IoT & Retail?

What’s next in the world for the Internet of Things and Retail Industry?

 ‘Amazon will buy Whole Foods for $13.4 billion’ was the headline that dominated the retail industry. This headline made me think about the countless possibilities that lay ahead in the world of online retail business. The immediate implication of such a business partnership is that Amazon will now more than ever be a formidable competitor to Walmart and also this move gives Amazon an opportunity to increase its brick and mortar presence.

While these are some obvious outcomes, let’s now consider some other possibilities especially if we consider the Internet of Things (IoT). After all, we are talking the leading online retail store that has not ceased to amaze us from Amazon Prime 2-day shipping through the ‘dash button,’ there is no end to how Amazon is making it easier for its consumer to make a purchase.

What is IoT?

Before I went further into this article, I wanted to describe IoT. Here’s an excerpt from 

The Internet of things (IoT) is the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles (smart devices), buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to collect and exchange data….Typically, IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications.

IoT:  When machines or assets have the intelligence to communicate with each other

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IoT-based businesses are pretty popular in the startup world. If you would like to find out which 10 IoT companies to be aware of… you can visit this Network World website. Here is a breakdown of where the IoT investments are going. This list has been compiled by Venture Scanner for the mentioned Network World article.

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Samsung’s Ticket to the Moon

While speaking of the IoT, the best current day example (that is not related to Amazon) I can think of is Samsung’s Family Hub Refrigeration Products. Samsung’s Ticket to the Moon ad was a great illustration of IoT. This ad explores a little girl's imagination of space exploration. After discovering she is out of rocketsicles, the Family Hub refrigerator becomes the means of communication to her father’s mobile device, in order to refill her supply (MPC Advertising).

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Amazon Dash Button was no April Fool’s Joke

The best implementation of IoT technology can be seen in Amazon Dash button. It is a thumb-size device that lets customer reorder everyday items like paper towels, laundry detergent, and toilet paper by merely clicking a button. Due to its release date (March 31, 2015), the initial public reaction was that Amazon was playing a prank on April Fool’s Day. However, almost 3 years later, Amazon Dash’s success is no joke! To find out more about how Amazon Dash is doing, read this article.

What is Amazon Dash Button & How does it work? Find out here.

Amazon + Whole Foods = ?

Now, going back to the transaction of the week, Amazon buying Whole Foods; what’s next? I think the possibilities are endless. Perhaps ingredients and recipe delivery services like Blue Apron will be added to the many possible add-ons by Amazon. Blue Apron is preparing for IPO, however, Amazon could prove to be a formidable competitor.  The sky is the limit in the world of internet of things and I can only express a ‘child-like’ wonder in my eyes (refer to the little girl in ticket to the moon) while imagining the possibilities of the IoT that Amazon will bring to consumers now that they have online and brick and mortar presence.

Rinki Mukherjee

Rinki Mukherjee

I am a marketing professional with more than 10 years’ experience. I currently work as a Design QC Specialist contractor with Chevron Creative Studio. I have worked in industries such as non-profit, healthcare, oil and gas, real estate, technology, education and consumer goods.

I recently earned my MBA from the University of Houston, BAUER School of Business with a focus in Marketing Analysis. Prior to that, I earned an Associates in Graphic Design from the Art Institute of Houston and Masters in English Literature from Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, India.

I was born and raised in India but now consider Houston my home. I am Membership Officer with Prospanica-Houston chapter and Director of Special Events-Marketing with American Marketing Association-Houston chapter.

Connect with Rinki on LinkedIn

Your Mistake with UX . . . Forgetting Your Employees

What comes to mind when you hear the word “User Experience,” or “UX” for short? If you are in marketing, images of grids and sketches likely pop into your head. Or perhaps, CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and mobile optimization.

Those are all important aspects, yet only a fraction of a truly great UX. Imagine you are overseeing a large event for your company, which is technically a component of marketing. Some digital advertising likely helped get your attendee to the event, but the digital component is only part of the picture. Think about the customer as they arrive.

  • Was it simple to find the location of the event?
  • Was parking easy?
  • Were they greeted immediately?
  • Do they know how to sign-in?
  • Were food/drinks provided?
  • Is there entertainment?
  • Did they have fun?

There are many questions for just an event. It can be overwhelming to look at one aspect of UX. Now think of all the components of your UX from digital to in-person.

Even with the challenges, there is some absolutely great UX out there. You can find inspiring experiences from online platforms to restaurants to museums. Have you ever been immersed in an engaging website, had an amazing meal surrounded by an even better atmosphere, or spent hours looking at one masterpiece after another? If so you have felt great UX.

