AI in the IoT customer journey enriches the experience

The typical customer experience has evolved with the adoption of AI and IoT, and consumers now expect organizations to include personalized features throughout the customer journey.

The rise of automation, AI and machine learning is beginning to disrupt the customer journey in ways that give organizations new opportunities for engaging consumers and prospects. When the average person is expected to own at least 13 connected devices by 2022, according to Cisco's VNI Forecast Highlights Tool, and IoT devices can automatically make decisions based on lightning analysis of troves of data, where do existing digital, marketing, sales, research and customer service strategies fit in?

A recent IBM Institute for Business Value study, titled "The AI-Enhanced Customer Experience," reported that 74% of respondents said they think AI will fundamentally change how they approach customer experience (CX). This requires a comprehensive and cohesive approach to use AI in augmenting CX at large, not solely focused on one IoT device or channel. Organizations can incorporate cognitive technologies that drive IoT functionality into purchase and decision funnel strategies at the onset of the IoT customer journey.

Define AI in the context of IoT

AI is key in myriad IoT devices that mimic cognitive functions across three key areas:

  1. Perception and vision. This is where IoT technologies -- such as computer vision and facial recognition -- trigger identity verification for biometric payment, account management or personalized features.
  2. Speech and language. Natural language processing makes sense of big data from conversations with smart home assistants, guiding users to action or resolution.
  3. Learning and analysis. This includes machine learning, deep learning and all the related algorithms that make sense of the data processed by edge IoT devices and in the cloud.

Within each phase of the traditional customer journey loop, seen in Figure 1 below, IoT touchpoints must capitalize on the aforementioned AI functions to improve CX and do so in concert with existing CX strategies across devices and non-IoT channels. When approached as a cohesive IoT customer journey strategy, organizations can deliver seemingly magical experiences that predict, surprise and delight customers with real-time relevancy as they traverse channels.

The customer journey loop
Figure 1. Four key steps make up the traditional customer journey loop.

Best practices to integrate AI in the IoT customer journey

Providing a seamless, omnichannel CX depends on making sense of multiple customer data sources and silos from IoT devices and other channels.

By the end of next year, Gartner predicts 85% of customer relationships will take place without human interaction, which will be possible because of improved IoT device functionality. Low customer patience for reidentification, the expectation of precision personalization and low attention spans make it more critical than ever to incorporate IoT touchpoints as part of a larger CX strategy to meet customers on their terms.

Examining the initial phases of the IoT customer journey, some of the more common AI applications that drive IoT features include those listed in Figure 2 below.

Examples of IoT uses for AI applications
Figure 2. AI affects CX on IoT devices during the formulation and precommerce phases of the customer journey loop.

Providing a seamless, omnichannel CX depends on making sense of multiple customer data sources and silos from IoT devices and other channels. Individual customer data is widely distributed within an organization, as different departments have access to varying amounts and types of data without connecting the dots.

Organizations must begin with data management as the initial step in identifying how IoT can play an effective role in CX. They must capture customer IoT behavior in a profile of preferences for every individual who connects to their account that can be accessed throughout the conversion funnel, regardless of touchpoint. From there, they can combine learning algorithms with customer profiles to automatically predict intent and offer personalized, relevant recommendations during the initial phases of the IoT customer journey.

Once organizations truly understand IoT's role within the customer journey -- not simply as an add-on -- they can begin to design for the experience customers want, rather than solely what can be accomplished on an individual IoT device. This creates an entire shift in how organizations solve customer problems and meet needs throughout the relationship with an organization's brand.

Part two of this two-part series will examine the latter phases of the IoT customer journey.

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