Harnessing the Internet of Customers

Harnessing the Internet of Customers

We recently covered what we see as the big topics of of 2014 in “Predicting Cloud Integration trends in 2014”, including an explosion of endpoints, Big Data, and hybrid IT architectures.  This week we dive deeper into the explosion of endpoints. The explosion of endpoints is being driven by the rapid adoption of Cloud technologies, proliferation of mobile devices, and growing “Internet of Things” — connected devices, homes, and vehicles.    Salesforce’s Marc Benioff recently redefined all these endpoints as the “Internet of Customers” at Dreamforce 2013.    This is an apt description because connecting the internet of things is great — but they are just things.  It’s the people — customers — who use those things that are the real value to today’s connected business.  As a business, the Internet of Things can help you better understand how your customers use your products, share data, and collaborate across apps and networks.  With real-time integration and connectivity to the Internet of Customers, business will be able to more effectively support and innovate on the services and products that they deliver to their customers. So what are all the “things” your customers use today that can be connected?

  • Mobile – Regardless of form factor or connection type, businesses are realizing the value of the mobile platform in driving strategy, innovation, and productivity.  Now a key point of saturation is being reached where mobile traffic may eclipse fixed device traffic this year.  This means an enterprise has to be ready to connect with their customer wherever they are and through any device, with individualized marketing efforts and product support.
  • Sensors – More and more devices are now sending data back to servers to be translated into useful action.  Having sensors allows more data to be collected on customers and prospects, allowing for more tailored sales and marketing information to be sent.  Sensors can also allow enterprises to respond to support requests before they’re even identified by the customer.  For instance, sensors monitoring truck service intervals or retailer distribution networks can react in real-time to low stock at a location without a phone call, giving retail customers the chance to buy without looking elsewhere.
  • Cloud – This includes applications such as Salesforce.com, Pardot, Amazon Cloud Services, and many others.  Having these disparate information sources available and linked allows for one view of customers and prospects.  A complete picture of your customers provides the ability to offer better support, more tailored upsell offers, and better product development based on customer feedback and usage.

Recently, Business Insider pointed out how “GE added sensors to its engines and wrote an app that tracks those engines. Info about those engines can be included in the Salesforce 1 app used by GE’s employees.”  This is a great example of how this explosion of endpoints can be used, extending product longevity and safety, leading to happier customers. Another great example is the automotive industry in which a car’s CPU requires updates, meaning the owner must take the car to the dealership.  Not so if you are the car company of the future.  According to Wired, “Tesla’s fix can be conducted as an ‘over the air’ software update and doesn’t require owners to bring their cars to the dealer.

Let’s not forget that this connectivity doesn’t just happen.  The APIs are being built, but to actually make them worth something they need to be integrated with key operational apps — CRM, ERP, Business Intelligence tools, and other enterprise systems.   That makes integration the linchpin to success in this new world of endpoints — and the true ISP to the Internet of Customers.