Bestselling author Shep Hypken—the “Chief Amazement Officer” at Shephard Presentations—makes a rock-solid case for why customer experience has advanced to the level of 21st-century table stakes: “New research proves that consumers are expecting, if not demanding, highly personalized experiences,” Hypken writes in Forbes. “And the good news for those businesses that can deliver is that customers are typically willing to spend more when they receive such custom-tailored service.”
Enter the Internet of Things (IoT), which through interconnected devices and strong data analytics makes an entirely new level of customer surprise, delight and convenience possible. What’s more, the IoT brings relevant experiences and information to consumers, whether to facilitate the operation of smart homes or to provide relevant health and wellness data that can be shared with medical professionals.
Here are three examples of how IoT and advanced high-tech are building unprecedented levels of consumer connection and engagement today.
Checking Out Stores Without Checkout Lines
Amazon is testing a new concept in brick-and-mortar shopping that aims to eradicate the bane of every shopper’s existence: the checkout line. The Amazon Go store in Seattle combines machine vision, IoT sensors and a mobile app swiped at the store entrance to create what it calls “just walk out technology.” The system tallies items as the customer places them in a shopping bag (or subtracts them when returned to the shelves) and charges their linked Amazon account accordingly.
This frees the customer to simply leave the store when done shopping, while Amazon in the process collects data to analyze and leverage for further insights. The potential exists to send out personalized coupons for future shopping runs, or guide shoppers via their mobile device to where they can find their favorite products. Eventually, such systems will also analyze shopping lists and alert customers when items are out of stock or going on sale.
Jon Stine, global director retail sales at Intel, says the Amazon Go stores are true game changers because “these are not pilots built to prove technology’s value. Hardly. Understand them as first deployments—soon to be followed by second, third, fourth and thousandth deployments.”
Computer vision also comes into play where smart retail stores are concerned. Founded as a brick-and-mortar retailer in 1998, JD.com has moved from strength to strength, first as an online merchant and most recently with its stores that employ optimized image processing and computer vision technologies. In an unmanned store in the lobby of JD.com’s Beijing headquarters, customers can look up at a camera and, in that instant, pay for the products they walk out with. The cameras can even identify members of the store’s “Jindong PLUS” loyalty program, while smart shelving offers personalized discounts.