Just a few years ago, the ‘IoT era’ seemed inevitable, yet far off. The prospect of a world where our watches and coffee machines are WIFI enabled and communicating with each other just didn’t strike us as imminent.
And yet here we are, with Alexa scheduling our meetings as we brush our hair and Google Glass aiding warehouse workers on the job. The IoT era is well and truly here, and subsequently, so is the IoT marketing era.
Let’s take a step back to recap.
The internet — or more specifically, the world wide web — enables computers to download information from servers, upload information to servers for others to download and share data between themselves. The way to access all of that data, was through a web browser like Internet Explorer or Google Chrome.
In the not too distant past, desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones were the only gateways to those web browsers. You needed those devices, and their screens, to consume content.
The term IoT, or ‘the Internet of Things’, refers to the face that the internet is now coming to more devices (or ‘things’), often without the need for a web browser.
Instead, IoT uses a network of devices that contain simple computers, basic software, and internet connectivity to collect and exchange data. For instance, a refrigerator equipped with IoT technology can detect when certain items inside it are close to spoiling. The software in the refrigerator then alerts the user through a smartphone app, or place an order with a nearby grocery store for fresher items — because, you know, your refrigerator has WIFI now.
That same technology, which allows all sorts of devices to communicate all sorts of different things, is being inserted into watches, glasses, city-center kiosks, airport lounges, robots and everything in between.
Although we’re only just scratching the surface of the IoT era, Internet of Things devices are already dotted around millions of homes, workplaces and cities.
Amazon’s line of Echo products is making smart home assistants mainstream, while cloud-connected screens act as information kiosks in popular inner-city malls. Other popular IoT devices include:
And the list is growing longer by the month, with Gartner forecasting that the amount of connected devices will increase from 8.4 billion in 2017 to 20.4 billion by 2020. If that doesn’t sound like enough to you, Salesforce would agree, as they estimate that 75 billion devices will have IoT technology by 2020.
But the real question is, what does this all mean for marketers?
The first thing CMOs need to understand is that the IoT era isn’t an incoming trend to prepare for — it’s a reality that marketers need to start leveraging as soon as possible.
With that being said, here are five things CMOs need to know about approaching IoT marketing.
When desktops, tablets and smartphones were the only three devices being used, online consumer attention was concentrated through web browsers. If you could hone your website’s SEO, you’d claim a sizable chunk of consumer attention just from Google and Yahoo searches alone — but times are changing fast.
Today consumer attention is fragmenting across different channels and devices. A successful brand now needs a prominent presence on Google, as well as across social media platforms, Amazon Alexa, smartwatch apps and so forth.
And this fragmentation is only just beginning. As we ready ourselves for the flood of IoT devices to emerge over the next decade and beyond, only brands who are truly prepared to deliver their content headlessly (and thus, to any channel or device), will survive and thrive.
Marketers can now use IoT devices to get data in real-time. Devices such as the Apple Watch, Fitbit, and Nike Fuelband are allowing marketers to get all the data they need, the instant that data becomes available.
For instance, remember that IoT refrigerator from earlier in this article? The manufacturer of that refrigerator will be able to track things like milk usage and purchases in real time, giving them data that they would never have been able to access before the IoT era.
Instead of relying on surveys, focus groups and outdated information, marketers who glean data from IoT channels can get accurate data directly from customers as they use their devices.
Deon Newman, Chief Marketing Officer for IBM's Watson Internet of Things, told Forbes Magazine that IoT offers “a huge opportunity” to marketers, as IoT gives them “a conduit directly to their customers.”
“Teams can see exactly how a customer is using a product, what specific features they are using and which they are not. Just pure facts without any bias or the risk of perception misguiding the feedback,” Newman said.
With that uber-accurate data, paired with existing demographical data, will help marketers run ads that are targeted like never before.
As the previous two points indicate, the IoT era is going to bring about more consumer data than we ever thought possible.
The timely nature of GDPR will help (read: “force”) brands to govern their data correctly, but that doesn’t mean it will be an easy task. IoT devices, particularly once IoT marketing gets into full swing, will produce untold terabytes-worth of data every single day.
How will all of that data be stored? How will we govern it within GDPR standards at such scale? How do we keep it all safe? How do we begin to process and understand it all? These are all big questions being asked by the world’s biggest brands and data processors.
When Facebook and its competitors emerged, many CMOs and marketing managers were at a loss as to how to integrate it into their pre-existing strategies. But now that you have your social presence in place, adopting an IoT presence is relatively easy.
Wearable fitness devices for example, are built to publish daily exercise logs to Facebook and Twitter. Similarly, your Alexa Skill could invite users to share information on LinkedIn — or your smartwatch app could automatically set your employee’s Slack status to “Out of Office” when they leave the workplace.
That kind of integration is what the IoT technology is built for, so marketers can get creative, especially when you factor in platforms like IFTTT, which can help integrate devices and processes even further.
The volume and precision of data from IoT devices will allow CMOs unprecedented opportunities.
But before you can approach IoT marketing, you’ll need a way to deliver your content to various devices. A headless or “Content as a Service” (CaaS) solution would allow for that, giving you control over your content in one location, but the freedom to deliver it anywhere.
That’s because a headless digital experience platform separates the content from the presentation layer and allows the content to be delivered to any device — whether it’s a smartphone or a virtual reality headset.
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