Using a bulb purchase to sell coffee: the future of shopping

‘Do you want fries with that?’

For the last 75 years, McDonald’s has been serving up hamburgers to customers worldwide. They now serve 68 million customers a day, in 119 countries across more than 35,000 franchises. The company was able to scale its business by asking one simple question “Would you like fries with that?” – which has not only contributed to the growth of McDonald’s across the world but also has become an iconic catchphrase on its own.

While it may not seem like an obvious connection, enterprise software companies can also benefit from asking a similar question.

‘Customers who bought this item also bought…’

Business moments like these are instantaneous. Sometimes, they last for mere seconds, but they satiate the thirsting that brands have with finding, capturing and retaining customers. 

We’re familiar with such instantaneous business moments from the past and the present. 

These business moments are priceless and coveted. When exploited dynamically, such moments (even if they last for mere seconds) can satiate the deathless thirsting brands have with finding, capturing and retaining customers. 

Picture a modern smart apartment, fully accessorized with smart home products. 

You’re the head of the household, a data scientist in your late thirties. You’re sitting on a cozy couch, starting the day with a cup of coffee. Your apartment is completely automated and capable of detecting a wide range of conditions. The smart apartment, being ever so watchful, does a regular scan of the property. It detects that one of the LED bulbs in your reading lounge has stopped working, and notifies you of the same on your handheld device. The apartment also recommends adding a 10 watt LED bulb to her shopping list, as a replacement. 

You open the do-it-yourself retailer app you have on your phone. You are a regular customer of this app and are enrolled in its loyalty program. 

Your smart coffee maker chimes in, and adds a carton of your favorite dark roast, as the pantry is running low on coffee. Sinking into your chair, you agree with the house and send specifications for the bulb, and a list of pantry supplies. 

The app notifies the light bulb manufacturer and checks for stocks of the requested coffee. While the bulbs are checked, your retailer Brown Crate is out of coffee. The app instantly connects with Brown Bean – the maker of your coffee, and they offer to ship the coffee carton to your apartment the same day via drone.  

You click on agree, and the app makes runs one final check with the house, asking if there’s anything else that needs to be added. The apartment analyses the house’s inventory.

You approve of the house’s suggestions and prepare to drive to the Brown Crate store to pick up your items. As you walk out the door, your apartment triggers an alert to your car, and your car computes the most fuel-efficient route, based on multiple factors like the remaining charge on your battery, the time of the day, and the expected traffic. 

As a final touch, the app sends you a list of helpful videos and tutorials on how to change a light-bulb, given you are a messy electrician based on past experience. Furthermore, it also sends links to hiring a local electrician, in case you don’t feel like doing it yourself.

Today, this may appear scarcely credible or dubious – but in reality – the foundations of this business framework are already in place!   

The internet has taken over everything, and soon IoT will be an inevitable part of our lives. The impact that IoT promises for the future is nothing less than massive, and businesses that understand this shift, are going to be the only ones that survive the tsunami of disruption.

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