How the Internet of Things Will Disrupt Digital Marketing

July 6, 2017

by Beth Kotz

The Internet of Things (IoT) is omnipresent and always-on communication, carrying out functions that both impact and reflect our physical world. For marketers, the way in which Internet connectivity has spread to include formerly-analog everyday objects presents an exciting array of new opportunities.

Now that almost anything—from your watch or your pacemaker to your toaster oven or automobile—can go online, the tectonic plates are beginning to shift beneath the feet of marketers. As the IoT is essentially a wide area network of devices shooting a stream of data up at the cloud, marketing professionals have started to capitalize on the immense scope of potential within this ever-expanding entity.

After all, marketers are no strangers to gathering as much information about their customers as possible in order to analyze, predict, and respond to their changing needs. However, unlike traditional market segmentation, the Internet of Things helps create and enable much richer and complex sets of data.

The Analytics of Everything

Using information gathered from a wider array of touchpoints—online, in-store, and via devices and products themselves—the trackable range of customer behavior has expanded exponentially. In other words, rather than wait for the majority of the data to come from the point of sale, marketers can follow their customers throughout their journey, from initial interest to the purchase action and beyond.

Raw data isn’t all the IoT has to offer. The abundance and interconnectivity of digital devices presents a myriad of brand new ways of interacting with the customer, helping you listen and respond to their questions or frustrations almost immediately.

Predictive analytics also gets a massive boost, because with the IoT, consumer marketers (and with the Industrial Internet of Things—the IIoT—B2B marketers) can access information beyond what is possible with programs like SEMrush or Google Analytics. With connected devices, marketing teams can know precisely when and where an individual will eat lunch, attend a concert, or even squeeze in a workout.

Search, Social, and the IoT

The IoT and social media have converged in such a way that an individual’s social profile is embedded in their use of various smart “things.”  A wearable device, for example, knows if its owner is sleeping at home or not; if they are home, the coffee might be brewed at 7:00 a.m. and the smart thermostat promptly switched on. The knowledge of these actions and preferences will be attributed to the individual, and communicated back to marketers and other Internet-enabled devices in the loop.

Going further, with improvements in sensor technology and natural language processing capabilities, the terrain has started shifting in other new directions as well—and the first people to feel those tremors may be working in SEO.

Conversational search queries, which are powered by machine learning and natural language processing, are changing the rules in a big way. When people had to type their search queries, it was possible to try to optimize a page around a keyword. No longer is this always the case.

More consumers are engaging with AI software like “Alexa” in Amazon’s Echo hardware or the “Assistant” in Google’s Home device. Due to the more natural way people dictate their queries, where they aren’t afraid of using imperatives and pronouns, search engines strive to understand the intention of the user as opposed to honing in on a keyword. Consequently, marketers will find themselves steering away from fixed formulas and opting for new kinds of writing that satisfy the minds and ears of machines.

Convenient or Creepy?

With the amount of new data at the digital marketer’s disposal, some customers may feel uncomfortable with the level of information they expose. These consumers may perceive a marketer’s actions as an unwelcome invasion of their privacy. As with all new developments in technology, there are some ethical questions which must be taken into account.

Will a more personalized shopping experience be enough to fend off certain uncomfortable Orwellian emotions? Customers generally like having new product offerings tailored to them, but they do not enjoy knowing that a retailer is aware of everything they do or say. To ensure that your customers feel safe sharing their valuable personal information, it’s imperative to communicate a culture of airtight security—and to be prepared to follow through.

There are, of course, countless other changes ahead. As more of our daily tools become “smart,” the amount of data marketers receive will increase exponentially. Some experts believe that by the 2019, there will be more than 50 billion devices linked to the Internet. Whether or not this prediction is entirely accurate, you ought to consider some form of automation to help you organize, index, and make sense of all new information flooding in.

The undeniable power and potential of the growing IoT space has led it to becoming one of the most important factors impacting digital marketing today. Will you capitalize on this gargantuan opportunity or be swept away by it?

This post first appeared on the Webbiquity blog

About Beth Kotz

Beth Kotz is a freelance writer and contributor for numerous home, technology, and personal finance blogs. She graduated with BA in Communications and Media from DePaul University in Chicago, IL, where she continues to live and work.