The "internet of things" (IoT) will have a profound impact on all aspects of our lives, whether it’s smart street lighting triggered by approaching cars, or home security systems that switch on automatically when we’ve left the house. We’ll never run out of razors or shampoo again and throw away less food due to better stock-management in our smart cupboards and fridges.
We’re talking about a step-change in technology that will result in consumers filling their homes and lives with new, smart devices. But there is a price to be paid for advancement. The key issues are data privacy, affordability – so that this technology is available to all – and consumer comprehension and adoption.
It’s an incredible opportunity, but, as marketers, we will have to enhance our skills and ways of working to operate in this brave new world. That means a better understanding of what the IoT means for brands, how to analyse and use this wealth of new data and work closely with R&D far earlier in the process to best employ and promote innovation. So what will we need to do differently?
Use data to get closer to the consumer
Marketing has always been about anticipating, influencing and shaping behaviour: encouraging customers to change their purchase habits, creating new ones, believing in a need that can be met by brand X, and so on. The IoT’s transparent data will give marketers a huge springboard to engage with customers, with the product being able to validate the purchase choice in real time. For example, if your car brand has been marketed through its fuel efficiency, this positioning can be validated immediately by mileage data sent to the driver’s phone.
Find your "value-add" strategy
Google Glass fashion app Glashion allows users to snap a picture of clothes worn by passers-by and comparison-shop for similar items. Brands will have to look for new ways to differentiate, thinking well beyond the function of products to the "plus" or value-add service it can offer. For example, Nike already produces trainers that track running mileage and inform the user when it’s time to buy a new pair. Consider the benefits of never running out of loo roll again.
Normalise the new
Marketing in the IoT world will have to ensure that customers understand the substance – the relevance and need for the connected product/service. It can’t just be a gimmick. There will be significant innovation at a furious pace, so marketing has the responsibility to normalise it and translate the value of the connected device as it relates to customers’ lives.
Work closer and earlier with R&D
The IoT will create some really radical innovations. Moreover, the pace of innovation means marketing has to break down any boundaries in the ways of working with R&D, and other customer-facing functions, so that there’s no disruption in the delivery of an integrated customer experience because of internal functional boundaries. Building capabilities to do that will be a challenge.
Mhairi McEwan is chief executive and co-founder of Brand Learning.