Connecting devices via the internet of things (IoT) will result in safer roads, more comfortable homes, and greater energy efficiency. IoT is also poised to be very big business.
As the number of IoT devices doubles to 30 billion, the IoT market will be worth close to $4 billion annually by 2020, McKinsey forecasts.
We discussed in this blog post the imperative of supporting the people who buy these billions of IoT products—and how infusing conversations into support leverages the know-how of early adopters.
But conversations have an important role to play in the pre-sale phase of the IoT customer journey, as well.
Many online purchases are fairly simple—e.g., choosing which shirt or headphones to buy. In these kinds of transactions, ratings and reviews can help shoppers narrow their options and ensure they’re making a good choice.
IoT promises to be much more complicated, however. Even though the industry is relatively young, there are already hundreds of vendors competing for market share, analyst firm Gartner says.
Plus, setting up home IoT equipment will require consumers to combine different devices from different manufacturers. It may be like the early stages of personal computing, where hobbyists led the way long before mainstream adoption.
The good news is, community conversations allow new users to interact with hobbyists and other experts. On communities, people can ask—and answer—the types of complex questions that product ratings and reviews don’t capture.
More qualifying opportunities
Those questions might include:
“Does this device work with my smart-home hub?”
“Will my Nest thermostat work if there’s a power outage?”
“How much cellular data does this equipment use every month?”
Because smart homes are an entirely new product category for most people, there will be a lot of confusion among IoT newbies.
At the same time, because consumers are accustomed to buying electronics online, many IoT purchases won’t happen in brick-and-mortar stores. That means shoppers will miss out on asking questions in person.
This is where online conversations can add value, giving IoT buyers the opportunity to engage with each other and determine what setup works best for them.
If brand representatives are actively engaging shoppers—as is possible on an online community—they can also help point shoppers in the right direction.
Because one of the fundamental problems in IoT is connecting devices (i.e., infrastructure), there’s a massive opportunity for companies that are already in the infrastructure business.
Deutsche Telekom—which you may know as the parent of T-Mobile in the US—spoke about this at a recent gathering held by European telecom group eTIS. For DT, smart homes are expected to be the “next big thing” in the upcoming 5 years.
On its smart home portal, smarthome.de, DT offers setup guides and product configuration details. These resources help new users gain confidence. DT also expects them to lead to an increase in equipment orders.
The brand’s experience illustrates the opportunities available in IoT. Inciting consumer conversations pre- and post-sale will only increase these opportunities, by guiding shoppers through purchase, configuration, and optimization.