Connect with Customers — Making the Most of IoT Growth

Sean Connell , Chief Technology Officer

The data narrative in marketing has met two extremes.

On one side, there’s the old John Wanamaker quote that marketers love to reference: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” And in the age of digital marketing, you have the other extreme where marketers have more data than they know what to do with.

Whether you’ve lacked data or gotten lost in a sea of it, there’s a gap between customer experience demands and the insights that will help you create them.

At first glance, Internet of Things (IoT) growth seems like it will exaggerate big data problems. But if you handle it correctly, you can use IoT data to create better, more personalized customer experiences.

Growth of the Internet of Things

According to Gartner research, Internet of Things growth has been exponential—and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down.

In 2017, there were 8.4 billion connected “things” worldwide. That was a 31% increase from 2016. And by 2020, analysts predict there will be 20.4 billion IoT devices in use.

From smart cars to fitness trackers, smart TVs, home appliances, security devices, industrial sensors, and beyond, we’re working toward a world in which just about every product is internet-connected in some way.

This isn’t just a problem for CIOs, CTOs, and digital transformation leaders to solve. Marketing leaders must recognize that IoT devices not just connected to the internet, they are linked to their customers and are an avenue to tie customers back to the business.

In some cases, your customer experiences will rely on the unique ways that you use IoT devices to engage consumers. But more likely, your IoT goal should be to harness the explosion of data that will accompany device growth.

Putting IoT Data Volume into Perspective

One forecast from HPE sums up the explosion of data we can expect in the coming years. Their research says that by 2020, 1 trillion applications will exchange 58 zettabytes of data annually.

To put that more in perspective for the marketing and customer experience world, that level of data usage means that every hour, consumers:

  • Write 26.1 million tweets
  • Watch 451.4 million YouTube videos
  • Send 1 billion WhatsApp messages
  • Spend $12.2 million on Amazon
  • And conduct 186 million Google searches

The data explosion began before the Internet of Things took off. And as a result, marketers have grown accustomed to using traditional web and CRM data to gain insight into customer behavior.

While that traditional data allowed us to do things like send semi-personalized emails and execute retention programs based on purchase histories, IoT connectivity will unlock many new possibilities.

When combined with the data-processing power of advanced AI and machine learning systems, we can capitalize on IoT data to create truly personalized customer experiences in real time.

IoT Personalization Takes Us Beyond Segmentation

As much as marketers talk about meeting customers where they are and delivering omnichannel experiences, one thing is for sure—it’s almost impossible to reach customers on a 1:1 level on every channel, 24/7.

To overcome those challenges, we’ve turned to automation and segmentation to blend mass marketing with data-driven, targeted marketing. But customer expectations have risen and it’s more important than ever to start delivering truly personalized experiences.

The data collected by IoT devices give us the opportunity to understand the complete context of individual customers at scale. That means you can design experiences that anticipate customer needs and engage accordingly by providing:

  • Proactive Customer Service: Rather than waiting for customers to experience problems and reach out to your company for solutions, you can proactively address issues. In some cases, that might mean having automated workflows for troubleshooting. And in others, it might mean actively contacting customers to resolve potential problems.
  • Active Experience Monitoring: With location and usage data, you can engage with customers in real time to improve experiences. One way to do this is to deliver push notifications based on location data to give customers personalized deals on products and services.
  • New Ways to Access Products and Services: IoT connectivity gives you a new plane for designing customer experiences. Consider how startups are changing city transportation with dock-less vehicles. The systems aren’t perfect but using IoT-enabled scooters and bikes provides a level of convenience for commuters that traditional rental systems can’t match.

The Internet of Things Isn’t a Fad

New use cases for the Internet of Things emerge almost daily. However, the one thing every marketing and technology leader should know is that IoT is the foundation for personalized customer experiences.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can continually refine your approach to customer segmentation and create truly personalized experiences. The Internet of Things (in tandem with big data analytics, AI, and machine learning) isn’t a fad—it’s an emerging and inevitable tool that can change the way you engage with customers at every stage of their journeys.