The Internet of Things is the next evolution in the relationship between brands and consumers. Through the use of machine to machine (MTM) technology (a.k.a. smart devices), brands are able to deliver relevant and meaningful messages in real-time to consumers, while consumers are provided with on-demand access to the products and services that they want and need. As brands aggregate and analyze patterns in individual consumer behaviors, they are better able to offer products and services that meet the needs of consumers. Brands can use this intelligence to further engage loyal customers, and combined with market and empirical data, they are able to design strategic messages that promote changes in consumer behaviors. With access to individual consumer data and the technical means to directly communicate customized messages, the Internet of Things will enable brands to develop personal relationships with consumers and influence how they feel about their brands.
The decision journey that drives consumers to purchase a brand starts with an understanding of who the brand is, the value of the product or service to the consumer, and the consumer’s personal experience with the brand. Brands must understand that across the decision journey, every touch by a consumer is a brand experience. Making the first touch of a brand a memorable experience helps turn a one-time customer into a repeat buyer. Consumers relate to a brand through its “brand personality,” or the characteristics that make up the brand itself. A brand’s personality helps consumers to feel further connected to its products and services, especially if the brand’s personality is similar to their own.
For the past few years in the marketing world, we've used behavioral data, a.k.a. “online body language,” to learn more about consumers and their interests; examples include knowing which keywords people are using, what web pages they’re visiting and which emails they’re clicking (Miller, John). The more traditional model of customer relationship management (CRM) has provided brands with a basic knowledge of its customers. In studying customer likes and dislikes, spending patterns, and geographic location, CRM has provided marketers with useful information to develop strategies that target the assumed needs of consumers. Marketers design and deliver brand messages to consumer audiences, which has led to more impactful campaigns. However, the sheer volume of unuseful information and spam that overwhelms consumers poses a major challenge to brands. Bridging off the traditional CRM model, digital marketing through the Internet of Things will allow brands to pull information specific to what the consumers want and cut through the noise by directly delivering messages customized to the consumer wants and needs. Marketing will always be on demand; not just always “on,” but responsive and relevant to consumer’s desire for brand information they find valuable.
In the coming years, the demand for a more personalized experience will strengthen. Expectations will be high from consumers as they will expect that use of their data is relevant and targeted precisely to their needs. Consumers will want to have a personalized experience where all interactions are easy and meaningful to them. In an on-demand world, consumers will judge brands by their ability to deliver heightened experiences – interactions, literally anywhere, that offer high levels of value and are radically customized and easy to access – along the consumer decision journey (Dahlstom, Peter and Edelman, David).
With access to individual consumer behavior data and the use of technology to reach consumers directly, the Internet of Things is a game changer for brand strategists. There is an estimated 1.9 billion connected devices today, and its estimated that there will be 9 billion by 2018. That year, it will be roughly equal to the number of smartphones, smart TVs, tablets, wearable computers, and PCs combined (Alder, Emily). Industry experts predict that by 2020 there will be more connected devices than users, giving brands ample opportunities to deliver their strategic marketing strategies and messages. Integrating the Internet, communication protocols and devices will quickly change the way companies communicate with consumers. Companies will be able to collect consumer data, perform data analysis and know the appropriate communication channels that are effective with their consumers. Getting a head start can help companies build ongoing test labs where they tune the ability to create and analyze the right data and immediately learn where to add investments (Dahlstom, Peter and Edelman, David).
Currently, marketers use empirical data, global positioning satellites, and cell towers to track consumer behaviors and their locations. The Internet of Things will further utilize things like wearable devices (ie. Google Glasses, FitBits) and smart appliances (ie. stoves, refrigerators, vending machines) for tracking. Consumers are quickly adopting Internet of Things technologies, using smartphones to control once manual tasks remotely, such as changing the temperature in the house, turning lights on and off, and setting the house alarm from anywhere. These are just a few areas where we are already seeing the evolution of the Internet of Things change the way consumers conduct their daily lives. Businesses are just beginning to adopt new smart technologies as well. For example, smart refrigerators are becoming stock management systems with the ability to communicate what products consumers have, the products they are running out of, and products that will soon be expiring. This data is transmitted via M2M networks directly to grocery stores for restocking and delivery purposes, providing just-in-time inventory control. This information is then shared with brand manufactures and distributors to assist in their production planning and delivery process. This is one example of how the artificial intelligence of connecting through M2M networks can help to streamline the lives of consumers and brands.
Businesses and brands can utilize the Internet of Things for real-time information and tracking of consumer travel patterns, geographic placement, and spending behaviors. Travel patterns are currently tracked through smart devices, where a consumer’s whereabouts can be tracked on a continuous basis. Devices have the ability to track real-time information and notify consumers when there is an accident on a normally traveled route or send out a warning on future weather changes that could impact their travel. Municipalities and brands can track cell phone signals or connected car signals, overlay this data on a floor plan or road grid, to gain a better understanding of human and vehicular traffic patterns. Information on how a crowd moves, and how different demographic and psychographic segments of a group travel, is resulting in different strategies in shopper marketing. For example, brands are choosing locations based on traffic patterns and products are merchandised at points that touch the maximum number of prospects based on shopping patterns. (Currie, Blair).
Brands are using location based pricing to increase the frequency of consumers repurchasing their products by placing special offers (i.e. coupons) to consumers based on where a connected individual is walking or driving. Through efficient targeting of advertising, brands can target communications (i.e. free standing inserts) by analyzing anonymized cell phone or vehicle tracking signals to understand the journey their customers take to get to their stores. By knowing the location of their customers they can be more efficient and reduce "spill". (Law enforcement officials currently use this to track down individuals related to crime scenes as they can generally secure access to the personal information behind the anonymized data.) (Currie, Blair). Brands use location based services to transmit advertising from infrastructure (i.e. restaurants and stores) to mobile devices and vehicles, as the network realizes [a consumer] is approaching a retail outlet. (Currie, Blair). By leveraging the power of the Internet of Things, brands have boundless opportunities to track consumers, place messages, and influence how consumers relate to and feel about their brands.