Whenever large news outlets cover the Internet Of Things, they can lurch between the dystopic and the utopian. However, one thing they have in common that they usually focus on big corporations like Amazon Web Services and Google’s Cloud. These service providers are developing and manufacturing products that are already part of our daily lives (over 100 million Amazon Alexa compatible devices have now been sold). But while they may be dominant, they are also increasingly making their platforms available for small business use. The IoT is not solely the domain of big business and small business can put the technology to fantastic use to reduce costs and maximise profits. If you are a small business owner, here are just a few ways the IoT can be put to use to help your company.
Can Help You Care For Your Customers
Excellent customer service creates strong customer loyalty. Imagine if your customer has a problem with your product and without needing to send out an engineer or technician, you can fix the problem as soon as you are aware of it. The IoT can enable this. Imagine if you own a portfolio of properties, and you would like to regulate their temperature or air quality for the optimal use of your tenants. IoT can help you do this without leaving your office. IoT turns the product or service you deliver into a medium for communication between you and your clients. This means the communication can continue long after the initial purchase is complete. IoT allows for your after service care to be streamlined. You do not need to operate a helpline for 24 hours. Within a few clicks, a problem can be reported and solved with any device communicating between you and your client. This reduces your costs as there is less travel needed and many problems could be solved concurrently without the need to leave an office.
If you are a service provider, the convenience IOT can offer you and your customer may be less apparent. But with a little creative thought, the IoT can help in much the same way. For instance, if you are a cleaning service, you may have a regular contract with a business. Rather than offering to clean at regular timed intervals with IoT motion sensors, you could offer to clean once there has been a certain amount of footfall or traffic within an office. This would give your customer better service, cleaning more at busier periods and less when it is not needed. It could also help free you up, too, as you can clean on demand and potentially create more capacity with the same workforce. This is a simple change in a service agreement that could mutually benefit both parties and would only be possible using basic IoT technology.
Can Help You Understand Your Consumers
The IoT can help you understand your consumers in a wide variety of ways. Eye Gaze technology currently helps many thousands of people communicate via their eye control, focusing on tablet devices. If you applied the same technology to a storefront window, you could analyze your shop front’s success in attracting the eye of consumers. A real estate office could quickly discover which properties are generating the most attention. They could use the data quickly by boosting the property valuation or accumulating and analyzing the data. Is there a prominent position in the window or a particular photographer whose properties always draw the eye? The motion sensors that detect footfall, described earlier, could quickly ascertain which aisles your customers spend the most time in, and you could place your most profitable offers in that prime position. They could measure how quickly a customer navigates a store, and you could use this to either find ways to increase or decrease the time a customer spends with you depending on your business’ priorities.
The IoT can generate data, and data can be used as a tool for analysis. Think of a question that you would love to know about your consumers as a small business owner. What data do you need to answer that question? How can simple IOT technology provide that data? That simple flow of questions will help you quickly identify your business’s IoT tools that can harness for profit. This is the foundation for a solid IoT business strategy.
You Can Keep Your Business Operating While Out Of Office
If you are often out of town with work or even spend most of your working day in transit, ensuring your office premises is open for business can be a head-scratching task. You may need to curtail the amount of time you can be with customers while you await deliveries or even need to ensure that you have time each week to catch up at the office desktop with the paperwork. The IoT can remove these barriers to business quickly. For instance, a smart lock could mean you could open up your warehouse for delivery drivers, even when you were not on your premises. An invoice app could mean you can instantly send an invoice without needing to rush back to the office. IoT, therefore, can help you keep your business operating at peak capacity. It can reduce your overheads as it can reduce staffing costs too. This is especially useful in today’s climate where logistics are so advanced a small business can be selling around the world 24 hours a day. This would be impossible without digital technology; the IoT takes this one step further and reduces your need to be staffing the office even during regular staff hours. You can use this time to focus on core business activity. Even the time taken commuting between clients can be productive. The more integrated your IoT, the more capacity you and your colleagues have to work remotely. IoT is about communication over distance. The more nodes of communication you have, the more distance you can be. If your whole warehouse is automated, for instance, you can focus your team on logistics and delivery. IoT can provide cost benefits by reducing the reliance on a workforce to ‘man the fort,’ so to speak.
It Can Place Your Product Onto A Bigger Platform
It is expensive to develop and integrate IoT technology from scratch and divert attention and focus from core activity. However, there is no need when the big players are already providing that platform for you. In fact, utilizing their platforms can be a fantastic way to develop your customer base. If you have an innovative new way of using their tools or an original product concept that integrates their IoT, get in touch with them. They will be keen to showcase how their platform can help small businesses. They will have extensive marketing teams with big budgets that you can utilize through mutually beneficial cross-promotion. These large companies need platform users, and the best way to attract platform users is to highlight the benefits available. If your product or service can be packaged to highlight their strengths to similar businesses, they will be keen to spotlight you. A spotlight from a global company can transform the reach of your business overnight. Google is so keen to promote their services to small businesses they launched free tools to entice users to their service. Showcasing how their IoT has helped you is the type of case study that lends credibility to their service.
You Can Implement IOT Immediately
The internet of things is often perceived as futuristic, but the truth is that the future is already very much here. You can find numerous IoT devices on the market that can immediately be integrated into your working practice to improve cost-effectiveness, customer service, or productivity. Countless products are already affordable and easy to use. It may be the case that you are already using the IoT without even realizing that the technology can be classed as IoT. Do you regulate your warehouse temperature remotely? Are your CCTV cameras able to stream footage to a remote desktop or mobile phone? Then your business is already harnessing IoT technology. Do you track your deliveries via GPS? Then that vehicle is part of your IoT network. Many small businesses have become IoT operations without even realizing it. However, taking the time to think about each of the devices you use that are part of the IoT is beneficial. Considering your IoT use and future strategy will help you determine if you can further integrate the IoT you already use into your business strategy or utilize them in a more interconnected manner.
The IoT is a growing market that people are investing a lot of money into. If you can figure out an IoT strategy, you will have the edge over similarly sized competitors. IoT implementation could see you quickly catapult yourself into becoming an industry leader at the forefront of innovation. The IoT opportunities for small businesses will grow exponentially in the coming years and so getting ahead of the trend now can ensure business sustainability long into the future.
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