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What Business Owners Need To Know About The Internet Of Things

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Another year of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has come and gone, giving us a peek at what the future could look like with its wide range of products, prototypes and concepts that may or may not make it to market.

One of the big themes this year was the Internet of Things (IoT). From a Bluetooth pregnancy test, to yoga tights equipped with wireless sensors that detect movement and offer coaching through an app, to an Internet-connected air freshener that you control with your mobile device, companies are finding myriad ways to embed technology into pretty much everything.

There's no doubt about it: IoT is a category that's on the rise. In fact, by 2020 it's projected that the number of IoT connected devices will triple to nearly 40 billion. And when you consider that every day the world generates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, it's staggering to even conceive the volume of information that will be shared via all of these new connected devices in the next five years.

While your business may not need to support a web-enabled temporary tattoo to measure UV levels, it's important to start paying attention to the IoT space now to prepare for the surge that's about to hit, especially given that IoT applications may have a potential economic impact of as much as $11.1 trillion per year by 2025.

Here are three things to keep in mind about IoT:

1. It's not just about the Internet of Things, it's about the Internet of Customers.
Behind every device, every app, every tweet and every "thing" is a customer, and it's these customers who are demanding IoT. According to a report from Goldman Sachs, customer demand is driving IoT adoption as they embrace new technology to improve health, energy savings and safety.

So, what are your customers asking for? Where are the gaps in what you're offering, and how could IoT fill that gap?

2. Numbers aren't enough.
An avalanche of data means nothing unless you can analyze it and extract meaning from it. Examining data in real time will enable you to make decisions based on insights, not instinct. The Salesforce 2015 State of Analytics report revealed that high-performing teams are 4.6 times more likely to use data to drive business decisions, focusing on areas like driving operational efficiencies (37 per cent), optimizing operational processes (35 per cent) and improving existing products, services and features.

Yes, you need to be prepared to keep data, but when you have a game plan for what to do with it, you can make a real difference. With Salesforce's IoT Cloud and Analytics Cloud, for example, businesses can connect with customers in a much deeper way. Using IoT-driven predictive intelligence, you can get a clear and complete picture of who your customers are, what they're doing and what they'll need today or tomorrow.

3. Don't focus on devices, focus on services.
Rather than trying to create the next web-enabled light bulb (because that's already been invented), consider the services needed to support these smart devices. From a marketing perspective, you are now able to stay connected to customers and really understand their preferences, turning one time touch points into a longer term relationship building opportunities.

These insights can shift your focus from campaign-driven marketing to cohesive customer journeys as more and more customers expect a seamless and personalized experience from the companies they do business with, every step of the way.

As we've seen at CES this year, smart devices are popping up everywhere you turn. But as a business owner, you have to be smarter when determining how to capture, analyze, and action on all the opportunities IoT connected devices generate.

David Borrelli is GM of Commercial Sales for Salesforce Canada, the Customer Success Platform and world's #1 CRM.

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