When a mobile app asks you to share personal data with a company, what do you do?
It probably depends on what you expect to get in return. That’s the new data economy consumers and brands are dealing with today: Companies want good user data, and users want good products and experiences.
Despite lingering consumer fears that companies know too much about their personal lives, the growth of customer data has moved forward with little resistance. For that, you can thank the Internet of Things (IoT), which turns everyday objects into web-connected data beacons. It started with our smartphones, but today brands can gather data from an ever-expanding list of objects consumers are eager to adopt. Your smartwatch, your fitness tracker, home thermometer, your coffee maker—all of these can now feature IoT technology that adds channels to a data ecosystem primed for use by digital marketers.
Those marketers are no strangers to the value of user data: They already use it on a daily basis to build smarter campaigns and optimize strategy. But IoT is a different beast that demands smarter analytics tools and educated marketers who understand the way data is collected, the insights it can offer, and also the limits of IoT in any given situation.
As IoT continues to grow—Intel predicts that by 2020, there will be 26 IoT devices for every member of the global population—marketers will see their roles evolve and adapt to changing data strategies. Consumers’ branded experiences will also evolve as marketers are able to learn more granularly who their customers are and how they live their lives.
Digital marketers are already data experts, relying on data every day to make important business decisions; but how will the digital marketer’s role shift with this new tech and way of life?
Marketers face a learning curve when it comes to optimizing IoT data strategies. The best-case scenario will feature marketers using data to drive specific actions for the company and its technologies, and these actions can be based on either real-time data or time-series data that uses historical trends to make future adjustments.
It will take time for marketers to reach this point of IoT influence. In order to leverage IoT consumer data opportunities, professionals must first understand how to make sense of this much-expanded ecosystem of data points. This understanding depends on marketers working closely with IT professionals to understand data acquisition channels and how to use them.
A strong data analytics strategy is critical: As Forbes notes, analytics are important for any marketing strategy. But in the context of such a complex ecosystem, a failure to implement analytics will render any IoT strategy useless.
Then, brands need to understand how data can best be gathered and applied for the best marketing results. This will often feature a mix of real-time insights balanced by time-series information, each offering its own advantages to an active marketing approach.
IoT information’s applications are endless—even brands themselves are still trying to grasp how that information can be utilized. A basic example of applied real-time IoT data relates to location data generated from smartphones: Mobile apps can deliver location-based notifications to consumers within a certain geographic area, employing a refined targeting strategy.
But newer IoT technology is taking those opportunities much further. Imagine a fitness tracking app that recommends a new pair of running shoes to you every 500 or so miles, when your recent pair is wearing out. Marketers could use the same technology to promote an upcoming road race to local runners whose recent workout performances suggest they might be competitive compared to the rest of the field.
As we previously covered on the Content Standard, Vivint has used its smart home technology to improve security and emerging savings for many of its users. A simple push notification delivered when users leave the house before work helped 45 percent of its customers save energy just by reminding them to lock up and adjust their thermostats.
New applications are emerging every day: ReadWrite recently highlighted a smart pillow that adjusts its thickness to resolve snoring at night. That also means the company has access to the snoring habits of all of its consumers.
In all of these cases, consumers are sharing unprecedented amounts of data: How often they work out, their average resting heart rate, their home energy usage, and home security habits, even how much they snore. This is all information most people prefer to keep private.
But by sharing their information with trusted IoT technologies, they’re getting a much better product and experience in return. That sustains the IoT customer data economy, and it paves the way for additional sharing and analytics insights.
The complexity of IoT technology and its data ecosystem requires a framework for better contextualizing that information and what marketers can do to leverage its opportunities. Altimeter Group believes it has such a blueprint in place, using IoT to increase engagement, product quality, customer experience, and the service side of any given product.
For marketers, consumer data can be used to improve customer support and even provide proactive support: Consider the IoT-enabled home security system that alerts users to a faulty signal from smart smoke detectors, which could indicate a battery is out. But IoT can also facilitate better selling strategies, including more proactive calls-to-action—is your refrigerator low on groceries, does your coffee maker need a new filter?—while increasing communication and optimizing these interactions.
The company also notes how reward incentives can elevate the customer experience: Marketers can use wearables to run promotions and other gamification strategies, such as FitBit’s fitness badge rewards system that increases brand loyalty by acknowledging user accomplishments.
These strategies work because of their inherent value to consumers. Without a clear return, shared consumer data is a much tougher proposition. That’s why marketers must first focus on understanding that data and knowing how to use it to improve their overall product. Without a clear plan-of-action founded on improving the customer experience, marketers have no business entering the business of IoT.