2014 will mark the year, the “Connected Home” (aka, “The Internet of Things”) will begin its ascent from the Early Adopter stage to the Early Majority stage (as defined by Geoffrey Moore in Crossing the Chasm, 2002, Harper Collins). Google’s acquisition of Nest, the emergence of new innovators including LIFX for lighting, Lockitron for locks, and whole home system integrator (e.g, SmartThings) combined with products from AT&T, Crockpot, Samsung, LG and other manufacturers will gain momentum and begin its path to commonplace by the end of this year. Bosch Software Innovations predicts that 6 billion devices will have internet connectivity by 2015.
The key to the build up will be in the overall design, connectivity and simplicity of these products and applications. As Neat’s success came largely as a result of its exceptional ease of use, so too will others in this space. The clear winner will be the one that offers plug and play functionality for all the elements of the connected home.
The upside opportunities are endless: increased security, energy savings, economic stimulus via increased manufacturing output, consumer sales, etc. However, there is a downside: once everything is connected, how do we throttle the power held by those that own the connections?
I don’t expect ubiquity in 2014, but rather the beginning of the run up. Let the games begin….
If this works, Vinay Mehta is my new hero!!
3D printing will arrive in 2014. Here are 5 ways you’ll see 3D printing used in 2014
1. Parents using 3D printers to create miniature models of their newborns. Creepy? A little, but new parents do interesting things.
2. Trade show gimmicks. 3D printers will be used at more and more trades shows to attract booth traffic and build product awareness.
3. As give-aways. In much the same was as iPods, iPads and other new gadgets were used as promotional items, 3D printers will be the swag of choice in 2014
4. In schools. They are already popping up in colleges and universities, but in 2014 primary and secondary schools will acquire some and it will become a topic of significant conversation as kids figure out “interesting” things to do with 3D printers
5. On the news. 2014 will be the year a 3D printer is used to do something fantastic that will create major headlines around the world. Hopefully, that event will be an overwhelming positive one.
For users of technology products, user experience neither begins nor ends at the interface. Users will judge the value of your product based on a variety of factors that surround the ecosystem of your product. The good news is that you control all of them. Therefore, you have many opportunities to enhance their experience beyond the interface. Each of the following eight areas affect the user experience:
- Marketing Content – Sales consultant Jill Konrath reminds us that your prospect is over 60% of the way through their sales process before they contact your company. This means they’ve already researched your product, your company, your competition and may have already spoken to your customers. Does your current content support your value proposition during this phase, or does it sabotage it?
- Sales Process – Are your sales reps in tune with the way today’s buyers buy? Are they process-driven? Do they value the discovery process, or do they “show up and throw up,” with endless demos, feature speak and inwardly focused messaging? Do they document and feedback the problems of their prospects to ensure understanding? Do they align your product’s capabilities to the solutions to those problems?
- Professional Services/Onboarding – Do you have a formalized, metric-driven onboarding process lead by highly skilled implementation pros? Are you constantly measuring the efficiency with which they onboard clients to ensure each client’s early experience in your environment is a great one? Do you encourage (demand) training and professional development for implementation reps so they can constantly improve? Do you hold leaders accountable for new user success?
- Technical Support – Is your technical support team optimized? Are they rewarded and recognized based on the outcomes that most affect client satisfaction and user experience? Speed to answer, time on the phone, # calls handled are all solid measures, but they don’t necessarily speak to enhanced user experience. Review your help desk metrics and make sure they are designed to drive user satisfaction
- User Documentation – Increasingly, users want to self-serve. Trends indicate they want to explore solutions on their own and try and solve problems without speaking or chatting with your reps. That’s good news – as long as your content is up to the task. Review all of your user content for completeness and accessibility. Don’t get caught believing you have to create all of this content yourself. Curate information from outside sources that can help users self-serve. Develop an interface that makes accessing and consuming self-serve content easy.
- Platform – Is your solution part of a larger platform that allows users to stay put within a single environment while accessing other services? Do you integrate with other systems via single-sign-on? Do you participate in industry data standardization protocols? Consider doing so in order to establish your solution as a hub they have no reason to exit.
- Consulting – Do you offer consulting services through which users can expand the value of your solution? How often do you lament that fact that users only realize a small portion of the total value of your product? This often happens because they simply aren’t aware of the full value. A strong consulting team can help users apply your product to a wider variety of challenges thus increasing your value and enhancing users’ overall experience.
- Industry Thought Leadership – Are you consistently providing users with an opportunity to learn more about their business, seek counsel from your other clients and gain insight into your road map and vision? Consider conducting frequent seminars, webinars and conferences where clients and prospects can meet and exchange ideas. Develop symposia in which you go onsite to client locations and host an information sharing session focused on an building awareness of your solution beyond your core user (i.e., look for ways other users within the same company can begin using your product).
A key value of enhancing the user experience beyond the interface is to guard against losing business to a pretty face, i.e., if a competitor steps up his game from an interface perspective, you still have many more variables in your favor to win the business while your development team enhances your product’s look and feel. Identify opportunities in each of the eight areas above and enhance the user experience beyond the interface.
I'm guessing this was a lame radio gag, but it does underscore the importance of clarity. Don't leave any opportunity for your audience to misinterpret your message.
1. To whom are you speaking? – The answer to this question should convince you that your marketers have properly identified their audience, segmented appropriately and are sufficiently focused on the right market for your product.
2. Why should they care? – The answer to this question should convince you that your marketers have properly positioned your product for this audience.
3. Can you say it with fewer words? – The answer to this question forces your marketers to develop clear and concise messaging.
4. So what? – The answer to this question should convince you that your marketers have identified a problem in the market.
5. How do you know? – The answer to this question should convince you that your marketers have developed and measured the appropriate metrics to ensure continuous improvement and enhanced ROI.
I hope we disagree. I hope we disagree a lot. If we disagree:
1. We likely come at the same problem from different perspectives. This is good. This is vital.
2. We can debate and defend our positions to each other. This will force us to prove our points though examples, data and information that support our positions
3. We will be required to answer hard questions posed by one another. Better to pose and address these questions among ourselves than from the market at large.
4. We will identify the strengths and flaws in our position. We will enhance our strengths and improve our weaknesses.
5. We will learn from one another. Isn’t that the point?