8 CRM Essentials for Manufacturers in the Internet of Things Era

A totally interconnected world where people, objects, companies, and devices stream information constantly across the Internet sounds like something out of science fiction. But the Internet of Things (IoT) is here, and it's gaining momentum. Manufacturing firms are among the early adopters of the IoT, with low-cost sensors routinely being used to provide real-time information about equipment status, location, and performance.

Increasingly, manufacturers are also making products that connect to the IoT. According to a recent survey conducted by Edelman Berland, "Business leaders surveyed estimate 42 percent of the products their respective companies produce contain IoT-embedded technology. In just two years, these leaders predict that half (50 percent) of all their products will contain IoT technology. And, in five years, they expect even larger growth—with an average estimate of 66 percent of their company's products containing IoT technology."

As manufacturers become more familiar with the benefits of the IoT, and seek more advanced applications, they are learning how to connect modern CRM solutions to their overall IoT strategy to further engage with customers and harness valuable customer insights.

How Can the IoT and CRM Software Help Manufacturers Connect with Customers?

In the past, manufacturers often had to rely on the extended supply chain to provide information about customers and end users. But connected products, using IoT capabilities, now offer manufacturers valuable data streams about product performance, customer reaction, and product life cycle trends. This information can help guide future product development, as well as sales and marketing strategies.

A CRM solution can help manufacturers use product, customer, and sales data for better business insight. The information within the CRM solution can be used to drive a better customer experience and design more effective sales and marketing campaigns. For example, manufacturers can use data collected from the units in the marketplace to predict future buying cycles. Data can show the typical life span of a product and warning signs of performance deterioration. Customers can be notified when their product is showing signs of wear and service or replacement is recommended. Data collected around performance characteristics can be used to provide customers with facts about benefits of upgrading to a new model or a larger capacity model, influencing the repair/replace decision. This type of fact-based selling is highly effective—especially when the data comes straight from the unit.

Use-case data can also contribute to highly targeted customer messages and campaigns, allowing manufacturers to make offers based on data trends and predictions for future preferences. Manufacturers are starting to adopt real-time offer and campaign management, a common strategy to help create a consistent customer experience across all platforms, ensuring greater customer and brand loyalty. Perhaps most importantly, customer data can be used by manufacturers to refine product design, improve performance features, and predict future inventory needs. Understanding the product’s life span helps manufacturers plan for new releases and target replacement campaigns to customers. The CRM system can also be used to manage interactions with partners, suppliers, and distributors, keeping the extended supply chain up to date about these important relationships. 

What Are the CRM Technology Drivers for the Internet of Things?

As manufacturers plan for customer engagement in the IoT, what are the most important capabilities they need in a CRM solution? Some of the key technology drivers are the same ones driving the IoT itself—mobile, cloud, big data, and social media. But there are other important considerations for manufacturers. Important CRM technology drivers include the following:

1. Mobile CRM. The IoT is powered by mobile connectivity, so the need to equip employees with mobile CRM is self-evident. The information within the CRM solution should be available to customer-facing employees anytime and anywhere, using secure mobile devices.

2. CRM in the cloud. A cloud-based CRM solution can offer manufacturers scalability and a rapid time to value. Implementation is usually faster than with traditional on-premises installations of CRM. In addition, deploying a CRM solution in the cloud reduces a company's hardware investment and allows the company to spread payments for the CRM solution out over time.

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