelet for breakfast only to find out that you no longer have eggs in the refrigerator? Today, IoT offers the convenience of automatically replenishing our supplies on the brink of depletion. Take Egg Minder for example, a smart egg tray that keeps track of how many eggs are in the refrigerator and how close they are to expiring.  Similarly, Amazon developed a technology called Amazon Dash and Amazon Dash button, making auto-replenishment of items like fabric softener, paper towels – even cat food – a click away.

These and countless other applications demonstrate the impact that IoT is already having on the customer experience across industries. And the revolution is just getting started.

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