“Who should ultimately design the product? The customer, of course.” – Philip Kotler.
I saw this quote recently, and thought ‘well isn’t that obvious’. However it didn’t take long for me to recollect a number of examples where it wasn’t obvious enough…remember ‘new Coke’ in 1985. The recipe was changed and outraged customers campaigned for it to be changed back. It took 79 days for consumer power to win out and for Coca Cola to relent.
This got me thinking about the Internet of Things (IoT) and what possible impacts the smart, connected consumer would have on product development – a world where the consumer really is now at the heart of shaping what they want to buy, where they want to buy it, what value it has to them and how they want to consume it (and indeed where the consumer is also a ‘product’ in their own right – just look at Facebook).
But as companies try to harness consumer insights, this creates its own challenges. Of particular interest is the ‘blurring’ of what a ‘product’ is and will be in the future. IoT will see a convergence of product development models, and the creation of a whole new definition of products – which includes the data generated by increasingly smart devices and indeed people themselves.
So what’s a product?
In the world of IoT, as discussed in this excellent article from Forbes, the meaning of the word ‘product’ is blurring. IoT not only enables new uses for devices, sensors and wearables, but actually redefines what a product is, how it is designed, developed, distributed used and even priced. And this includes the data and insight it creates which are becoming marketable in their own right. What is clear is the move from a product as a ‘capital’ item to more of a service offer.
As a demonstration of where IoT may shape the future direction of products, you need only consider the wrist watch and its evolution over many years to become the smart device we have now.
Watches were generally passive devices telling the time and date. With marketers looking to define new markets, they moved from being passive to more interactive. The inclusion of features such as Global Positioning System (GPS) to track speed and distance, sensors to detect altitude and depth, and the inclusion of heart rate monitoring enhanced their purpose. What we have is an integrated training and performance device, providing real-time data, any time, any place. Add the ability via GSM, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, to upload this data to the cloud, and a whole new level of analysis is possible. You can not only track your own data but can also compare against other people’s anonymised data to track performance improvement…and areas that need work. The humble watch is now a performance management device generating real insight that drives behaviour.
Combine the technological development outlined above with the expectations of Generations Y and Z (people born after 1980) and its clear how far this can go. The convergence of lifestyle elements such as music, web browsing, diary management, making payments, and an inbuilt health tracker is the start. Even now, product development teams will be looking at how else they can exploit the Internet of Things to create even more value by managing and informing even more aspects of your life.
The boundaries between product, service and experience are becoming increasingly blurred, which creates new challenges for design teams, fuelled by our desire to be continuously connected to each other and the things around us.
IoT is clearly a game changer that needs to be embraced, whether in developing consumer products and services, or B2B solutions for enterprises.
If you’re interested in finding out more about IoT, download a free copy of our IoT for Dummies Guide.