The ‘Internet of things’ (IoT) is increasingly in the news in 2014. Visionaries have painted a picture of a time when everything around us is interconnected and able to address every possible need. Cisco’s infographic on the IoT reveals that in 2008, there were more ‘things’ connected to the Internet than there were people on Earth. By 2020, 50 billion unique objects are expected to be communicating with each other.
The IoT could revolutionise the way we market brands. Data generated by mobile devices in the IoT could give us further insights into consumer trends and behaviours and open the door to more targeted marketing, in real time. But if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are still quite a few kinks to be ironed out before the ideals of IoT turn into a marketer’s dream.
A lingua franca for the IoT
Firstly, there are many networks which are classed as members of the IoT, but many of them do not yet talk to each other. Some of these networks are connected to the Internet; many are not. Even the ones which already talk to the Internet do not necessarily talk to each other. Making the IoT speak the same language internally may take some time.
Obtaining useful data
Next, consider the promise that the vast amounts of information generated by IoT will reveal new and compelling details about the preferences of target consumers. This data will be likely in a very raw form when it is received directly from sensors or wearable devices. Most of it may not be useful or even relevant to marketing needs. That data will need to be formatted properly and analysed in a way that will help us connect the dots towards increasing brand awareness, and ultimately sales.
Barriers to obtaining data
Third, it should be noted that much of the information collected by the IoT may intrude on personal privacy, and may well be subject to data privacy laws. Brands may have to seek permission to obtain the data they need, spelling out exactly what they are monitoring, how they will be using that data, and for how long. Brands may also have to reward consumers in ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’ schemes in exchange for getting them to share data through the IoT.
A secure IoT
Many think of cybersecurity as something that happens on PCs and laptops, and increasingly to mobile phones and tablets. The reality is that anything that is connected to the Internet is actually vulnerable to being attacked via the Internet, and will require cyberprotection. It could be quite a challenge for security firms to devise a method that protects the entire IoT when it consists of so many different types of devices; secure pockets may first develop within the IoT, and those should be the parts of the IoT that first gain the trust of brands.
New marketing formats
Mobile marketing through the IoT means moving beyond traditional mobile devices to vehicles, wearables, and drones, plus devices which have not yet been invented. Marketing campaigns will have to take into account more ‘screens’ where a brand can be viewed and how a customer interacts with each one in order to maximise their effectiveness. Brands will also need to decide what messages are most appropriate; engaging with a potential customer as a taxi passenger would be quite different from engaging with the same customer driving a car.
The Internet of Things has been gaining traction in recent years, but 2014 may not quite be the ‘Year of the IoT’. This shouldn’t stop brands from starting to think about mobile marketing through the IoT, however. Small, very targeted campaigns could establish a brand as a thought leader, and pave the way for growing with the concept of the IoT as it becomes more and more concrete.