Internet Of Things – A Smarter Way For Marketing?
“Internet of things” (IOT) – the new buzz word in the business world, is gaining popularity at more than one level. With devices becoming ‘smarter’ and access to technology becoming ‘easier’, the pace at which this technology would gain traction knows no bounds. If we talk about the whole hype being built around this new buzz word ‘internet of things’, we can safely say that most of the players across various industries are extensively investing and finding their way into this new arena. According to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, marketers believe that IOT is currently one of the hottest trends in technology as well as business and by 2020 it is going to have a major impact on marketing strategies. Before knowing the impact of marketing on IOT or vice versa, let’s have a glimpse of what IOT is and what does it have in store for us.
INTERNET OF “THINGS”
To put in simple words IOT is all about connecting physical objects to the internet where these objects can communicate with each other or their users or their manufacturers and the likes. It is the interconnectivity between devices (objects) which have their presence on the internet. One may be able to operate the simple day-to-day devices remotely and exchange information of any size over the network. Simple right?
People have begun to outsource the simplest of things like monitoring the washing machine, switching on and off the electronic devices (lights, AC, T.Vs, etc.), controlling the door locks and many such day to day tasks to their smart devices. One has greater control over their profession even. For instance a farmer may regulate remotely that whether he has to irrigate his fields or is it going to rain. He can keep a tab on the weather conditions. A floor manager at a plant may no more rely on a workshop worker to monitor his timers and inventory, he may convert his machines into ‘smart machines’ and keep a check on the timings and inventory himself, so that every time he has to change the lines, or order for new stock, he would already know when to.
In the world of IOT every object becomes a ‘thing’; with the advent of technology, every dumb object can become smart and all smart devices may find their presence on internet, since ‘everything’ (almost) can be made ‘smart’ hence ‘everything’ becomes ‘things’ in the world of IOT. Thereby you may find Internet of things may also being referred to as ‘Internet of Everything’.
It is estimated that by the year 2020, there would be more than 200 billion devices on the internet of which more than 50 billion devices will be connected to each other. With such a volume of devices and their users finding their presence on internet, companies may leverage this technology to innovate their products, understand their customers and take marketing to a whole new level.
Now let’s talk from the marketers’ perspective that how IOT is impacting their strategies, what benefits are being offered by IOT which is making their lives simpler and interesting at the same time.
Ask any business professional and he/she would tell you the importance and criticality of ‘DATA’. From a single click on the company’s social media page to the huge volumes of sales & distribution numbers, everything comes under the scope of DATA. For companies, especially the large ones, capturing, managing and analysing all of this DATA is a herculean task, hence they have their analytics department or outsource this function to external entity, for the analytics study. IOT can make this process much simpler than where it stands today. With the help of smart devices, we can have all the information pertaining to every sale (location, demographics, reason of purchase, etc.), details regarding every social media page/webpage (areas with high traffic, age group, location, time of surfing, etc.). Based on all this information the analytics team, with much accuracy could derive conclusions and further the marketing team could direct their future strategies based on the same. This would save much of the R&D costs, would require decreased workforce and the promotions could be directed to a specific segment. All this could be achieved in real time instead of waiting for the IT professionals to gather data and deliver it collectively in certain intervals. This would provide instant feedback to the company. So, if a product isn’t being received well/received very well, you can immediately call off the product/increase the sales and workout a strategy accordingly.
Offer remote services
A much important component of branding is the ‘brand character’, which means how a brand is perceived by its customers and weather it is able to deliver the promised service/experience or not. With IOT all the devices are connected to their manufacturers, hence whenever there is any glitch in the device, the service/maintenance department may detect it at that very instant and if possible, get it fixed remotely. Devices are becoming more and more about software rather than hardware, hence in case of any code error or intrusion, the issues are handled remotely and the customer doesn’t have to wait for the company personnel to come and fix their machine. With such a system of service delivery system in place, it is obvious for the company’s ‘brand character’ to be being perceived at a much higher level.
Get more in less
The best part about internet and social media is, maximum value can be extracted with minimum resources. With the advent of IOT, marketers are already automating the devices to manage the social media platform by automating the activities related to posts, queries, shares etc.
Social media can also be leveraged to provide more accessible healthcare facilities. People can connect to healthcare centres, clinics or doctors via some app or wearable device, this would also enable and healthcare facility to remotely monitor their patients. In case of emergence an individual or the smart device he/she is wearing may send message to any nearby clinic or ambulance. Also, data such as medical history, insurances, etc. will all be just a click away. The advent of IOT in the realm of healthcare would result in ground-breaking innovations, which can be available at a much affordable price to the customers.
Apart from the above benefits on which marketers can actually base their marketing strategy, there are a couple of more areas where they need to focus MORE:
Big DATA and analytics put together provide us with a detailed report on consumer behaviour, i.e., their buying behaviour, perception, feedback and expectations. These details when accurate are gold for marketers since they would exactly how their product is being received and how their future strategies should be put together.
These days advertisements (via print media, TV commercials, hoardings) have occupied so much space (between programs, on roads, on public transports, in stores, etc.) that people tend to ignore it or get annoyed by it if it’s not relevant to them. Hence all the money spent is in vain if in a certain set up there are no viewers of an ad. This issue can be addressed by targeted advertising and marketing, where a certain ad is displayed only for the relevant or prospective customer segment and not to everyone on the internet.
Imagine a web surfing experience with no annoying pop-up ads or banners. But again if your hair dryer broke down, then your smartphone would show you ads pertaining to hair dryers.! How amazing that would be.! We can imagine the era of irrelevant advertising coming to an end.
Focus on retention rather than selling
I wish to buy a television but I don’t know what the latest features available are or the brand names which are selling them. So I go to Google and search for ‘television’. I get a whopping 87, 70, 00,000 results in about 0.49 seconds. Imagine the number of options today a customer has if he needs to buy a new product. Hence a marketers’ work doesn’t end at just promoting and selling a product. He has to make sure that the promised features & experience is delivered. The customer should be able to form a bond with the product and the brand name. This is referred to as creating a ‘brand royalty’. The brand must be able to create that value for customers which makes them retain back and become loyal to the brand. Brands like Apple, windows, AUDI, have a strong segment of loyal customers since all believe in providing an exceptional user experience to its customers. Brand loyalty is all about providing that ‘Experience’ to the consumers. IOT may help in more than one ways in creating this experience. For instance, when your device is on the internet, you can provide regular updates and services remotely and make the consumer’s life much easier. Imagine smart TVs vs. traditional TVs, imagine smart refrigerators vs. the traditional ones, smart kitchen appliances vs. the traditional ones. Keeping all this in mind a marketer has to focus more on providing an exceptional user experience to the customers and hence retention rather than selling. Selling is no more the top priority, brand loyalty is.
We all know the stir create by Google glass, iWatch by Apple, smart watches by Samsung, smart ACs by Panasonic and all such products. These are all live illustrations of how IOT is gaining traction and penetrating in our lives. But is it really a new breakthrough in the technological sphere or rebranding of something which is already existing since the 90s? (Remember vending machines which used to send a message whenever it was out of coke cans?)
I would leave this thought for the readers to think upon and infer that is IOT a future technology or an existing technology which took a backseat and now has come back with some rebranding done by some industry stalwart.