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Marketing and the IoT: How Connectivity Shapes Strategy

It’s coming. The connection of all physical things to the internet is on the horizon (and in some ways, it’s already being put into place). The possibilities of these new applications are seemingly endless, but this also means that with the interconnectedness of all physical objects to the internet, marketing strategy is going to take on a whole new meaning. The evolution is upon us, and as astute students of the marketing world, it’s time to buckle up and get ready for a new breed of digital marketing.

So what is the IoT?

The Internet of Things is the networking of your everyday accessible devices (think of your watch, refrigerator, car, and even your washing machine!) that can transfer information to one another seamlessly via the internet.

Here’s an example:
Your refrigerator can let you know when you’re low on your favorite cereal for the week and can send a coupon for cereal for your favorite store via the internet to your phone. No more Post-It notes with jumbled writing or “don’t forgets” scribbled on your hand. Shopping becomes a breeze.

Or ponder the possibility that, while travelling in a busy metropolitan area, your car can find the nearest parking spot in a crowded downtown maze. It will be able to tell you parking lot fees, hours of operation, and when the best times to arrive might be to shave a few extra minutes off your trip.

The IoT aims to take out the ‘busy work’ of life - by connecting all the devices we use on a daily basis; it eliminates the unnecessary hassle of things that take a few extra seconds to do. Those seconds do add up!

Why this matters for marketers

As digital marketers, we are always on the hunt for content that will satiate the consumer, at the right time, and through the right avenue. More often than not, this objective requires educated guessing, intricate research, and sometimes unpredictable results.

However, with the technological avalanche of the IoT, this ‘guessing’ is about to get a whole lot easier. New and unprecedented amounts of data will arise that will make content marketing about the assimilation of available customer information, rather than spending time on an educated guess.

The IoT will provide context to consumer behavior rather than just results of purchase.

This is important because it allows an almost predictive sense of what’s going on in the customer lifecycle.  As marketers, we’ve never been able to tell the future before (no matter how long we stare into the agency crystal ball). But now, with the multitudes of new and exciting data on consumer behavior that will be massively pouring in, it certainly might just feel like magic when you can see the story behind an individual’s actions.

Connection takes on new meaning

IoT Data

With the advent of the IoT, connection is about to gain a whole new meaning. Though we see people continually puttering away on their 4G phones, wifi iPads, or a wired desktop, the use of these pieces will shortly pale in comparison to the connectivity of objects to the internet. If your watch syncs to your washing machine, which syncs to your car and your microwave via the internet, then, in theory, you could be connected or “plugged in” for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Why does this shift of ordinary objects to the internet matter for marketers? Constant connectivity allows for continuous interaction. With so many new avenues and devices in which to communicate with the consumer, there comes unprecedented opportunity to connect with those we want to reach the most, at every phase of the customer journey. Marketing strategy will need to account for this opportunity for constant engagement by acknowledging that there may be accelerated process time for A/B testing, increased creative output, and a faster pivot time for things that just aren’t working to keep people engaged.  

Connecting to consumers will also come in many new and exciting forms. We are no longer limited to laptops, mobile phones, and tablets. According to Statista, connected devices to the IoT will exceed 75 billion in 2025.

This creates an immense opportunity to not only craft content, but craft content we’ve never conceived of (who has written copy for display on a microwave before? We haven’t, but we can’t wait). New devices that join the world of the internet will allow marketers to tailor messages to a specific point in use-case, which has never been done to the extent that the IoT will easily enable.

This connectedness of all devices also allows for multiple touch points and many more relevant messages. Personalization of these messages will only continue to grow in importance, as consumers are looking for an experience that benefits their unique situation.


We aren’t kidding about the microwave. Imagine it could tell you how often a consumer is cooking non-scratch meals through the frequency of microwave use. Is this person using the microwave every night around the same dinner-ready time? Is the use case hovering around the two minutes and thirty seconds it takes to zap a Hungry Man pre-packaged dinner? This storytelling data can be collected and used to create digital ads that apply to the individual’s situation. Cue the tasty takeout digital advertisement that can be sent to that person’s email or TV with a great personalized coupon offer.

But this opportunity extends even further. Instead of throwing a generic national chain ad into the mix, marketers will be able to present ads based on proximity, giving small local restaurants the chance to introduce themselves to the microwave-happy people in the neighborhood. This tailored message could also recommend a restaurant based on how slammed busy the restaurants are (which can be calculated by the IoT connections the restaurant has in-house. Are the ovens working like crazy or is it a slow use night?). With a little data mining, marketers can tailor the message and present the closest, fastest, and cheapest takeout ad for the next night and schedule the delivery at the optimal time. This creates the relevance we as marketers strive to attain, all thanks to the enormous amounts of data that the IoT provides.

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Next level informed marketing - are we ready?

All the information marketers long for, and desire (the context, the story behind the consumer) will come in the form of overwhelming and seemingly boundless sets of data. To get a grasp on just how much data that is, Bernard Marr gives us a little perspective.

“Today, every two days we create as much data as we did from the beginning of time until 2000. That’s right, every two days. And the amount of data we’re creating continues to increase rapidly; by 2020, the amount of digital information available will have grown from around 5 zettabytes today to 50 zettabytes.”

A zettabyte is the equivalent of 1 billion terabytes, which is a heck of a lot of data.

This changes the marketing mindset and toolbox. Instead of being the intrepid (educated) guessers of the world, we become data interpreters, able to piece together the stories of innumerable people through assimilation of datasets. Marketing professionals will need to brush up on data science and its implications in the world, as well as develop skills that allow extrapolation of behavior patterns from a constant influx of new data points.

Marketing strategy will likely also be able to leave behind more traditional means of research. There will no longer be a need to use focus groups because the incoming data will speak to who buyers are and what they are doing. The opportunity here is that there are no ‘false’ answers, only those given by action.

There will be a story behind every consumer movement readily available, allowing unprecedented glimpses into the buyer journey in real time. Marketing strategy will need to be flexible enough to adopt these stories quickly and craft user experiences that convert.

Does this take the creativity out of marketing? Hardly. Now we can be creatively driven based on the data that our continuous and anonymous focus groups provide, creating an agile environment for agencies and allowing the ability to pivot instantaneously when something isn’t right.

Final thoughts

The Internet of Things is changing the way marketing strategies will be formed in the near future. Marketing professionals will soon have a data influx that was previously never dreamt possible, and with this will be able to craft relevant digital marketing initiatives through a variety of devices outside of the now ‘normal’ range of possibilities. These opportunities are coming quickly, and it’s up to us to be prepared for the new world of digital marketing to come.

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About the Author: Jennifer Heusner

Jennifer Heusner

Jennifer is a graduate of Eastern Washington University with a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology and dual minors in Business Administration and Linguistics. Her previous exploits include full-stack agency operations, paid social advertising, brand development & design, large-scale event promotion, content strategy, and project management.