Marketers, Drive Engagement with the Internet of Things
According to Gartner, the Internet of Things or IOT reached the the height of inflated expectations in 2015. The network of physically network connect objects embedded with sensors, software and other electronics now outnumbers humans on the planet and is predicted to continue to grow at an even faster rate. Cisco believe that the number of connected devices exceeded the number of people in the world sometime in 2008 & 2009. They predict the number of connected devices will hit 25B in 2015 and 50B by 2010. So where to for Marketing and the Internet of Things?
Virtually any object can be connected. It has been said that if it has a switch it could be part of the internet of things, but even objects without a switch are already connected. In Germany, connected cows are being monitored by farmers to help them boost milk production, aid with calving and manage health.
The obvious connected device is the ubiquitous smartphone. Always on, a constant presence and armed with location and motion awareness, it is constantly gathering data which is sent back to a range of remote servers for various purposes of which we are more or less aware.
Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2015
Hyped or not, what’s so powerful about the IOT is that it brings together – and makes more useful – a range of previously hyped concepts, mobility, location, personalisation and big data. As more objects become smart, embedded with sensors and connected, the IOT will become an irresistible proposition for business. Providing the ability to gather, analyse and distribute data in real time.
For marketers the IOT provides the ability to reach deep into the lives of consumers and to understand their behaviours and interactions. Limitless volumes of data can be captured, recorded and distributed and combined with offline sources to build multi-dimensional customer profiles, allowing marketers to generate more informed insights.
Being in-context, connected devices provide the marketer with a highly personal channel to interact with consumers in more relevant ways. Given brand experience is the sum of the interactions between a customer and product / service / business, the IOT is a critical opportunity to extend that brand experience through a more informed and contextualized channel.
The bottom line for marketers is more data, means more informed decisions which leads to more relevant communications which in theory drives greater engagement.
What role can the IOT play in marketing?
While the IOT represents a huge opportunity for Marketers, the opportunity lies beyond some of the standard interruption based techniques like advertising and push offers.
Loyalty and product marketers will appreciate the ability to better understand how customers are using their products, allowing them to hone their offering and provide their customers with a better experience to keep them longer.
FMCG marketers are interested in the IOT to overcome their disconnection with the customer after it leaves the warehouse. The potential exists to support ongoing interaction with the customer following purchase. Diageo have unveiled a prototype Johnnie Walker Blue Label bottle that uses extremely thin electronic sensors which can detect if a bottle has been opened and also where it is located.
The approach can be extended to retail merchandising where Heineken have experimented by installing sensors in stores to understand the effectiveness of different merchandising approaches in different locations within a retail outlet.
When it comes to customer experience marketers are able to tap into sensor data in real time to understand customer interactions with their products. WeissBeerger, is assisting beer producers improve the customer experience by monitoring beer handling, keg freshness and temperature at each individual outlet in real time.
Connected devices can also provide feedback to marketers about customer experiencing struggle in real time – such as repeated pressing of a button – and even allow customer service to contact the customer immediately for assistance. In the not too distant future, connected devices will be able to diagnose product faults and may even become smart enough to fix themselves or enable remote repair.
Examples of Marketing and the Internet Of Things
One of the more interesting experiments with the IOT is in Manchester, UK as part of the Cityverve Project. The Project involves a series of initiatives deploying connected devices throughout the City including; sensors on streetlamps providing smart lighting based on the weather, traffic and local conditions; air quality monitoring guiding locals with better walking options; talkative bus stops that allow travelers to check in and let operators know they are waiting; as well as a bike sharing scheme.
Also in the UK, Hive have launched the UKs #1 connected thermostat, and have big plans to bring the connected home to the masses. Coming next from Hive will be smart plugs that allow consumers to control power from their phone; motion window and door sensors to alert users to movements in their home while they are out; and active lights that react to movement and include smart button that will turn off the power for you.
Drinks make Pernod Ricard are planning to use the IOT to create a media channel for their Absolute brand The goal is to create a channel where Absolut ‘can control everything’ and move away from buying media according to Marketing Chief Markus Wulff.
So what are the challenges with the IOT for Marketers?
Naturally privacy tops the list for consideration when it comes to the IOT. Remember when the sexual activity of 200 Fitbit users showed up in Google search results? Connected devices also represent an intrusion point for hackers to reach into a home network and access all manner of personal data, including when you are likely to be present in the home and when you are not.
When is comes to Customer Experience, more connected devices mean more customer touch-points with your product or service. Orchestrating the experience across these touch points to ensure a consistent brand experience requires a concerted effort to connect a myriad of backend systems and processes to ensure a seamless experience for your customers.
For Marketers, access to even more customer data is highly attractive, however, the challenge becomes combining data harvested from connected devices with the myriad other data sources. Once combined, then there is the job to try and make sense of that data. Interestingly the Australian Marketer with arguably more data than any other – Woolworths – has still managed to generate significant customer dissatisfaction through changes to their loyalty program, notwithstanding mountains of data and analysis.
Get started with marketing and the internet of things now
Experimentation should be a critical component of your marketing strategy, so when the opportunity presents to test an internet of things concept, ensure you set some goals and measure the impact. Keep the customer in mind and find a meaningful way to connect that adds value to their experience rather than pushing a specific message. And when it comes to the data you collect silo’d is OK whilst you are in experimentation model, however, once you move beyond experimentation, make sure you have a plan as to how you will harvest and connect the data you collect with other sources and systems within your business.