IT Enabling Industry 4.0 in Consumer Services Sector
Consumer is the most important thing for any business. Leading companies know that keeping today’s consumers needs to provide them with consistent brand experiences that inspire and motivate. Part of the brand experience is the product experience – which is related to manufacturing. But even with a focus on tasks, the brand experience includes a lot – such as on-time delivery, on-demand response, and new business models that make life easier.
Ways Industry 4.0 Benefits Consumers
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Global Positioning System (GPS) are very important for the supply chain, especially when it comes to warehousing, inventory management and shipping. These technologies provide accurate, real-time information about the availability and location of product parts between internal manufacturing sales and external partners, helping to improve activities for the betterment of all stakeholders. This ultimately benefits the consumer by providing increased exposure to available products and delivery status. RFID is also being used in retail stores and shopping malls to improve consumer experience.
Shoppers can have a 360-degree view of the product they want to try using the MemoMi Memory Mirror which creates a virtual testing environment. The customers can even change the color or pattern of products they are trying with simple gestures. RFID tags allow the interactive mirror to recognize the products automatically.
The first Amazon Go store enabled consumers to grab items and drop them off easily. The store automatically receives items on each buyer’s Amazon account, and sends them a digital receipt for their purchase.
It was revealed that they used Sensor Fusion, a combination of technology including cameras, RFID and sensors to make this happen.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Computers that can “think” like humans are capable of quickly processing information, drawing conclusions and making recommendations. Manufacturers can transform the consumer experience at an early stage of the buyer’s journey by improving the interaction by applying AI-driven analytics to their data. Manufacturers can use intelligent chat bots to quickly help consumers with common questions or concerns, or use intelligent data analytics to adjust email strategies or applications to suit the needs of consumers without human involvement.
LivePerson is a company providing enhanced messaging using AI which had revenue of about $200 million last year and is currently working with IBM Watson. The company is deploying the “Boot Assistant for Agent” model for some clients. The goal is to avoid the frustration that some people feel while dealing with a pure boot while still using technology to increase efficiency. At the moment the company feels that ordinary bots do not work, but special bots that can perform very normal and easy to handle tasks work better.
LivePerson has created a system in which humans and bots work together. The bot can handle very simple questions directly, but as the conversation becomes more complex, the bot hands over the conversation to the human operator. Then, the human operator can perform the complex tasks leaving the simple and easy tasks for the bot to do. This gives maximum time when human agents do things that only human agents can do at the moment and reduce the time by allowing bots to handle the simple and easy issues.
Virtual Reality (VR)
VR is changing the production process and assembly line configuration at the plant, but it is also giving manufacturers the opportunity to showcase their products or processes to consumers in a virtual environment. By bringing the product closer to the consumer and allowing them to be “tested” in practice, the shopping experience becomes much more realistic and profound, and builds confidence in a manufacturer and their product at the beginning of the buyer’s journey. One shot of VR, Augmented Reality (AR), allows manufacturing maintenance teams to place data readouts and digital images of internal systems on top of the actual physical view of working devices. This makes it easier for consumers to find a better product.
Ikea comes with the Ikea ARKit app, which allows users to get a 3D preview of selected furniture in the desired location in their homes / offices. Consumers can view fit and preferences in furniture items.
TopShop has built VR testing rooms for consumers in their Moscow store using Kinect Motion Sensing technology. Standing in front of the camera, consumers were able to see how the clothing items looked on their bodies without physically testing anything.
Working from home and other methods that started during epidemic will potentially accelerate the adoption of IoT for consumer goods. The first 5G IoT consumer electronics will provide new opportunities to maximize sales.
According to Research & Markets, the Global Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) packaging market is estimated at $514.4 billion. It is expected to reach $622.5 billion by 2027. FMCG operators have long used IoT devices and networks as a platform to increase global household sales. In addition to price inflation due to the global electronic component supply chain crisis caused by epidemics, the cost of IoT hardware and services will decrease in the coming years allowing FMCG companies a reason to spend a considerable budget in IoT solutions.
One of the best uses of IoT is smart packaging. This interactive packaging can be as simple as a QR code, readable via a smartphone or a device provided by the store. The code triggers an experience that can inform or facilitate payment of goods without having to stay in the cash register. Digital printing, RFID tags and NFC protocols enhance product connectivity through their packaging.
An example is the collaboration between Bombay Sapphire gin and Shazam App. They created a printed label that consumers can use to access exclusive AR content and video tips via their smartphones. Consumers are most receptive to product ideas and activities when they handle them in the store or wrap them up at home. This is the best time to use the two-way flow of data and marketing.
We have seen how IT is helping consumers to have better buying experience, let’s now have a look at how IT can help manufacturers to serve consumers better.
Online platforms and data analytics
E-commerce platforms have become much stronger over the years, and happily, it’s much easier to set up. With one place, manufacturers enjoy many benefits, such as presenting their products to a wider audience online. Many of these platforms also collect consumer lifecycle information to track patterns of consumer behavior over time. They can identify consumer preferences, most popular products, demand growth, and additional indicators that enable manufacturers to build consumer-oriented products and improve their service experience.
Sustainable manufacturing involves cutting off alternative energy and reducing harmful emissions by installing energy-efficient lighting, equipment and machinery. They also improve the shopping experience for many consumers. Studies also show that millennials, the largest living generation in the United States, are very environment conscious, and that sustainable manufacturers are attracting their attention and pockets as well.