The Internet of Things Could Make Marketing “Magical”

At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Samsung chief executive (CEO) Boo-Keun Yoon announced plans to invest millions to create Internet-connected electronics and make the much-buzzed “Internet of Things” (IoT) an everyday reality. As consumer engagement shifts once more from multi-screen to an “Internet of Everything,” marketers will have to evolve their strategies to avoid being left behind.

In his keynote, Yoon said that the “Internet of Things has the potential to transform our society, economy, and how we live our lives.” That statement is especially true for marketers looking to engage with consumers across devices, according to John Cain, vice president of consumer insights and analytics at SapientNitro. The IoT makes it more possible than ever before for marketers to understand where to best reach consumers and that understanding could render old forms of advertising obsolete.

“It used to be we’d just push an ad and hope to catch consumers, but now we know something about their behavior,” Cain says. “We can be there with apps and features to connect when consumers are ready and open for a conversation. That’s a massive shift from billboards and ads and circulars and building apps and smart content that gets deployed knowing when the person in ready for a kind of conversation. That’s the huge sea change that’s going on in marketing right now.”

However, potential for communication comes with its own set of problems, according to Jamie Gallo, president of Wunderman New York. Brands must be very careful to create engagement that adds value rather than inundates customers with promotions and offers to the point of redundancy.

“Brands that are more focused on service are the ones that win,” say Gallo. “The brands that are more focused on promotion or heavy handed sales or promotional activity are the brands that will get ignored. If the brand decides that they just want to push, push, push, that brand is going to be white noise at some point.”

Cain agrees that as beacons increase in popularity, giving marketers the opportunity to reach customers on mobile devices in real time, brands must use that communication thoughtfully. “If marketers push you just to remind you that there’s 10 cents off on peanut butter, we will be in the future where all of your seconds and moments will be plastered with advertising,” Cain says.

“What we’ve got to strike here is a balance and a tone and a recognition to kind of help marketers change the way we think of the customer or the consumer. We’ve got to think about the person and we’ve got to think about the landscape that they move across throughout there day and find fruitful ways to intersect,” he adds.

As devices become connected, Yoon warned in his keynote that companies would have to become more collaborative in order for the IoT to become a reality rather than a science fiction fantasy. “It takes more than one company, more than one industry, to create this IoT universe,” Yoon said. “We all have to work together.”

Marko Muellner, digital vice president group director of Edelman, believes that collaboration is also necessary for marketers, though cooperation won’t be easy.

“For marketers, the IoT presents a new set of challenges and opportunities in the realm of collaboration and partnerships. The most radical shift will be in how marketers gain access to consumers. Advertising, over time, will likely be transformed,” Muellner says.

“Traditionally, we looked to publishers and networks like Facebook and Google to reach consumers. Ad formats became standardized and scale drove awareness, but the interactions are pretty low quality. In the world of connected devices, hardware makers like Samsung, Nike, Fitbit, Jawbone, and auto manufacturers, for example, will have the richest data and customer relationships and they will become the gateways to high-value customer interactions,” he adds.

The Internet of Things provides just as many opportunities to marketers as it does challenges. But as devices become increasingly connected, the most important service that brands and marketers can provide to consumers, according to Gallo, is a seamless multi-screen experience, though an ideal flow of content from one platform to another remains a long way off.

“Right now at CES there are more than 900 connected devices,” says Gallo. “We have competing devices, all these different experiences, and the burden is felt by the consumer. The more seamless the experience the more magical it becomes. We’re not there yet, no one’s there yet. But the ultimate experience is when devices and platforms are communicating invisibly rather than burdening consumers. That’s what all marketers want to achieve.”

You can watch Yoon’s full speech here.

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