How the Internet of Things is Transforming Marketing and Communications

Mar 30, 2016 Christine Lewis

I recently attended The Ad Club’s monthly CMO Breakfast featuring our new client, Sean Ford of LogMeIn. In his talk, Sean outlined how many trends are converging to reshape how people will design, sell and buy products and services. Consider:

  • Millennials love personalization, instant gratification, and a good value. Brands cannot ignore these preferences because there are 92 million Millennials in contrast to the 77 million Baby Boomers.
  • Ninety-two percent of all companies have some sort of cloud infrastructure.
  • More and more, IT departments need to finds ways to ensure security while allowing their employees to bring their own devices and apps to work.
  • Big data is getting even bigger. The data volume is estimated to grow 50 times each year between now and 2020! This is going to bring exponential challenges around security and storage.

All of these trends will fundamentally change everything we thought that we knew about product marketing – especially as we enter the era of the Internet of Things (IoT).

There is a lot of buzz and confusion surrounding this term. As such, the crowd at the breakfast was asked to define what IoT even is. My favorite answer was, “It’s a religion that no one can really describe.”  Sean admitted that, “no one knows, but we know it’s coming, and we know the trends driving it.”

Marketers (especially those in technology fields) are already drowning in data so IoT will make sifting through data for voice of the customer (VOC) insight that much more complicated. Up until now, most of this data has been originated by customers. For 90 percent of companies, the VOC looks pretty much like a typical snail mail product registration card that relies on the customer to turn it in, include accurate information, and for it to then be manually and correctly entered into a database in at least some capacity by a human being.

Introducing the Voice of the Product

This is one way the IoT is going to change the face of marketing forever. By 2020, it is estimated that we will have more than 20 billion connected devices globally, up from the estimated six billion that the world currently has today. However, as Sean put it, most of us today are “data rich, but insight poor.” IoT will change this and it’s creating exciting opportunities and new challenges as it introduces a new term, the voice of the product (VoP). Essentially, the majority of companies will need to start thinking of themselves as software companies, especially those that have never had an app before, in order to remain viable and relevant.

So how can this be applied to a standard, physical product? Think about an air purifier when it is connected and is given a ‘voice’ of its own. With the app, a customer is able to see real-time data come off of the device, as well as current air quality. The app can create rules that inform the business that the product is behaving in a certain way or needs a replacement part (like a new filter.) In the past, the need for a replacement filter would be unknown to the air filter company and buying a replacement would be up to the end user. With IoT, the product can be connected to an existing business automation platform such as Salesforce that will auto-generate an alert to support its customers. This new VoP is utilizing data to make the customer experience delightful, creating a win-win that boosts customer lifetime value (LTV) and creates a more meaningful customer relationship.

The Impact on Communications

So why is this important from a communications standpoint? Companies that are now running real-time services for the first time – and creating direct relationships with customers that previously did not exist – will need to make a substantial investments in modern communications, including social media. Smart companies will get ahead of potential security issues, data breaches and other disruptions with solid crisis communications planning or as Sean put it, “communications on steroids,” that will help companies to be transparent and to keep the best interest of their customers top of mind.

IoT is more than just a trendy (or even over-used at this point) buzzword. It is a disruptor and is going to fundamentally transform business as we know it, especially for those of us who work in communications.

The full talk can be viewed on The Ad Club’s website.

Topics: Marketing, Marketing Tech, Technology, PR
Christine Lewis

Christine is an account director at InkHouse.

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