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When Things Become Customers v2.0

by Don Scheibenreif  |  September 28, 2015  |  Comments Off on When Things Become Customers v2.0

Earlier this year, my collegaue Jenny Sussin and I published Internet of Things Scenario: When Things Become Customers. It was our first research note exploring the idea of what happens in the world of digital business when internet connected things act as agents for human customers or simply become independent customers in their own right. It has been one of our more popular topics with clients and provoked a lot of discussion both inside and outside Gartner.

We decided to take the idea to the next level in our latest research note  Maverick* Research: When Things Become ‘People’. Jenny and I are joined by Jim Tully and Kristin Moyer as part of Gartner’s Maverick research series, where we deliberately expose unconventional thinking that may not agree with Gartner’s official positions. The focus of this research is to go beyond the initial note to detail our view on how things will go from providing information for humans (Things as Announcers) to make buying decisions (Things as Fixed or Adaptable Purchasers), to things becoming a buyer and customer in and of their own right (Things as Autonomous Purchasers). Plus we have advice for CIOs and IT leaders on what to do today to get ready, as more and more things get connected to the Internet.

Our belief is that things are gaining the capacity to buy, request service and even negotiate as long as the rules are pre-established by humans. Things are gaining intelligence and becoming more independent. If corporate entities are recognized as persons and have rights and responsibilities, it is reasonable to expect that things that become independent business entities could also be recognized as persons that have rights and responsibilities. Things as people and independent business entities will both buy and sell. Things that can act like customers represent new opportunities for all industries and also pose challenges for corporations that will sell to and service things as customers. For example, how do you sell to a smart vending machine? How do you onboard a vending machine? How do you negotiate with a vending machine? How do you provide customer service to a vending machine that is autonomous? What happens if the thing malfunctions? How do you tax a vending machine? Will a thing always be right?

The questions, as well as the possibilities, are endless. And, as 30 billion things are connected to the Internet by 2020, the very notion of what constitutes a customer and how you engage with them, will have to change.  What will you do when things become your customers?


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Category: business-moment  digital-business  internet-of-things  technology-and-emerging-trends  

Don Scheibenreif
Vice President and Distinguished Analyst
9 years at Gartner
9 years IT Industry

Don Scheibenreif is a Distinguished VP Analyst with Gartner's Customer Experience research group. He works with with Customer Experience and other IT leaders on how emerging trends and digital business will impact CX and enterprise digital transformation. Read Full Bio

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