We’re continuing our discussion on actionable guidelines that small business owners can start taking to jumpstart their Internet of Things strategy. So far we’ve mentioned the importance of taking small and incremental steps to find ways to gather data from physical devices, whether that involves setting up a Nest smart thermostat in your building or giving out Fitbits to help your employees monitor their health. Leveraging a web call service like IFTTT (“If this then that”) can also help you experiment with using social and cloud channels like Instagram, Dropbox, or Twitter in order to perform basic tasks to optimize your digital world.
Let’s continue the discussion here with some more strategic guidelines . . .
Look for Ways to Delight Your Customers
The Internet of Things really represents the third wave of the Internet in which people are connecting to objects and tracking the feedback those objects and devices can provide. This kind of real-time communications is already redefining the expectations around customer experience and that trend is only going to continue in force. Consider the ways today that customers expect to be able to track the delivery of their packages or interact with QR codes to sign up for new services. These features are just scratching the service of the unlimited possibilities for optimizing the customer experience through real time sensor and object tracking.
As you start to experiment and gain more familiarity with the Internet of Things, you’ll gain confidence and want to start showcasing the possibilities to your customers. One emerging application is in the area of inventory management and tracking. Using RFID tags on inventory stacks can provide customers with real time information about the status or “hold” of an item that is out of stock, but available at another nearby location. The idea of never running out of stock, or else at least keeping the customer continually in the loop of where the size they want is located and how they can get it, can provide business owners today with huge competitive advantages that will ensure many happy customers.
The key here is to try and predict behaviors and anticipate trends and provide your customers with what they want even before they know they want it. Leveraging the Internet of Things and adding sensor data to enhance real time communications on the status of your stock can be the first way to really prove the value of this new technology within your supply chain. Increase Agility and Scale Implementing new devices and sensors to track the line of business is a great move. But it’s critical to capture and use the new forms of data generated from these devices to improve your workflow, gain new trending insights, and ultimately gain competitive advantage. By gathering new forms of object data, you’ll be better positioned to respond more quickly to competition, customer demand, and changing market conditions.
As your data stream grows and becomes more complex, you’ll want to ensure that you have an adequate platform for adequately interpreting these new forms of information. For instance, you might consider a product like Splunk that specializes in gathering and interpreting “machine data” files such as application logs, point of sale logs, server logs, virtual machine logs, web proxy logs, message queues, sensor data, and GPS data. The key here is to ensure that your data environment scales up and folds into your Internet of Things strategy. As you implement new sensor/RFID tracking capabilities case by case, you’ll hopefully begin to see a nice shift in focus from crisis management (i.e., stock replenishment and reordering) to real time notifications. When you provide customers with means to track delivery of new shipments of their favorite out of stock product from the warehouse to their front door, or direct them to an alternate pickup location, you’ve gone a long way to ensuring their loyalty and trust.