How Local Marketers Can Harness the Internet of Things

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly finding its way into more and more aspects of our lives — and that’s good news for local marketers. This evolving market, which creates connectivity between everyday objects, is currently estimated at $655.8 billion, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC), and expected to grow to $1.7 trillion by 2020.

“[T]he value of IoT solutions is increasingly being recognized as transformative to business, governments, and consumers and the way each party experiences, operates, and innovates in the world,” Carrie MacGillivray, program vice president of mobile services, IoT, and infrastructure for IDC, said in a statement.

MacGillivray added that Internet-enabled devices (such as Apple Watch) and consumer-oriented services like Nest connected home systems might be the most high-profile piece of the IoT package, but that enterprise use of the technology is likely to play the bigger role in coming years. Just as mobile technology has allowed marketers to better target consumers based on location and behavior patterns relating to their smartphones, IoT is expanding this to individuals’ cars, watches, and who knows what next.

For local marketers to get the most out of this fast-growing sector, they must keep a few key points in mind.

Content and Context are key
Whether it’s the 1.5-inch screen of the Apple Watch, or the new Audi dashboard screen (which stretches 12.3 inches, but which for safety reasons can hardly expect drivers to give it more than a glance), IoT devices have limited space to convey messages and less time to do it in. For this reason, marketers will need to get their message across in a simple, to-the-point way if they are going to make an impression across these on-the-go devices.

Similarly, IoT makes the context of an interaction more important than ever. The technology opens up the possibility of gathering more data on consumers and allowing for better targeting based on their behavior. But it will be more important than ever to get the context of these situations right.

“Let’s say Nest sends emails out because of changes that indicate activity late at night,” says Suneet Bhatt, CMO of LiveIntent, an email-based local marketing platform for SMBs. “That’s a good opportunity for, say, a pizza delivery service. Small businesses have no resources to waste. IoTs email activity provides insight and a new channel for SMBs to tap into.”

The growth of IoT means an expansion in ways to reach a prospective customer (devices alone are expected to account for almost 32% of the total IoT market value). It also opens up the likelihood that marketers will need to embrace multiple channels (such as email in the previous example) in their marketing.

Bhatt adds that someone who buys a smart watch is “likely to also be using other smart devices, so targeting them with display advertising throughout the course of their day is unlikely to be effective, since those cookies don’t work across devices.”

Analyze analyze analyze
One of the greatest values of IoT is the new data it can provide to marketers, helping provide a deeper and up-to-the-moment understanding of consumer behavior. Not only should this help local marketers to better target their messages, but to review precisely what impact their various marketing efforts are having. Jim Clouse, founder and CEO of local marketing firm, describes this sort of hyper-targeted marketing as “narrowcasting.”

“Narrowcast analytics [provides details on metrics such as] number of times a map is accessed for a businesses’ location, which marketing panes (such as ‘Hot Deals,’ ‘Coupons,’ ‘Video,’ ‘Slideshow’) were accessed by the end user, number of times a promo code was tapped in Hot Deals or Coupons, etc.,” says Clouse. “This empowers the business to test various special offers and promotions, receive immediate feedback, and determine what works and, very importantly, what doesn’t work.”

Place a high value on security
This proliferation of devices raises concerns about personal security. At the end of August, Symantec secured more than one billion IoT devices — including TVs, cars, and smart meters — with an eye toward providing greater security to consumers.

“In the automotive industry, hackers can literally steer the car and ‘hit the brakes’ from their keyboards,” Shankar Somasundaram, senior director of IoT security for Symantec, in a statement.

Marketers must be sensitive to these concerns in how they send out marketing messages or other notifications, keeping recipients from feeling their privacy or online security has been compromised. This means getting permission from consumers before sending them promotions and keeping marketing messages from feeling invasive.

Alex Palmer is a contributor to Street Fight.