or: We are celebrating +100k connected devices on one of our platforms and want to mark the moment :)
We were recently invited to talk at the IoT Convention about one of our most exciting customer cases: powering Conrad Connect - a B2C IoT platform for a German retailer of consumer electronics. The same week we gave our talk, we reached a milestone in managing the above mentioned platform: we celebrated passing 100,000 connected devices, much sooner than anticipated at the start of the project.
So we thought it’s a good way to mark the moment by writing about this particular use case of IoT for retail.
The disconnected experience of the connected consumer
Consumer IoT has been getting more mainstream lately but adoption rates are not as rapid as expected in some of the forecasts of past years. The two major areas of CIoT that have seen a steady growth are smart home and wearables. In 2016, there have been close to 80 million smart home devices and 100 million wearable devices delivered worldwide.
The buyers are usually the same, nearly half of the individuals in the connected-home market also own a wearable. But what is it that’s keeping the majority from turning into connected consumers?
Well, when you become the owner of more than one smart device, you will already encounter the number one barrier - a fragmented user experience. Your devices are only as smart as they are meant to be. Meaning that they are designed to address a singular aspect of smart living, disregarding how humans actually perceive their environment- as an ecosystem of interconnected experiences.
Temperature, lights, home entertainment, alarm system, appliances, they are all creating the smart home experience for you together. Ironically, the more smart home devices you get, the more disconnected your home gets. Closed ecosystems of compatible devices are one of the short-term solutions, but until a true cohesive environment is built-out, smart home and smart living devices will continue to be seen as gimmicks by the majority and adoption will be stalling.
From dumb catalogue to smart service with IoT for retail and e-commerce
Enhanced customer service in brick-and-mortar stores (all the way to the futuristic Amazon Go), supply chain optimisation and automated inventory management are the most popular applications of IoT for retail. But for retailers of smart consumer devices, there is a new opportunity opening up. The opportunity of solving the biggest frustration that their buyers experience with their smart products: a fragmented user experience.
As retailers are starting to find out, selling smart devices in an otherwise dumb product catalogue is not going to hold for too long. The device manufacturers all have their own webshops where the consumer can buy directly. Why wouldn’t they? Also, automatic replenishing models are picking up speed, of which Amazon Dash is probably the most famous example. Printers tracking print volumes and automatically ordering paper or ink cartridges are already bypassing retailers. Retailers need to innovate in order to retain connected customers and to gain new buyers of smart devices.
For our particular customer case, the innovation found to differentiate the smart products in the catalogue was in building a connected service around these devices. As a post-sales service, the retailer offers buyers a home for their smart devices in the form of an aggregation platform to which they can connect any smart device that they buy. The platform brings a number of benefits to both consumer and retailer.
Benefits of an IoT aggregation platform for the smart device owner
By leveraging the power of APIs and cloud-to-cloud integration, this B2C IoT platform allows buyers to finally have an overview of all their smart devices in one place. It thus eliminates the number one buyer frustration - a fragmented experience where they struggle with different applications and lack of interoperability between them and provides in turn a significantly improved user experience.
Going further, the platform allows smart device owners to start building automations between their smart devices and cloud services, moving towards a truly connected experience and towards achieving the promise of a smart home or smart living.
Benefits of an IoT aggregation platform for the retailer
From a marketing perspective, the number one benefit of the platform for the retailer is that it allows him to own the customer experience, which brings about a number of other connected advantages.
The retailer is best positioned now to open up new applications for their customers’ products that go beyond the original intent of the different manufacturers and that are based on various combinations of products. The retailer thus moves up the value chain from product to solution offering.
The platform provides the retailer with a rich source of information on what buyers do with the products after they buy, how they use them and in what combinations. He now has an open post-sales channel to stay in touch with customers, better understand them and to ultimately improve his service to increase customer retention rates. It also enables the retailer to provide an improved user experience and allows for better customer support.
The retailer now also has a distinct advantage over competitors and device manufactures and not only retains customers but can also gain new ones. The platform is open to any smart device owner and as it grows it acts as an innovative channel for new business: the convenience of buying new devices from the platform itself brings in customers that would have otherwise shopped elsewhere.
This is the story of Conrad Connect
..the platform that we are celebrating 100k connected devices for and it is only one particular use case of an enterprise leveraging the power of consumer IoT, in retail and e-commerce.
There are plenty of other domains where consumer IoT can be used by businesses looking to innovate: healthcare, insurance, telecom, most B2C companies can tap into the huge potential of IoT-enabled innovation across many business layers, from customer support, to marketing, sales, operations and supply chain. Here a few ideas in this contributor post on our blog.
If you are interested in a more in-depth technical view on how Waylay powers Conrad Connect - have a look at our CTO’s slide deck presented at the IoT Convention earlier in June 2017.