One of my favourite presentations at this year’s Gartner IT Symposium event series, is one that Don Scheibenreif and I developed as part of our long term work on machine customers. This emerging megatrend of the 2020s and 2030s is one that we have been researching and writing about for several years. One way of explaining it is this – business leaders will end up thinking a lot less about the internet and connected devices as a route to market. That is the world of electronic channels and digital commerce. Instead the bigger concern and growth opportunity will lie in connected machines becoming the market. In many circumstances, smart machines will be superior at shopping and buying. So we will delegate that customer ‘work’ to them. The trouble is, that like any multi-year megatrend that gradually transitions us from one world to another, it can be hard for people to grasp at first. It requires us to re-frame our mindsets. So our Symposium presentation brought it to life with ten examples.
Some of the machines we chose are familiar and obvious, others less so. Some are industrial and some are consumer. Some are things we hardly think of as machines at all, but when they get connected that’s what they become. Here is the list we chose. It’s not a “top” ten. It is an illustrative ten. Each one helps to explain the kinds of things that machines will buy and some of the market characteristics and challenges that will be involved.
- Vehicle. Becoming increasingly autonomous, it can move itself to the point of purchase.
- Road. Becoming increasingly instrumented and able to sense its own repair needs.
- Factory robot. That could order services and upgrades for itself and even insurance.
- Buying algorithm. These already dominate financial markets but could extend to many other domains.
- Meeting room. Why employ a human to order coffee and danish, or a replacement for the broken chair?
- Drinks cooler. Every convenience store could benefit from a beverage mix that is better optimised for its micro-market.
- Vanity mirror. Imagine what Lululemon’s mirror can see of you. Your personal shopper of the future awaits?
- Kitchen appliance. Tired of waiting for the reordering fridge? There’s nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has finally come.
- Domestic robot. Those scuttling floor cleaners need supplies. They also remap your floor daily. What can they see you need next?
- Intelligent assistant. “Mark I am going to switch your provider for a better deal, in line with the parameters we agreed – OK?” “Yes Alexa, thanks”.
What machines would you add? And what would they be buying on your behalf? Let’s face it, a lot of consumer shopping and business procurement is a time consuming chore that we are not particularly good at. The machines will often be better at buying for us. And not too far beyond that, they will be buying for themselves. But that’s a story for another time.