Customer experience is overtaking price and product quality as key metrics of brand differentiators and customer retention today. Retailers and organisations are keeping up with the demand for better consumer satisfaction with key technologies.

But one vital technology that organisations are deploying today is the Internet of Things (IoT) – sensors and devices connected across a digital network. Smart User Experience, the paradigm which integrates IoT technologies into customer experience, has taken centre stage in delivering growth for organisations in the past few years, and experts predict that this year will be a crucial point for its growth.

IoT explosion

With the fifth generation connectivity (5G) rolling out in numerous areas this year, industries are scrambling to leverage IoT applications to improve the customer experience. The number of connected devices – predicted to reach 24 billion by the end of the year – produces huge opportunities for organisations to deliver an improved experience to their patrons. A huge part of this will come from the amount of data generated from these devices. Research firm IDC estimates that around 29.4 trillion gigabytes of data will be generated by at least 41.6 billion connected IoT devices in the next five years. This data can enhance personalisation and transparency, and create insights into customer behaviours and needs.

While the outcomes of increased productivity and the decreased cost of deploying IoT in industries are undeniable, how is it changing customer experience overall? Here we will discuss some great real-world examples that you can use in your own organisation:

Faster and more customised services

In retail, 70% of surveyed decision-makers say they are ready to adopt the changes enabled by IoT, according to a study conducted by Zebra Technologies. Supermarkets like Asda use RFID sensors and IoT devices to drive sales and build customer loyalty. IoT connected devices like beacons, connected cameras, smart shelves and RFID devices provide access to huge amounts of customer data. This data in turn provide insights for more customised customer engagement. The data is also used to judge the effectiveness of store layouts, in-store promotions, and product interactions. These are analysed in real-time to capture customer preferences and paths to purchase. In turn, this identifies the best experience for customers. Intelligent staff scheduling from insights generated from IoT sensors also helps eliminate long queues – improving the customer journey in-store.

Services today are also increasingly at the fingertips of customers, who now expect their choices to be fulfilled after a few clicks. However, online groceries are struggling as brick-and-mortar stores implement smarter solutions. Essential Retail highlights how Tesco launched a digital channel on the IFTT platform to help consumers automate their shopping. This is a clear take on Amazon’s Dash IoT button which launched years ago, which helps customers track specific items in stores.

Real-time visibility

Customers today expect delivery to be convenient, fast, and flexible. Especially with the rise of direct to consumer marketing led by Amazon, consumers want real-time parcel tracking as an added service. In fulfilment services, DHL utilises IoT sensors in its warehouses and fleets to send continuous updates to its customers. This lets customers know the status and any troubles their parcel might encounter. In fleet management, Verizon Connect uses vehicle tracking technology to provide real-time insights regarding the fastest routes and to locate the closest field workers to the requesting parties. This decreases wait time for customers and provides them with accurate delivery estimates.

Better personalisation

Customers today also expect their IoT devices to adjust and improve services from the gathered data. For IoT devices in the home, iRobot customers are informed with custom notifications when there’s something wrong with the device. When repairmen are called, they can easily identify the problem through the vacuum’s sensors.

Companies like Hive go a step further. The home IoT device manufacturer recently partnered with Salesforce to analyse their customer data to anticipate device failures and notify users immediately. While the conditions are different for every home – be it weather, location, or usage patterns – Hive aims to create a baseline to better predict the needs of their customers from purchase to use.

Reimagined product and services

While the IoT revolution builds upon the efficiencies of past technologies, it also offers the opportunity to create innovative products and services. Last year saw the launch of the fully functional no-checkout retail store, Amazon Go. Currently, the only store that is fully automated, it enables customers to interact with products inside the store and use their mobile wallets to pay for the items. This creates a seamless experience for customers.

Startups like Mobike and other product-as-a-service platforms today are created in response to customers wanting to pay-per-use rather than lease. With more devices and data streams generated every day, IoT analytics will be a central technology in continuously creating better customer experience in the future.