Unless you’ve spent the last few years trekking in Mongolia you’ve heard about the “Internet of Things,” or IoT. Connected devices are now just about everywhere — on our bodies and in our homes, automobiles and businesses.
It’s safe to say that they are rapidly transforming the world in which we live and work.
Yet, developing a focused business and marketing strategy is somewhat daunting. As devices become connected and interconnected, there’s a need to recognize a basic but profound truth, says Tony Fross, vice president of digital advisory services at Capgemini Consulting: “Everyone and everything becomes a data point. Context is everything.”
Here are five keys to taking your IoT strategy — and related marketing — to a world class level:
The Internet of Things is actually many different technologies. It’s easy to think about the IoT as a monolithic entity. But, in reality, it’s an umbrella term for a disparate array of connected devices and systems. Beacons, radio frequency identification, embedded sensors, point of sale terminals, digital signage, smartphones, smart TVs, automobiles and apps are all key components. Really, just about anything digital — or physical items that can be chipped — can become a data point within the IoT. “It’s the combination of technologies, and the ability to interconnect devices, that delivers the value,” Fross says.
Think functionality and value over technology. It’s important to recognize that technology is simply the conduit for generating business value. At the heart of the IoT and marketing is the need to introduce benefits for consumers by making it possible to do things faster, cheaper or better. Airbnb, OpenTable and Lyft exemplify this concept.
“The IoT introduces possibilities to reinvent and transform products and services,” says Frank Gillett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. This typically means rewiring thinking and processes, and finding the right combination of technology to support the disruption.
Recognize that partnerships matter. Within an organization, a chief marketing officer must work closely with the chief information officer and others to transform ideas and concepts into viable systems. And the challenge doesn’t stop there. In many cases, it’s also critical to build an ecosystem of apps, features and data sets that flow across companies. This requires clouds, application programming interface libraries and highly agile IT systems. Consider that apps such as MyFitnessPal link to treadmills, activity trackers, smartwatches, connected scales, calorie counters and more to deliver health and wellness information in real time — and also introduce targeted promotions and marketing offers.
Think in terms of the consumer lifecycle. It’s tempting to view the IoT merely as a way to introduce new and cool features. But the most successful connected devices, apps and systems address the “overall customer lifecycle,” Fross says. This means tying in marketing, sales, customer support and more, often through a mobile app. For instance, the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers use beacons, apps and other digital tools to push out promotions to fans at games, and use imperceptible audio tags over the loudspeaker to push videos and other content about players and the team to fans. The app allows fans to reserve parking and even renew season tickets.
“The goal is to develop a deeper relationship with fans,” says Vincent Ircandia, senior vice president of business operations. “The technology just allows us to do this in new and innovative ways.”
It’s all about that data. While IoT features sell the product, it’s data that pays the bills. In fact, the combination of machine data, sensor and beacon generated data and smartphone data (along with analytics tools) which provides insights that allow marketers to send personalized and contextually relevant promotions at just the right time and place.
“It’s possible to understand direct marketing more effectively and build campaigns and relationships that are truly transformative,” Fross says. For example, Johnnie Walker, which introduced smart whiskey bottles in 2015, uses a “connected label” to collect data about product quality, track shipments, and crack down on counterfeiting, all while pushing information about the product to customers via their smartphones.
Joe Lamano, a principal at business and technology consulting firm PwC, sums it up nicely: “Companies and marketing executives should not be afraid to innovate quickly, test concepts and find ways to connect to customers in ways that really matter for everyone.”