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Companies use IoT tech to personalize products, enhance consumer appeal

Nov 22, 20165 mins
Big DataInternet of Things

STYR, BOLTT and Sensoria use IoT sensors and data analysis to personalize products. The approach allows them to have an ongoing relationship with their customers.

Personalized vitamins? Sneakers that tell you how to run better? T-shirts that request help if you collapse while running?

Welcome to the future where products both help and watch out for you.

How are such products designed? How can thousands of products be personalized?

How do such hybrid products impact the bottom line and improve customer retention?

Designing the next big hit

Consumer goods have changed. The old approach of mass production is changing to mass personalization. Discrete products are provided in the form of services instead. When you do that, customer loyalty and retention improves.

How does this new approach work? What are the best practices?

1. Don’t sell it. Offer a subscription.

“Select one of our great blades, and we’ll send ’em right to your door every month. Your first month is free, just cover $1 shipping. Cancel Anytime.”

The Dollar Shave Club pioneered selling blades as a subscription service delivered to your home rather than something you bought at a store. The service launched with an engaging video and soon had thousands of customers. Their low distribution costs and a recurring revenue stream was a huge business success. Unilever recently bought the Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion.

Make it painless to try and subscribe.

2. Make it personal. Mini Cooper lets you customize your car before it’s even built. You pick the color, exterior, wheels, audio and accessories. This level of customization has made the Mini incredibly popular. Mini dealers save by having to keep fewer cars in inventory. Customers love designing their own cars.

Personalize every customer’s experience.

3. Convenience rules. Zappos offers “free, fast shipping of orders without any order minimums.” They offer a huge selection in shoes in terms of brands, styles, colors, sizes and widths. They provide excellent customer service. Amazon acquired them for $1.2 billion.

Make purchasing and returns convenient.

4. Layer value-added services. The Google Nest shows how an offering merges both a physical product and an online service.

“Nest Labs is a home automation producer of programmable, self-learning, sensor-driven, Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats, smoke detectors, and other security systems. Soon it’ll learn what you like and set the temperature on its own. Senses when your home is empty and turns itself down automatically so you don’t heat or cool an empty home.”

Use analytics and AI to enhance customer value.

IoT-based personalization

Connected products never really leave the factory. They’re always in touch with the manufacturer. The customer experience is continually updated with readings from sensors in the product. The service can be enhanced further with personalized suggestions that are prepared analyzing sensor data and customer preferences. Let’s take a look at three consumer services to see how it’s done.

STYR Labs offers personalized health supplements

STYR Labs offers health and fitness consumers customized nutritional products as a service. Purchasing vitamins from a drugstore is converted into an ongoing, personalized relationship.

STYR Labs collects data from an activity tracker, wireless scale and smart bottle. Their patent-pending technology within the app collects an array of meaningful data, including motion patterns, behavioral inputs, environmental data, location and nutritional preferences. This information is cross-referenced with the customer’s lifestyle and activity traits. This data is used to custom-formulate personalized multivitamins and protein blends for each user. STYR health supplement are home delivered.

The STYR Multivitamin Starter Kit includes an activity tracker and 15 vitamin packets. The Protein Starter Kit includes a wireless scale and protein packets. Refill packets are offered as a subscription service.

“Consumers need a way to optimize performance by converting fitness and nutritional data into health products that impact their goals,” said Paul Mackay, chief operating officer of STYR Labs. “We believe natural single-serve supplements that are personalized to you are what the body needs to fuel a healthy lifestyle change or improve athletic performance.”

Run better wearing Boltt smart shoes

Once you’ve had your vitamins, it’s time to exercise.

Boltt improves workouts. It uses “smart” shoes fitted with health bands to collect details on customers’ health and workout patterns. Garmin sensors in its shoes track real-time speed, distance and cadence.

The Boltt Artificial Intelligence (AI) engine analyzes this information. Customized workout suggestions are delivered through a mobile app.

“The Boltt shoe improves workouts,” explained Boltt CEO Arnav Kishore. “We’re starting with a few sensors and form factors. We plan to innovate, beyond sport tracking and analysis to other wearable forms as well”.

Health monitoring to go from Sensoria

You’ve had your vitamins and gone for a run. What’s next?

Sensoria provides heart rate monitoring sport bras and T-shirts that connect to Sensoria’s mobile app for real-time feedback.

Sensoria’s new Run v2.0 Beta app will eventually include a  feature called Heart Sentinel.  Heart Sentinel was developed by a cardiologist to monitor pulse rates and detect any heart irregularities.

If heart irregularities are detected, Heart Sentinel alerts the runner of possible trouble and starts a brief countdown to determine if the user is still conscious. If no response is received from the runner, an alert is sent with the runner’s GPS coordinates. This alert is sent to contacts pre-selected by the runner so that they can call for medical help.  

Now that you’ve had your personalized vitamins, finished a customized run and made sure you didn’t collapse, you’re probably ready for a rest. Kidding aside, it’s worth considering how to transform your product into an ongoing relationship with your customers.


Deepak Puri is an IoT expert and the cofounder of DemLabs, a SF-based non-profit hub for technology innovation in support of democracy. Formerly he held executive positions at Oracle, Netscape and VMware.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Deepak Puri and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications Inc. or its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.