What the Internet of Things (IoT) Means for Cross-Channel Marketing

Marketing technology is maturing at an unprecedented rate. Wearables — in car-communication systems and household appliances with smart functions — have created new customer touchpoints, making it easier than ever before to learn about the consumer. But, what does the Internet of Things (IoT) mean for cross-channel marketing, and how should brands be thinking about opportunities with connected devices?

Identifying Value and Aligning IoT With Brand Strategy
With more data and richer analytics, providing customized buying experiences across channels is exciting. But, smart brands recognize the need to take a step back — to put the shiny new toy down for a minute to identify the purpose and value behind new communication channels. Just because we can utilize IoT, doesn’t mean we should, and new channels need to make sense. Apple Watch, for example, can tell you when a train will depart or where the next turn is when you are walking down an unfamiliar road. These are experiences that make sense. Would virtual reality on a bus be as beneficial? Not likely. Brands considering IoT need to identify the value or purpose behind connected devices, and then, make sure they’re aligning channels with strategy.

Getting the Most From New Communication Channels and Touchpoints
IoT strategy should have everything to do with the customer journey. But, how do you maximize new channels and touchpoints? Look at how your customers interact with your brand and think about how you can join them on their journeys in a unique way. Most IoT channels are personal — from the thermostat in your house to the watch on your wrist. In many ways, these channels are much different from those we’ve become accustomed to. Sure, email has been personalized for some time — but getting an email on a computer feels much different from a vibration on your wrist. The way to maximize new communication channels and touchpoints is to look at what your customers are doing now and listen to what they’re asking for.

Recognizing the Value Exchange of IoT
Success with IoT is about understanding how your customers engage with you and the value exchange implicit in cross-channel marketing. Basically, there are two main approaches to the way brands interact. There’s the Apple approach, where brands say, “This is the future, and it’s going to work.” People are quick to ask “why do we need this?” Yet, in a year it becomes a necessity, and everyone wants it. Remember the first smartphone? Apple can say it knows what you want before you know what you want — and it usually does. But, most companies cannot do that. A second approach is to think about IoT as a value exchange. Capture data in exchange for providing consumers with something truly meaningful.

Too often, brands are anxious to jump on the IoT bandwagon because it’s exciting, but many miss the point. Personalized devices are intimate, but they’re also connecting the world in a bigger way. If they serve no purpose other than to be cool or hip, customers will know, and they won’t get on board.

Building customer profiles, putting it all together, and doing it in a way that offers valuable interaction is challenging. IoT is exciting to marketers, but no one knows for sure the right or wrong way to move forward. Connecting with people at the right time with the right messaging is the goal. And, while we may not have all the answers now, the best way to build a unified view of customers is to let them build it themselves.

For brands, the key to IoT and cross-channel marketing is understanding how to connect devices in ways that deliver personalized experiences and improve lives. It’s simple really. It’s not about brands but customers and the seamless, customized experiences that they find valuable.