At the Heart of the Connected Ecosystem: Enabling Interoperability

Feature

It is an undeniable reality that smart technology has become the hub of personal communication, tying together a consumer’s social life, work life, entertainment, finance and other various areas. Reliance on an “always-on” lifestyle has changed consumer behavior and expectations, offering new opportunities for companies that want to deepen their relationship with the hyper-connected consumer. Yet, despite all this incredible integration, connected devices, as a category, have still been struggling to find traction.

With the advent of 5G, companies will have more connectivity, more options, and more speed with which to engage their loyal customer base. But all this will be for naught if consumers continue to be frustrated or disappointed with connected devices. It will be up to connected living companies to make smart technology easier to connect, simpler to use and offer better support services for when things become difficult.  

The Frustrations We Need to Solve Start with Basic Connectivity

It seems counter-intuitive, but, as connectivity has increased, consumer enthusiasm around connected devices has decreased. Some of this may be traced back to the frustrations of early adopters and unclear benefits from manufacturers for a product that came with a premium price tag.  

Across all categories, more than a third (36%) of consumers who bought a connected product failed to connect it to their network.  When asked why, the most common answer was they didn’t know how. This inability to connect products to WiFi, therefore preventing technology from being truly “smart,” triggers a cascade of consequences for connected living companies, including: 

  1. The company loses the ability to engage the consumer 

  2. Consumers don't benefit from the premium services provided by the product 

  3. Consumers either remain or become frustrated 

  4. Re-purchase intent drops 

Assurant’s Connected Decade research shows that consumers, in general, thought they understood the benefit of the connected device they bought, recognized its value, and yet still did not make use of the product's premium features. The break in the chain may be the support services. Connected devices are still new, inconsistent, and can be difficult to install. The poor adoption may indicate that consumers need more guidance and support in ways that are different.  

Connected products that seamlessly integrate with a mobile device, rather than just connecting to WiFi, will be able to enter the consumer’s lifestyle far faster than any other solution; mobile is unquestionably the preferred platform for the vast majority of consumers. Entering this complicated ecosystem, however, can create unexpected frustrations for consumers who genuinely want a one-touch solution. When a consumer runs into trouble, it becomes more difficult to unravel the culprit.  

Despite these frustrations, there is a willingness among consumer to try connected devices. In reviewing different consumer types, our research has shown a surprising number of connected devices in each consumers’ lives. Even the most technology-resistant consumer owns a connected device. And, depending on what devices they own, each consumer type has unique needs when it comes to how you support their connected ecosystem.

Consumer Types & Their Connected Product Networks

  • Technophiles: Love all innovation
    • Millennials and Gen Z, i.e., digital natives
    • Youngest, with average age of 39
    • Owns an average of 16 connected products
    • Biggest frustrations with devices are excessively long repair and difficulties with installation  
  • Utilitarians: Prioritize practical convenience 
    • Most significant gender imbalance: 58% are women
    • Own an average of five to six connected products
    • Biggest frustrations with devices are disappointing performance and fear of breaking a pricey item
  • Leisure Seekers: Enjoy digital entertainment 
    • A mix of Millennials, Gen Y, and Gen X
    • Average age is 47
    • Owns an average of five connected products
    • Biggest frustrations with devices are a too-expensive warranty and fear of breaking a pricey item 
  • Home Protectors: Comforted by connected control 
    • Most likely to live in a non-urban area
    • Own an average of seven to eight connected products
    • Biggest frustrations with devices are disappointing performance and difficulties with installation 
  • Technophobes: Engage infrequently with connected technology
    • Oldest segment with an average age of 49
    • Likely to own one connected device
    • Biggest frustrations with devices are a too-expensive warranty and disappointing performance 

Establishing Interconnectivity Across Each Consumer's Ecosystem

Each of these consumers develops a unique connected ecosystem. For example, the Home Protector may own a WiFi security system, smart garage door locks and outdoor cameras, while the Utilitarian's ecosystem may be comprised of products like robotic vacuums, smart speakers and smart lighting systems. While their preferred products differ, connected consumers have one big thing in common: they want their products to work together. Meeting this need often required advanced diagnostic tech support that is designed to support the interoperability and connectivity across the entire ecosystem. 

Historically, tech support was able to operate in a one-to-one environment, focusing on the product/issue at-hand. Connected products, however, live in an ecosystem that is ever evolving through innovation and technology upgrades. When a consumer runs into trouble that they or their friends can’t resolve, they turn to the manufacturer. In the past year, nearly half (44%) of consumers turned to the manufacturer for help over the phone and about 25% via internet chat. 

Though consumers rank about 50% of interactions with the manufacturer as positive, there’s a strong disconnect between available technical support and customer satisfaction. It is becoming critical for connected living companies to offer holistic technical support that understands all devices in the ecosystem, including the mobile device. The best technical support will be able to accomplish two, very specific goals: 

  1. Quickly and effectively resolve the issue at-hand. 
  2. Educate the consumer on how to maximize their experience.  

Connecting the Entire Connected Ecosystem

Tech support is quickly becoming the lifeline of connected products. While it’s important to continue helping consumers set up and troubleshoot their products, it’s becoming more important to raise consumer awareness on the benefits of each connected product and how it enhances the full ecosystem. This is only possible through a new kind of technical support strategy. One that focuses on satisfaction rather than just resolution.  

Building brand loyalty through post-sale satisfaction is critical to expanding a consumer’s connected ecosystem. Within our research, even among the weakest category, repurchase intent is close to 50% for a connected product. Companies that want to build loyalty and win repurchase will need to offer support for all the devices in the ecosystem, proactively enabling interconnectivity and helping the consumer get the greatest satisfaction across their network.