By Daniel Emery

Ever heard of the Internet of Things?

It’s nothing new, but it’s having a big influence on PR and marketing.

Tech companies have been discussing IoT for decades. It’s all about connecting devices over the internet, letting them talk to us, applications, and each other.

The first internet-connected toaster was unveiled in 1989. But where IoT is most common in the UK is home heating and energy use – partially because the government is pushing energy companies to roll out smart meters.

They have clever functions which allow customers to turn heating on and off remotely and adjust temperature. Motion-sensing cameras, or connections to smartphones can be set up, to allow meters to judge when owners have left the premises, and turn the heating off.

There is no question IoT devices work as a tool for engaging the customer, providing personalised new experiences.

But the Internet of Things will revolutionise marketing by 2020, evolving in two stages. 

  • STAGE ONE: Marketers will collect data about product use and, by matching services to devices, introduce services to fulfil customer’s needs. Products will become more useful and therefore easier to market. 
  • STAGE TWO: Advertisers will develop a network of ads specifically for the Internet of Things. 

Think about the smart fridge, for example.

In the first stage, a company creates a fridge with sensors to notify owners when items are running low. The customer can choose which foods they want to monitor, so they can restock before they run out.

This produces data not only on what people buy, but how often they buy it and how long it takes before they’ve consumed and need to restock.

Companies can collate all sorts of personal, geographic and demographic differences between smart fridge owners – a marketer’s dream.

In the second stage an ad network is developed for food brands, to give smart fridge owners ways to reorder groceries, perhaps through a smartphone app or a reorder button on the fridge.

Or even more hi-tech, the fridge could tell a smart TV to run milk adverts on its streaming service. If the customer uses a smart app to buy milk, the app instructs the TV to stop running milk ads that day.

The Internet of Things will create a new source of income for device makers and a whole new online marketing channel.

Manufacturing is probably the most advanced in terms of IoT. Farmers have been turning to connected sensors to monitor crops and cattle in order to boost production and efficiency.

In healthcare, smart pills and connected monitoring patches are already available. And people are strapping on bands and smart watches to track their steps, their heartbeat and their general fitness.

Tesco and Amazon are retailers leading the way in using the Internet of Things devices to automatically re-order groceries.

IoT is already in its first stage. We can see evidence of it popping up in every business in one way or another.

But rest assured the second stage of this revolution in internet marketing is fast approaching.

And this is far from science fiction.


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