Marketing for the Internet of Things (IoT)

Any big technological change makes waves. As marketers, it’s important to be aware of these changes and incorporate them into your overall marketing strategy so you don’t miss the boat and you can meet it head on. The more informed your strategy is when you start, the more effective. The good thing about IoT? All the available information out there means it’s easy to stay informed.

There are two keys to IoT for marketing: connectivity and specificity. The ability to connect all these devices to the cloud (and each other) leads to benefits like accuracy, real-time communication, efficiency, and convenience, so strategies need to target these aspects of the experience for customers. And then, all of these efforts need to be incredibly specific in their message and timing.

Here are 5 things to keep in mind.

1. Be relevant and be precise.

IoT marketing has to answer a specific question or be a specific solution to a problem. And usually, that problem is going to be “thing-related.”

For tactics like beacon-powered marketing, which uses bluetooth low energy (BLE) technology to push information to nearby devices, focus on the user experience, marketers have the power to send shoppers a coupon based on where they are in a store. Contextual shopping uses insights into a consumer’s “buying journey,” and data from their wearables and home’s smart devices to offer suggestions or discounts.

2. Use actionable data to your advantage.

For things like media buys, we no longer have to try to predict what sites customers are going to to see the ads—we’re able to be better informed because that behavior is tracked for us. The better the data—and this is better data—the better-crafted campaigns can be, driving even more engagement from customers. Whether it’s structured data in a table or less structured data common to non-relational databases like MongoDB, get a great data scientist to help you make sense of and leverage IoT data to your advantage.

Data can also drive targeted ads. Think of these as 100% relevant, beneficial ads that go directly to customers, when they need them—no more banners ads or pop-us required.

3. But, only use data people are comfortable sharing.

Avoid sending a message that makes it seem as though you’re listening in like big brother. The key is being helpful, not intrusive. The IoT gives marketers a glimpse into how people use their devices in concert with other IoT devices, which is an intimate look at customers’ behaviors in their home and on the go—use this information wisely!

4. Offer value-adding products and services when the time is right.

This is your opportunity to solve a problem the user didn’t know they had or to go the extra mile for your customers. For example, if a smart washer runs a certain number of loads before it’s time to order more detergent, sensors can automatically order more detergent online when it’s estimated the user needs a refill. This doesn’t feel intrusive or unnecessary, but solves a problem before it becomes one.

This is also an entirely new way to think about marketing. What if you could replace pop-ups and banner ads with targeted, relevant ads that arrive on a user’s device right when they need them most? Just like product development teams are hopping on the trend by finding ways to replace everyday objects with “smart” devices, a marketing strategy can leverage the IoT to give customers added value, too.

5. Think customer service.

There are two ways to approach customer service with the IoT. First, for things like device failures, complaints, or other issues, Salesforce VP Alex Bard said, “The best customer service experience is one that never has to happen.” With the IoT, we have the opportunity to get immediate feedback from “smart” devices when there are failures or performance issues and respond to these in real-time. Cut down on customer service calls and wait times by sending a replacement, service coupon, or troubleshooting tips. Down the line, this kind of failure report data can also be used by manufacturers and product development to make improvements.

Secondly, look at the it as an investment in a long-term customer relationship. The IoT customer service experience should also be holistic and open-ended. Smart marketers will leverage this technology to transform their existing service models, offering real-time service and support as well as preemptive solutions to problems before they arise, like automatically shipping an ink cartridge when a printer indicates ink is low.

Also, consider how smart devices can be connected to you customer relationship management (CRM) tools when it comes to gathering data from customers. Market research firm Gartner has cited the IoT as the fifth most important technology trend to affect CRM, coming in behind social media, cloud computing, big data, and mobile. It will enable tailored data to be logged for each customer, so companies can deliver more fine-tuned (and even automated) customer experiences.

Read more about the IoT and how this technological phenomenon is changing the way we send and gather information from consumers.