The smart connected home is almost a reality, as I discovered on a recent visit to Unruly's connected home experience. From augmented reality shopping options for home furnishings at the touch of a button, voice activated shopbots giving food and wine pairings, cocktail recipes, to state of the art heart, health, and sleep monitors, air quality assessments, and everything in between, there’s no denying the extraordinary capabilities of our future homes.
Whether you think gadgets or robots catering to your every need would be delightful or lead to dystopia (I’m a Black Mirror fan!), they are set to revolutionise how we live, shop and even think. At the Unruly experience we talked a lot about how tech advancement will affect the way people shop, cook, sleep and relax in their homes. But that’s not all it’s going to change. How will it influence what we buy, which products we discover and why we stay loyal to brands? And what space will this leave for B2B marketers?
In B2B, we need to start planning what our role will be in this smart connected world. One crucial consideration will be how to avoid brand bypass. As consumers choose more and more of their purchases via intelligent systems, this could drastically change – and limit – the products and experiences they are exposed to.
Think about shouting at your Alexa tucked away in the corner of your kitchen whenever you need more milk, a new hair dryer, or a bottle of wine. Gradually, it will change its suggestions based on your previous purchases, perhaps suggesting the same electronics brand as your hair straighteners, or a selection of bottles made from your favourite grape.
This can create an echo-chamber where consumers stick to the same products because they aren’t exposed to others. But it’s not just consumer choice that could dictate this – business partnerships will influence results listings, nudging customers towards their own hard-won commercial partners.
Customers often don’t know which brand they want, or even which are available. But if they don’t specify when buying through smart devices, an algorithm will pick instead. Not having to decide which particular item to buy will sometimes be good for the consumer, and sometimes won’t be – they might end up paying a premium or missing the product that best fits their needs.
But it definitely won’t be good for individual companies trying to grow their market share in a crowded marketplace. Popular or promoted brands will scoop up extra sales, while newcomers could struggle to even get noticed, let alone added to your basket. B2C businesses will need smart strategies from B2B marketers to survive.
If the home is only a few years away from the ultimate new shopping mall, as B2B marketers how can we make sure our clients’ products are at the front of the shelves?
Striking high-profile partnerships and deals will be crucial to push your client’s products up the search results, and so will marketing outside the home, which will need to be effective enough to cement brand identity into the search, then buying, decision.
It’s not just B2C facing these new challenges in making their products stand out – the B2B community are far from immune. Key purchasers are acting more and more like consumers when buying business-related services, and they want their experience with your brand to be as slick and sophisticated as the products they buy in their personal life.
What’s more, as working from home becomes more and more common and the technology often more advanced at home than at work, the experience of buying business and personal products will converge.
The key to making sure you stand head and shoulders above the crowd is taking ownership of an issue that differentiates you. Wrap your brand around the issue or problem you solve and build an ecosystem of partnerships and communities which makes sure your brand stays visible and clearly defined.
For B2B companies who can adapt, the smart home provides an incredible opportunity to promote their services and snap up new business. After all, it won’t be too long before your clients are buying your products by talking to their hallway mirror...