The internet of things is a reality we’re rushing quietly toward. But what is it, exactly? I recently witnessed an uncle of mine—a gentleman avuncular in all the expected ways—announce the concept to my mother over a holiday meal. “The internet of things!” he proffered dreamily, and threw his fingers upward like a magician releasing a dove.
“But what the hell is it?” my mother demanded.
The younger among us tittered, but none of us were able to explain IoT in a way that satisfied the itch of our parents’ generation. IoT is a world in which everyday objects—from your phone to your car to your coffee maker to the systems that manage energy consumption in your home to the system that screens bags at the airport, and so on—can exchange data with each other via network connections. To some, it can sound like far-future science fiction, but in fact there are as many as 10 billion IoT devices already out there.
Potentially more confounding than the concept of IoT itself is how marketers are supposed to re-interpret current practices to meet the high-data demands of an integrated omni device world. Let’s take a look.
What will omni device marketing look like?
As the Internet of Things wends itself into our daily lives, marketers will have to master omni device marketing. First, a moment to deal with the proliferation of marketing terms around this idea: marketers are at once supposed to be multichannel, then omnichannel… now omni device! But the good news is, these aren’t necessarily brand new ideas.
My colleagues at Appboy describe omnichannel marketing as a marketing approach in which “brands seek to reach customers with the appropriate message in whatever channel they’re using in that moment, all in real-time.” To do this, marketers need to develop approaches that cross and complement all devices and channels.
Basically, it means being consistent, and being available to your customers. Omni device marketing shares the same demands. While a multi- or omnichannel approach means considering your email marketing as a coordinated effort with your push notifications, for example, omni device means adding the layer of multiple devices. That push notification can now be seen on a smartphone or a wearable (like the Apple Watch), and new connected devices are coming all the time.
IoT just grows the list of potential touch points
While IoT will undoubtedly pose challenges to marketers, the opportunities are worth getting excited about. Once we all start connecting our tea cups and toothbrushes to the internet, it will become more possible than ever to get real-time data to inform our multichannel, multi device communications and to build stronger customer relationships.
For example, data from IoT usage will inform product makers and marketers about customer stagnation points or process blockages. Devices may be able to self-correct and adapt in real time when users change behaviors. Communications can update based on touch points marketers define ahead of time, or based on algorithms that make devices smarter over time.
Consistency is the key
The lynchpin of omni device marketing is likely to be consistency of customer experience—both with the service or application itself, and with the messaging the customer receives from you.
Living among the Internet of Things, we won’t just begin to use our devices differently. We’ll begin to interact with brands in a whole new way. Exactly how remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: the goal of tomorrow’s marketer will be keeping the customer’s experience coordinated and logical across all channels and devices.
Customer messaging should feel essentially the same to a customer whether they’re interacting with a native app on a smartphone or tablet, or if they’re interacting directly with a “thing.”
Likewise, data gathered from “thing” usage can become the key tool in a marketer’s magical bag of messaging tricks, even if those IoT toothbrushes don’t exactly become messaging channels in themselves. (People might choke on their toothpaste if their toothbrush started to talk about the latest sale on home goods in the middle of the morning.)
CRM will become more crucial as the Internet of Things becomes commonplace
The data-gathering potential of this world is a gold mine for engagement marketers who make consistent use of an effective CRM. The IoT is poised to move mobile marketing beyond the phone. From wearables like the Apple Watch, to connected cars and homes and workplaces, the mobile world is about to become the world of things.
As users begin to adopt connected everyday devices, companies will begin to understand better than ever how users use, and why, where, and when customers shop.
This mountain of information could become overwhelming, and certainly would be, without effective use of a CRM.
Managed properly, these data can provide incredible insights into user behavior. A marketer ready to use this information can personalize messaging at unprecedented levels of granularity, and can potentially meld previously underused segments of a business (like customer service, for example) with other engagement opportunities.
IoT-related customer data have the potential to enable CRM-comfortable marketers to move the user more swiftly through the engagement funnel to conversion and loyalty.
4 Steps to rev your CRM engines and get it right from the start
The good news is, CRMs are already outfitted to serve the needs of engagement marketers as they test the uncharted waters of omni device marketing.
1. Integrate the user profiles in your CRM to collect data on these new touchpoints
Channels and devices change, but customers are the same no matter where they interact. A robust user profile helps you get to know each user’s preferences and treat them as the same person no matter which device they decide to use from one moment to the next. Make sure your marketing efforts on all new devices are integrated with your CRM.
2. Make sure you’re collecting smart data from the start
If you haven’t already, lay out the customer journey you expect your users to take. From opening the app to the ultimate conversion goal, or from signing up for your newsletter to returning to your mobile site again and again, what steps will they take along the way, and how can you reach them at these crucial steps, across all devices, to keep them engaged and delighted?
Make sure you’re collecting the customer data that pertains to the steps you’ve just laid out. That way, you can more effectively pinpoint and use campaign touchpoint opportunities.
3. Foster long-term engagement with personalization
Users will display preferences for when they’re likely to respond to messaging, how they like to share content with their networks, how they do or don’t want to receive communication, and of course, they’ll show preferences for different devices to accomplish different actions.
By tracking their behaviors throughout the lifecycle, you’ll be able to reach the customer consistently—on the devices, and during the moments, and in the ways they’re most amenable to your efforts.
4. Unify your brand experience across devices
A brand experience is the sum of the brand copy, visuals, campaigns, customer service… every customer-facing interaction. Obviously a consistent voice will help customers feel like they’re encountering and doing business with that same trusted brand, no matter what device they use. It’s also important to ensure that an action begun in one channel can be seamlessly finished in another. For example, items put into a cart on one device, say, a wearable, can also show up elsewhere, like in the user’s cart on your website.
It’s not the IoT if we’re not talking about privacy
Privacy and security are the number one concerns skeptics and advocates alike have when the Internet of Things comes up. Customers want to know how their data will be used. Businesses want to know who owns the data. Everyone wants to know if there will be standards. Communication around data usage and data sharing is and will continue to be paramount to the success of omni device marketing. The key to getting this right will be establishing a solid baseline of reliability for your brand and your product by building long-term relationships your customers can trust. Provide value with the data do you do correct, and you’ll be set up for long-term success.