After a slow start, it looks as if the Internet of Things is finally gaining momentum with major brands from Google and Samsung to LG and beyond out in force at this year’s Mobile World Congress. As well as a wealth of digital consumer solutions, the new breed of connected devices also offer incredible new sources of revenue and customer insights for businesses, but only if they have the systems in place to collect and analyze the data, and even then, only if those systems are compliant with the upcoming GDPR regulation.
According to the latest figures from the GSMA (the global mobile operators’ trade association) published at MWC, by 2025 there will be 25 billion devices connected to the web. What’s more, that figure does not include the 5.9 billion smartphones that will also be in constant use by the same date.
“We are at the dawn of a new era in mobile with the imminent launch of the first 5G networks and the Internet of Things poised to further transform the way we live and work,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA.
The data deluge
International Data Corporation estimates that within the next decade, the average consumer will interact with a connected device of some form – and therefore generate data – once every 18 seconds. All of which will result in 1 trillion gigabytes of data being generated every year (ten times the total amount generated in 2016).
This is a massive opportunity for any consumer-facing brand to leverage insights to get closer to their customers, improve products and services, and enhance the customer journey.
Get ready for regulations
However, there is a catch. Companies will only be able to benefit from this data gold rush if they have the right systems in place, and if those systems are GDPR-ready.
The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect May 25th 2018, enforcing a number of data protection laws. From that point, any company that conducts business with EU citizens, no matter where in the world it is headquartered, will have to robustly protect any personal data they collect and cede ultimate control of how it is used to the individual concerned.
A golden opportunity
Rather than panic, or view the GDRP as a means of stifling business, it should be viewed as a golden opportunity to build stronger relationships with more customers and to thoroughly secure and enhance data systems, to comply with the regulations and to be able to cope with the data deluge that will soon come when the IoT becomes the next big thing.
“Today, most companies don’t have the technical capacity to effectively handle the sheer volume of data that is set to grow exponentially in years to come,” explains Arnaud de Lacoste, Sitel Group CMO and co-founder. “Compliance with the law, covering not only citizen empowerment but also data security, presents an unprecedented opportunity to improve your brand image in the eyes of your customers.”
What’s more, as Mats Granryd points out, the GDPR is already having a knock-on effect around the world, with other countries and regions now examining their own data protection laws and looking at ways to bring them into line with what is happening in Europe: “To unleash the full power of intelligent connectivity we need a regulatory environment that is fit for the digital age.[One that includes] the application of same regulation for equivalent digital services and the ability to harmonize international privacy and data protection rules.”
In other words, the more countries that have similar standards, the more easily data can flow.
A clear business advantage
Giving consumers greater transparency and being straightforward in communicating how and why their data is used, will increase their loyalty. And studies bear this out.
While 55% of consumers have abandoned an online purchase over concerns about personal data (KPMG), Hub Institute research finds 91% of shoppers are more likely to use and to recommend a brand that is genuinely transparent. Likewise, two thirds of consumers claim they’ll more likely trust a company who explains its data processing policy in very clear, simple terms, while 74% say they would show more loyalty to a brand that explicitly commits to protecting their data.
“By making it easy for your customers to find out and understand how you process data and by making your use of this data transparent, you facilitate their online journey and improve the user experience,” explains Arnaud de Lacoste.
So don’t wait until May to start building a deeper connection with your customers.