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Survivor’s guide to the IoT arms race

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible)

New technologies breed invention, optimism, and innovation. They also bring in-fighting and struggles for market (and world) domination. The more things change (opens in new tab), the more they stay the same (opens in new tab).

The Internet of Things (IoT) remains in its infancy, but the global IoT market is estimated to grow from $157B in 2016 to $457B by 2020 (opens in new tab) -- a 33 per cent increase in just five years’ time. With so much opportunity and so many companies looking for a piece of the pie, the IoT seems destined to fall victim to the same intense competition for market control.

With an IoT arms race coming, brands need to determine how they will find success among their competitors. So how can brands ensure they’ll come out on top?

Pick your Battles

As expected, the usual suspects lead the way in the IoT market thus far. Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft wield the most firepower and have all invested in building the must-have devices. It can be a daunting task for smaller companies to compete against these giants in any arena, especially one like the IoT that is ripe for innovation.  

The most attention has been focused on each company’s smart assistants. The Google Assistant is reportedly the smartest – meaning, it is able to answer general knowledge questions at the highest rate – though Amazon is currently controlling the voice-controlled speaker market, which is an important avenue for consumers to discover smart assistants like Amazon’s Alexa. 

There is more to the IoT than smart assistants, however. Identifying the areas in the IoT space that have yet to be disrupted by these tech giants will be critical for companies. For example, use cases involving safety, education, and fitness are some of the areas where other players can excel. 

While the big companies will always offer a larger breadth of services and products, other brands can make up the difference by shining in specific areas where the technology giants are not investing as many resources or as much attention.

Secure your Devices to Secure Market Share

The rapid rate of development for connected devices is generally something that should work in the favour of companies. This is not always the case however, as security assurance is struggling to keep up with the pace of development. Data-hacking is a primary concern for consumers and consumer trust can play a big role in slowing down the rate of adoption.

Companies cannot overlook fears about IoT security, especially when it comes to securing physical homes and personal data. Giving cyber-criminals access to all connected devices in one’s home opens the door (possibly literally) to serious consequences. Brands need to be proactive in addressing security concerns. They can do so by testing products in multiple scenarios before releases, and by vetting products thoroughly to ensure there are no bugs for cyber-criminals to exploit.

If security isn’t taken seriously, companies risk losing customers’ business in the short and long term.

Become a Part of the Ecosystem

According to Business Insider, there will be 24 billion IoT devices (opens in new tab) installed by 2020. But IoT devices do not exist in a vacuum. Meaning, all these 24 billion devices will be part of a larger ecosystem, working in tandem to provide consumers with the best experiences. This is an important distinction for brands looking to stand out in the quickly crowding IoT market.

Companies should know they don’t have to go and create an entirely new platform by themselves. Instead, they need to use the ecosystem already in place to their advantage, leveraging existing platforms to develop their IoT products. This not only makes the development process more efficient, but also enhances the customer experience across solutions.

You must perfect the ecosystem experience to perfect the customer experience.

Put the IoT to the Test

The emergence of the IoT created a new avenue of communication between consumers and technology. This has left many consumers wondering aloud, “How does it work?” But before brands can answer this question, they must first answer a far more pressing one: “Does it work?” (opens in new tab)

The introduction of new technology can be intimidating for consumers, and their first interaction with a new product can determine the level of their interest in it moving forward. If a consumer has to ask a smart assistant the same thing three times before getting an answer, why would they continue going to their IoT device for answers to the same (or other) questions in the future? They wouldn’t. Not when they can stick to the proven methods they’ve used in the past; just type the question into a search bar and have the answer within seconds.

A product may work well in theory, it may even function perfectly when testing in-lab, but the results can vary when the product is released in the real world (opens in new tab) to real consumers – a key difference, since the real world is where products will flourish or falter. Lab testing doesn’t account for the number of real-life situations that consumers face when using a product – each individual consumer could potentially face a different issue due to their unique environment. Only actual consumers can provide brands with this situational feedback.

Deliver Seamless Experiences

Consumers are now in the driver’s seat -- a result of increasing options and intense fragmentation. With the on-demand economy flourishing, businesses are focused on the consumers’ niche interests and offering personalised solutions to enhance the customer experience. No longer are consumers reaching out to brands for solutions, brands are going directly to the consumer with the best offering for their situation.

The IoT market is no different when it comes to the increased pressure from consumers. As the IoT arms race builds to a fever pitch, success at all levels will depend on brands’ abilities to meet customer demands. As the world saw with Snapchat (opens in new tab), consumers will not stand for a poor user experience, and it can be the determining factor in the success of new product rollouts. 

No matter the size of a company or its IoT offerings, all consumers expect a seamless and secure user experience. That’s exactly what brands have to deliver if they want to survive in the burgeoning IoT market.

Ken Paetzold, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Applause (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible

Since joining Applause in 2015, Ken has told the story of data, helping brands understand market drivers and customer sentiment to make better business decisions.