The Internet of Things lets brands provide enhanced services for consumers. But its potential will only be achieved if marketers build trust with their audiences, argues Norman Wagner
The Internet of Things is growing fast. IoT devices are building hundreds, thousands and even millions of potential new pathways between businesses and consumers. Research from International Data Corporation (IDC) has found that the installed base of IoT endpoints will grow to more than 30bn by 2020, up from 12.1bn in 2015. Market spend could be as high as $1.3trn.
Some of these devices are being placed in industrial settings, like sensors that help manufacturers manage their factories, for example. But the success of the emerging smart speaker market – an estimated 30m had been sold by June 2017, according to Morning Consult – shows how quickly consumers are taking to this tech.
From Fitbits to thermostats and TVs to connected cars, connected devices are finally providing real benefits to consumers – like helping us get fit and control our music easily. But this is just the start. In a few years, the IoT will transform every aspect of our lives. In many cases, we probably won’t even notice, but we will appreciate the convenience it brings.
As consumers, our new connected lifestyles will ensure we are surrounded by devices that try to make our lives better. And they will be powered by – often very personal – data. They will need to know (or be able to predict) when we are hungry, when we are looking for a parking place, when we want to (or should) go to bed, when our vitamin levels are too low, and what music will set the right mood in whatever environment we are in.
Such granular real-time consumer information will provide marketers with better insight than ever before, but uptake and adoption will require hugely sensitive data handling. And I doubt marketers will ever be able to – or that they should, even – use IoT devices as touchpoints for brand messages.
Consumer reactions to Burger King’s attempt to hack Google Home speakers, for example – when the brand inserted the line ‘OK Google’ into one of its TV ads to intentionally set off devices – shows how sensitive this area can be. Consumers were equally frustrated when Google built a Beauty and the Beast ad into the speaker.
In order to succeed with IoT, marketers must focus on winning trust from consumers. That means creating relevant messages and being transparent about how they are using data.
There are a number of tactics brands can follow:
Ultimately, to win with the Internet of Things, brands need to offer relevant services to consumers and adopt a holistic, customer-centric and integrated approach to data. Do that and they’ll be more likely to fulfil their dreams of becoming a relevant part of people’s lives.
Making IoT work for your marketing requires a new way of thinking. You need to…
1. Be early. Just like apps, consumers will only be able to fit a limited number of IoT devices into their lives. So it’s important to get their attention early while they are still experimenting and getting used to these new behaviours.
2. Be respectful. Data is powerful but be careful how you use it. If you start overusing behavioural data to personalise messages or target people in certain places, consumers will think you’re spying on them and react negatively.
3. Be promotional. You need to launch and promote your IoT services before they can achieve what you want them to. Like apps, consumers will want to know how your IoT services will benefit them before they consider giving them a try.
4. Be consumer-centric. Don’t make the mistake of thinking IoT is all about your brand – it’s not. It’s about making life more convenient for people. Think how you can use the IoT to help consumers solve a problem, not just make yourself heard.
5. Be brave. IoT is still in its early stages. To stay ahead of the game, you need to be brave and try new things. Rather than investing heavily in a single IoT service or device, you might be better off launching several smaller services first, and learning what works for your brand and what doesn’t.
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