Jun 26, 2018

The Internet of Things: A Marketing Guide

by Digital Marketing Institute

You may have heard the term ‘Internet of Things’ and wondered what all the fuss was about – after all, it seems like a somewhat vague phrase.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a reference to the way that we use internet to connect to our devices today, as well as how different devices transfer data and communicate with each other. It is a network of things and people that are connected digitally.

So how will this change the nature of the real life and digital landscape? Here’s a rundown of some predictions and future trends.

What is the Internet of Things?

According to Gartner, a leading research and advisory company, there will be some 26 billion connected devices around the world in the next couple of years – and this number is on the low end of the estimate.

What’s more, the internet as we know it from the past 20 years or so is quickly becoming immersed into our lives on new levels – in other words, it’s not just restricted to our computers or even our mobile devices anymore.

Today, the IoT incorporates our mobile devices, digitized household appliances, wearable devices, and even industrial and community systems. It now consists of a network of day-to-day items and systems which are interconnected and have the capacity to share a greater amount and variety of data as they essentially ‘talk’ to each other.

The ways IoT can help us in our day-to-day lives range from simple reminders to restock the coffee, or up-to-date public transit system notifications in real-time. But we’ll also be able to connect different parts of daily life in new ways.

Our cars will be able to notify our colleagues that we’ll be late for meetings due to traffic; we’ll get real-time reminders to pick up milk while we’re collecting the kids from school; and we’ll see more instances of industrial ‘smart’ devices, such as farm sensors that monitor soil moisture and nutrients and that automatically trigger watering systems if necessary.  

The Internet of Things: Examples

Okay so we now have a generalized understanding of this term, but what kinds of devices constitute this type of network? Here are a few examples of ways we’re already using the IoT.    


There are many wearables already on the market, such as Fitbit, which are capable of tracking and storing all of your personal health data despite their tiny frames.

In the Home

There are already many IoT-enabled household devices, one of which is the Nest Learning Thermostat, an automatic digital thermostat that can adjust based on your living patterns and when people are in your house. It has a mobile app that anyone can use to help adjust and control heating and cooling even when they’re away from the house.

The Scanomat Topbrewer is another very cool household item that allows you to make, or schedule, your coffee and over beverages wherever you may be via your app. You may also see digital household items like this fridge which tells you when certain food items are low and even re-orders your groceries for you.  

In Healthcare

The HealthPatch is an IoT-enabled device used for outpatients that monitors various vital signs like blood pressure and heart rate remotely, and which can alert health care professionals if medical attention is required.

City Planning

In the field of urban planning, the city of Barcelona has included several different types of devices into its Smart Cities design, including digital bus stops, sensor systems for parking spaces, LED street lighting, and sensors to monitor park water levels. Since installation, the city has been able to conserve 25% more water and save over $500 000 annually.      

The Internet of Things and Digital Marketing

How will IoT affect digital marketing? With all of this highly specific and personalized data essentially ‘floating’ around (or at least more transferrable and accessible, in theory, when users give permission), it can be used for even more customization in advertising and product offerings.

Information like weather, past purchases, activities, and even schedules could theoretically be brought to the desks of marketers, which would make for whole new realms of data to draw from when it comes to segmentation and targeting. To this end, we’ll be able to predict what people are going to do next – and even give consumers information that they want to know before they may even know they want it.

We’ll soon be able to capture more information in real-time about consumer behavior. Consider micro-moment marketing, for instance, which is based on the premise of targeting people in the middle of quick buying decisions which are often mobile-led.

Currently, it’s difficult for marketers to understand the buyer journey in this process because it’s hard to find out exactly what is behind these decisions. But the more data is available about things like place, time, and overall context, the more marketers will be able to design marketing strategies that can cater to our desire for instant gratification and location-independent purchasing.

As technology becomes more widespread, it will probably be used in the same vein as unique IDs and cookies are used today – basically, there will be more opportunity to track and follow people and gather their information. And with advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), marketers will have a greater ability to track, manage, interpret and analyze massive amounts of data, and to do so in real-time.

The bottom line is that marketing is about to become more data-focused than ever before. One advantage this huge influx of data brings is that marketing campaigns can become a lot more personalized – for instance, a Fitbit wearer can be notified of a new health food store in their neighborhood as they pass by on their morning jog. To this end, messaging will become more relevant and highly personalized, thereby vastly improving the customer experience.

IoT and Privacy

As previously mentioned, IoT-enabled devices rely on vast amounts of personal data. With so much personal – and private – data being shared between devices (and often being stored remotely without our knowledge) there are clear implications for the privacy and security of our data.

For instance, think about the smart thermostat mentioned above; it will probably contain data about who is in the house and when, which could present serious security risks were it to fall into the wrong hands. Automatic locks are another example of a household item that could cause obvious security concerns.

Responsible and ethical management of this data should be considered on every level. To this end, we’ll see better authentication and encryption methods to ensure greater levels of security.

Ethically, companies and professionals on all levels involved in the design, creation and distribution of these items must always be aware of the amount and type of information that is being collected, and how it is stored and distributed. Marketers in particular must pay great attention to this.

Future Directions

Pew Research Center has a few predictions about how the IoT will affect us in our day-to-day lives into the mid-2020s:

  • The internet will feel like a background presence that’s less noticeable but permeating throughout every backdrop – sort of like a static or energy, it will just be ‘there’
  • There will be more cyborgs out there – people with body parts that are controlled digitally
  • There will be more digital features incorporated into homes
  • Crowdsourcing and transportation are more likely to be controlled via universal systems
  • Information sharing will become increasingly seamless
  • Privacy will be increasingly at risk

The IoT is still really in its infancy and will continue to impact us in ways that we may not be able to foresee. The important part is to continue to be disciplined and curious in the ways that we use digital media to connect and continue our daily lives.

According to Business Insider, companies expected to invest heavily in this area include Honeywell, Hitachi and Comcast.

The Internet of Things Will Change the World

For consumers, the IoT has the potential to change the way we manage our homes, our health, our schedules and even our work. It could very well give us better access to health care while improving energy efficiency and the environmental state of our cities and towns. In short, it has the potential to make everything we do more efficient – from saving money to conserving energy. It will probably even help us to save lives.  

For marketers, the IoT essentially will give them a complex and layered ‘map’ of information that they’ve never seen before, and which they can integrate into various marketing actions. It will change the face of the way we are able to ‘read’ consumer behavior and actions, allowing us to predict what people are doing in ways we never have before.

Messaging will become more targeting and relevant, resulting in much higher engagement, customer retention and hopefully ROI. We’ll see new and innovative marketing schemes which combine data from digitally connected partners as well as brick-and-mortar stores.

It’s certainly an exciting time for marketers and individuals alike, but it will only be successful if we’re extremely diligent about data privacy and security.

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