IoT graphic

What does constant connectivity mean for marketers?

By now, most of us have heard of the “Internet of Things.” It’s a concept that has the potential to impact how humans live and work, how policy is written, and how technology develops for the foreseeable future.

..But what exactly is it?

Simply put, the Internet of Things is the concept of connectivity between everyday appliances that are now, thanks to nearly universal wifi, networkable. Says Jacob Morgan for Forbes: “This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig…if it has an on and off switch then chances are it can be a part of the IoT.”

In the wake of this ubiquity, massive implications exist for technology and privacy regulations. So what does this mean for marketers?

Extreme Convenience

Quite simply, constant connectivity increases consumer expectations of convenience. If your product or service and accompanying marketing campaign don’t cater to these new expectations, you may inadvertently eliminate your offerings from the decision-making process altogether. While automation or delivery may not make sense for every brand, some companies have gotten creative in carving out entirely new spaces for themselves within the Internet of Things.

Take Netflix, for example. After having built their entire company model around increased convenience, the streaming giant took the concept one step further and introduced Netflix socks: a pair of DIY socks that detect when the wearer has fallen asleep and pause whatever Netflix program they might be watching. Gimmicky? Sure. Only moderately effective? Yes. Nearly impossible to assemble on your own? Also true. Anyone looking to make the socks will not only need to know how to knit, but must also be proficient in using a soldering iron and have computer programming experience.

While perhaps ultimately impractical, Netflix’s proposed knitting extravaganza and its subsequent internet-dominating publicity success illustrate a perfect storm of innovation, novelty, and real consumer desire made possible by the IoT. The proposed capabilities of a ridiculously overpriced pair of socks ignited the imaginations of consumers and the media alike, tapping into a tangible desire for extreme convenience — because who wants to hit “pause” before dozing off?

Almighty Data & Direct to Consumer Solutions

In today’s world, “any consumer application, any business application, any product with a tag, and any product with connectivity now converges into a wellspring of data that reaches into every corner of our lives,” says Neil Patel for Forbes. In short, data is mushrooming in size and scope. Analysts estimate that by 2020, there will be more than 20 billion connected devices. The data amassed from these devices gives brands and marketers the opportunity to optimize campaigns, products, services, and operations. Perhaps more importantly, customers will be able to provide useful feedback immediately. If a specific product or campaign isn’t living up to expectations, marketers must be prepared to address the problem instantaneously rather than waste time and resources on something that isn’t working.

With such abundant user data and the availability of instantaneous consumer feedback, brands should consider themselves in direct, near constant conversation with their customers. It makes sense, then, to immediately present remedies for anticipated needs. Says Patel: “If your car is connected to the Internet and the brakes are wearing out, wouldn’t it make sense for your car to direct you to a local brake shop? Smart homes, smart cars, and wearable devices are all things that enable marketers to deliver solutions relevant to those things.” Whatever that solution might be for your brand, marketers should be ready to anticipate and address specific problems.

Everything is Marketable

When it comes to the Internet of Things, no area of life, product, nor service is unmarketable. “Currently, the Internet drives much of our everyday behavior,” says Patel. “Since all of our interaction, behavior, and life is interconnected…marketers can reach deeper into our lives to offer us what we want.” The Internet of Things provides endless opportunities for new connections to form between brand and consumer. While some new marketing efforts seem outrageously impractical, others have the potential to effect lasting behavioral change. It’s up to marketers to guide the narrative.