With an installed base of 21 billion internet-connected objects and $3 trillion in spending projected for 2020, there’s little wonder why the Internet of Things (IoT) has reached the Peak of Inflated Expectations on Gartner’s “Hype Cycle for the Internet of Things, 2015” (client subscription required). That’s a lot of things, the majority of which will be consumer objects, including smart home products and connected vehicles.
Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo, Google’s forthcoming Home voice-activated assistant and Amazon’s growing array of Dash buttons that act as agents, ordering household goods for us, already are showing us how the IoT will change everyday routines. Tesla’s Autopilot and Summon features point the way to an autonomous driving future, where we don’t drive our cars as much as they drive us. In time, the IoT undoubtedly will reverberate across every industry, ushering in hardware and IT upgrades and process changes to enable more streamlined digital business.
But it would be a mistake to think the IoT is just about connected things and the efficiencies they’ll bring. The IoT also represents a host of new multichannel marketing opportunities and challenges, among them:
- Competition — The IoT will yield a new competitive landscape. For example, the prospect of self-driving cars means incumbent automakers face competition from technology companies such as Apple, Google and Uber, not just upstarts like Tesla. That warrants a fresh approach to everything from product marketing to positioning and messaging. You can no longer limit yourself to companies in your immediate industry because challengers could arise from unexpected places.
- Customer experience — The IoT also represents an enormous customer experience opportunity — a more ubiquitous way to engage customers through connected products or processes. At the most basic level, think of the life cycle of a connected light bulb vs. a conventional bulb. The connected object offers new — and ongoing — post-sale interaction possibilities plus a stream of potentially valuable data. How do these facilitate new ways to surprise and delight customers? What new services do they empower you to deliver? The implications for the customer journey are manifold, not least of which is that the proliferation of touchpoints will require improvements to multichannel orchestration.
- Mobile business moments — Customers are mobile, even when they’re in your store or on your website; whatever their modality, mobile inevitably is going to be a part of their business moments. The smartphone already has become the remote control for our lives. The IoT will only serve to reinforce that role, both at home and in the enterprise.
- Privacy and security — Privacy concerns are a major inhibitor to end-user adoption of IoT solutions, especially in the home. Privacy hurdles are exacerbated by lax security standards for many IoT products, where the emphasis is on speed to market. Protecting the customer is paramount as we move into an age of even bigger data. As Apple has demonstrated, privacy and security can be as much a customer experience differentiator as they are an IT concern.
The IoT is far from mature, so you don’t yet need to go big or go home. But our devices will continue to create greater intelligence, and multichannel marketing’s IQ has to keep pace.