The next major battlefront in technology will take place in your living room… and your dining room, kitchen, bathroom, garage…. The major players in both hardware and software – Apple, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Amazon – are all taking position in the field, getting ready to square off. All of these big guns have already made their way into the home through gaming and entertainment, whether on console platforms or via the mobile device that never leaves your side. This has created a beachhead to give access to the whole home ecosystem, enabling them to drive deeper into the home and providing them with deeper customer insight they can deploy across their entire relationship with the consumer across every kind of device.
Let’s look at some of the recent moves the combatants have made that are changing the game of customer experience:
- Apple announced HomeKit, a set of tools that will let users easily control home devices (heating and cooling appliances, refrigerators, lights, webcams, security systems and so on) from their iPhone or iPad.
- Google acquired Nest’s sleek smart thermostat system, and is moving rapidly toward an integrated strategy that will extend its presence across the home ecosystem through Google Wear, Glass and Watch.
- Samsung just announced the acquisition of home automation start-up SmartThings.
- Amazon is buying Twitch, an online video platform and community for gamers where people discuss games or watch others as they play.
What is all this activity really about? Context. Individually, products alone provide singular features and offer value within their respective functions, whether that is a thermostat, security, time, or gaming. But combined, the way the parts work together create sources of customer value far beyond their individual use. In a way, these tech companies are trying to avoid the mistakes made by the U.S. railroad industry in the mid-20th century. Railroad companies focused on their product (trains) rather than on the context that customers had for them (transportation). As a result, railroads were basically kicked to the curb as people flocked to the cars and highways that still form the main transportation arteries throughout the U.S.
To succeed, companies need the ability to create customer value in a multi-contextual world. Simply put, context is king. The ability to create more and more channels to enter the ecosystem, whether via mobile apps, home sensors, and games, creates a competitive advantage and, as a whole, a frictionless customer experience. Crucially, these services need to be designed with a holistic view, as the value of the ecosystem is both a competitive necessity and an emerging customer expectation of seamless integration. Moreover, you will see that many of these services come at a very low price point as free mobile applications allow companies to create a hub of customer value and, just as important, opportunities for ecosystem end to end value for businesses.
In this battle, there is another front opening as well in terms of whether this will evolve via open standards, such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) – with many services supporting multiple platforms – or be tightly woven to the provider’s ecosystem. Samsung has clearly opted for the open integration model, while other players are experimenting with both approaches.
How will this affect enterprise customer experience strategies? An ecosystem of various capabilities, seamlessly linked, has the potential to break down both product focused siloes, increase customer value and create greater top line revenues than the disparate parts. Perhaps most important, it could create a competitive barrier, or at least an innovation stop-gap, to keep up with the continuously changing customer technology landscape.
The lines in the sand are taking shape! Where do you want to be? Most important, which side is vital for your success?