The Internet-of-Things is already here, use it to your advantange.
What is IoT?
You may have seen the abbreviation IoT, or Internet-of-Things, in recent articles. Basically, the Internet-of-Things refers to the growing number of internet connected devices. As the technology becomes more affordable, it can be applied to more and more products, and it won’t be long before everything that has a power button will be connected to the internet as well. Jacob Morgan wrote a great explanation of IoT for Forbes last year, which you can read here. Smart thermostats that adjust your home’s temperature are already becoming common. Imagine smart refrigerators that order your milk and eggs when you run low. Light bulbs that learn your lighting needs and predicts when to turn on and how bright. What if your toothbrush sent reports about your teeth to your dentist?
Even products that you wouldn’t think of as “consumer electronics” will be affected. Kitchen cabinets, for example, are not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of cutting-edge tech. Now imagine if these cabinets were connected to the internet. They could determine when you’re low on sugar, contact Amazon’s Prime Pantry, and tomorrow you’ll be re-stocked; automatically.
The automotive industry will be revolutionized by the Internet-of-Things. Your tires will let your mechanic know that it is time for a rotation. Cars could communicate with other cars, reporting road conditions, traffic, etc. Your car will let your house know that you’ll be home in 10 minutes, so bump up that thermostat, turn the lights on in the living room, and preheat the oven to 350°.
The medical industry is applying the IoT in an Innerspace kind of way. In a project called Proteus, a British research team is developing cyber-pills with microprocessors in them that can text doctors directly from inside your body. Artificial smart organs can be used for transplants, sending information to your doctor on a daily basis from within your body.
The IoT will be applied on a larger scale as well. Cities can share real-time data across their departments for improved “smart cities”, or “smart environments”. This technology is growing at an exponential rate, and it will be applied to every aspect of your life. Now that can be a very overwhelming, and even terrifying thought. Who knows, maybe one day we will have to help the Terminator destroy Skyet. For now, we can use this technology to our advantage.
How can we apply this awesome, futuristic thinking to Marketing?
The core to this technological revolution is the data collection. Over the past few years we’ve seen giants like Facebook use data collection to target advertising and marketing, and I think it’s safe to say they’ve had some success. Essentially, this IoT boils down to devices collecting data and sending it to other connected devices. As a marketer, this information can be incredibly valuable.
Social media has done a great job of allowing marketers to target specific groups of people, but this can be improved with the Internet-of-Things. If a shoe boutique had a “smart register”, this boutique could collect specific data about their customer’s buying habits. “Jane is a size 7.5, and she buys shoes every 3-4 months. Her favorite color is green, although she does buy black shoes often as well“. With that kind of data, a marketing team could really focus their effort to show Jane exactly what shoes she wants to see and when.
Let’s say you own an auto repair shop, and you start implementing these new IoT tires that report low tire pressure, unbalanced wear, or tire tread depths. Now you automatically have data from your customer’s car communicating to your computer at the shop. What you do with that information is dependent on a solid marketing strategy.
For the consumer, it is all about convenience. That vehicle’s owner no longer has to worry about whether or not there are any issues with their vehicle. Any issues will instantly be reported to you, the repair shop. You might send them an email alerting them of a problem, and suggest three open times they can schedule the repair. The vehicle owner clicks the preferred appointment time, and you just made a sale, while keeping your customer feeling safe and satisfied. Or maybe your niche is personal customer interaction, so you call them directly and let them know what’s going on.
I’m still a little scared…
Although automation seems to be the goal for the IoT, I believe customer interaction will be the job of the marketer. IoT takes the guesswork out determining whether or not someone is a potential customer. It is then up to the marketing strategy to ensure that potential customer is approached properly, and becomes an existing customer. This data collection will be available to all, so what makes your repair shop, or shoe boutique different than the others will be your customer’s experience.
Security is going to be another major concern when incorporating the Internet-of-Things into everyday life. Whenever personal information is shared across the internet, securing that information is always a priority. The world of cyber-security could easily be it’s own article. For now, let’s assume that as technology grows, the cyber-security techniques will keep up the pace.
Whether you welcome this influx of technology, or you fight it tooth and nail, the Internet-of-Things is the future. That being said, we are still human and we still crave human interaction over computers (think about calling customer service lines, do you prefer a person or automation?). Let’s allow the Internet-of-Things to automate the menial tasks, chores and activities, while we focus on the customers directly. At least until 2025, when we all become The Singularity anyway.
I will be speaking more about this topic at the MarketShare Meetup on Wednesday, January 13th, 6pm, at Connie’s Ric Rac. I would love to see you there, you can RSVP here: https://www.meetup.com/MarketSharePhilly/events/226598271/