IoT, Emotional Engagement, and More about Uber

by Stuart Sikes | Feb. 4, 2016

Today, we learned that Uber has changed its icons on smart devices and that these city-specific icons will take on a life of their own – changing as one moves from city to city. While this development will further the cult following of this ride sharing Internet unicorn, it is most important to understand what Uber understands. Uber understands the strong emotional connection we have formed with its service. Like Apple, Nest, Samsung and a number of other brands, the Uber experience has proven remarkable enough to instill an emotional bond with consumers resulting in unprecedented brand power and loyalty.

If emotional connection with products is, in fact, the difference between the winners and losers in the IoT, then what lessons can Uber teach about emotional engagement?

  1. Transfer the power to the consumer. By giving the consumer complete information about what to expect, when to expect it, and how much it will cost, Uber shifted the power of the transaction from the whims of the semi-reliable, unintelligible cab driver to the consumer who decides where, when and what type of car to summon. Many home products including whole-house audio, HVAC systems, and many home security systems are sold using industry terms that baffle, confuse and intimidate consumers, requiring them to place their trust in dealers and installers who, unfortunately, rarely offer a consistent experience. These manufacturers would do well to transfer the power of the acquisition process directly to the consumer, finding an easy, familiar, way to educate and fulfill the needs of consumers.
  2. Provide the consumer with shiny new things. In my Uber riding experience, I am yet to get into an old car. It seems that at least half of the Uber cars I have ridden in are weeks old, suggesting that Uber is helping to finance the autos of its drivers. This weekend I waited several minutes at the airport curbside until I could step past the rattling, dirty taxis into a shiny, clean, new Uber SUV. It is easy to see why replacing our phones every couple of years has proven a great strategy by the wireless carriers. If you give me an easy way to keep getting new stuff (even if I have to pay a little more), I will remain loyal to your brand. 
  3. Delight the consumer with their own data. Use of personal data is a divisive issue, sending some running from the promises of the IoT. Uber, however, sent us all a year end gift of a recap of all of our rides throughout 2015. It was fun to remember all of the places I had been in 2015, but also helpful to remember that I had not included several rides in my expense report. Click – there was my last receipt. We know that many of our vendors are storing our personal data for their use, but if they make it useful to us, then we are more apt to share. 
  4. Do things for the consumer that he or she can do. I can turn my lights on and off. I can set my own thermostat and I can trust that my Uber will arrive in three minutes as it told me it will – but it sure is nice when a device does these things for me. If my home knows that I am pulling in the driveway and sets itself to arrival mode, or if my air conditioner tells me that it has ordered new filters, or if my TV texts me to remind me that the ballgame is about to start, then, just like tracking my Uber’s progress on my smartphone, technology is increasing my peace of mind and everyday pleasure. 
  5. Make the experience so simple that it is not an experience. We tire of hearing about how important simplicity is, but I must add it again. Even better than a simple experience is no experience at all. By talking to Alexa through my Amazon Echo, I don’t have to worry if my control app is simple or elegant because I don’t have to use it. If Uber would simply access my profile to call a car when I walk past the airport baggage claim, then I wouldn’t have to find a free hand for my smart phone. And if my refrigerator would simply notify me that the nearly empty milk will be replenished tomorrow, then I don’t have to try to remember not to forget to pick up more. 

Wouldn’t you like to really love your refrigerator?

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