But I have a problem with traditional UX which has come to my attention recently. How do your employees play into the equation?

They are your most valuable users and many times they are forgotten when it comes to developing a fluid UX. The goal of this article is to point out the importance of your employees as users and give some tips to create a complete UX which serves your team.

Why Do Employees Matter?

Simply put, happy employees are 12-20% more productive than unhappy employees (Fortune). Do you want to know one of the easiest ways to make employees happy?

Make their job easier.

There are some employees that will never be happy, however, many people want to do their job well, make money to care for their family, and feel valued. It’s hard to do all of those if a job is difficult because of poorly designed features.

It could be a lack of parking, a digital storage system which is a black hole, not having material for sales people, over-promising with a marketing campaign and then not delivering, or a thousand other items. All of these create a bad UX for the employee which in turn is passed to the customer through poor service.  

As a marketing professional, my team will be hired to work on campaigns, websites, design, SEO, and more. Yet, the thing we actually do is make work easier for people.

Let’s think practically.

  • Building or altering a website is fundamentally a way to make a company look better and feel a sense of pride.
  • Creating campaigns which properly reflect a company culture is really a way to let employees shine authentically.
  • Designing digital and print collateral helps sales teams, account managers, and more as they have proper material to do their job.

My secret when it comes to marketing is that I am always thinking of the employees.

  • If we change the website, how will that impact morale and daily routines?
  • How do we ensure the branding guide is simple to follow?
  • Do the campaigns match the personality of the company?
  • Is the marketing collateral easy to access and robust enough to meet multiple demands?

My team knows we will be loved by a company if we make the employees happy with marketing projects. They will be more efficient, sell more, feel pride, share campaigns, and know their employer cares about them first.

Example Time

Just so you know I am not all talk, let’s give an example. My business, Elisha Consulting, works with an amazing company, they are in the insurance industry. Their goal is to provide service which is excellent, cost-effective, timely, accurate, and responsive.

During our scope of work, my team developed what I like to call an “Iceberg Website.” These are websites where 90% of web pages are hidden to the public. You might ask why we didn’t create a “true intranet.” Well, because of UX.

We wanted information to be readily accessible and easy to use for employees. Our “Iceberg Website” has done exactly that and flows nicely for employees spanning multiple generations. Again, make it easy for employees, think of the least technologically savvy person in the company, you need to make UX great for them as well.

Back to the example.

Imagine all the items an insurance broker would need. Contact lists, forms, vendor information, downloadable collateral, calendar of events, and so much more. At first, we thought about building those items separately and giving instructions to access each. This is how most companies work.

Instead, we built a dashboard within the website which is password protected. Now, we have the dashboard automatically open when an employee opens their browser on a company computer. Within the dashboard, they are 1-3 clicks away from anything they need to do their job well.

Again, UX is about employees first. We dramatically cut the amount of time it took for people to find contact information, meeting details, marketing collateral, and more. Is that really marketing?

Or course.

Employees spend more time on what’s important, have more resources on sales calls, and are more efficient in their activities. Marketing has become an enormous part of any company, it is no longer just about campaigns.

As a marketer, our role is to make everything simpler. We help customers find services/products, provide valuable content to current and future customers, and, most importantly, design an ever-changing UX to support all users, especially employees.

A Few Tips

By now, I hope I made an impact on your thought process to really think about UX for your employees. Below are a few tips to help get you started.

Objectively examine your UX through the eyes of your employees.

Make a list of honest questions, and don’t answer them as you will be biased. Some of the questions could be:

  • Do your employees have the items it takes to be successful?
  • Are they proud of where they work?
  • Do they share your marketing campaigns online?
  • Can they easily find digital materials?

Now you can do a few things.

  • Make an anonymous survey for people to fill out for honest feedback, this is not my preferred activity as the results are usually skewed.
  • Ask for answers in-person or hire a specialist to ask your questions. Here is a caveat, if you are worried the responses won’t be honest that means you have a cultural problem. Employees that feel safe will share honestly knowing there won't be repercussions.
  • Observe with intention. I am a former anthropologist where I spent months and sometimes years in participant-observation research studies. You will be shocked at what you see when you really open your eyes.

After you do one or more of the above, start to make a list of how to improve your UX for your employees. Think about your employees before you worry about your customers. They are your most valuable asset and the one which is generally forgotten when it comes to building a phenomenal UX.

Take the necessary time to improve their lives and over time you will see your business perform better.

Elisha Consulting is Here to Help

Maybe you have never thought about the above items. I think about it daily. My obsession is to improve UX for all stakeholders, with employees being at the top of the list.

Contact Elisha Consulting if you would like to know more about UX and take your business to greater heights.

Matt Avery