The world of marketing is constantly changing. Marketing professionals barely have time to become comfortable with one technology before another disruptive innovation arrives. As the world has moved into the digital age, marketers have had to learn a variety of new methods, new skills and new concepts. They have been forced to bend like a willow tree if they are to meet the demands of customers who are "always on," who expect relevant, personalized content and who are active — and very vocal — on social media sites. Marketers have had to embrace cross-channel campaigns, responsive web design, storytelling, mobilization, content marketing and social media. Now they have another challenge to overcome as the Internet of Things will change how companies engage their customers.
It seems that every week, some manufacturer announces the release or upgrade of a connected product. Your customers will soon be connected to the Internet via far more than their smartphones and computers. Already there are Internet-connected televisions, cars, refrigerators and a bevy of wearable tech gadgets. Your customers are moving to a more automated, connected environment at a brisk pace. They expect you to follow suit and leverage new technologies to engage them in meaningful ways and at the right time on the right platform.
The CMO Council for IBM recently conducted a survey of senior marketing executives, and the results were enlightening. Marketers were divided into laggards and leaders, based on each marketer's ability to create digital experiences and interactions that would attract attention, promote customer engagement, encourage conversions and acquire and nurture relationships. The contrasting viewpoints are revealing.
- Among the leaders, 89 percent stated that customer engagement will be significantly impacted by the IoT.
- Among the laggards, only 28 percent shared this view.
- Leaders recognized new opportunities to leverage the data and insights that they could collect from new touchpoints.
- Leaders saw more opportunities to transmit more personalized messages at scale.
- Leaders expect that IoT technology will encircle the connected customer, but it will not replace APIs and other digital-enterprise efforts.
According to the study, some marketers feel that topics such as the IoT, API economy and digital enterprises are "conversation starters" or little more than possibilities looming on the distant horizon. In reality, all of these trends are rapidly emerging as intertwined components in the evolution of customer engagement — and in this new world, content is king. Content has become a leading driver of commerce. However, it is no longer a simple matter of offering a few articles on your website. Your customers want content that is targeted specifically to them and delivered on their preferred channels. Although many marketers have made strides in delivering digital content through their websites, social channels and mobile devices, few have tapped into the opportunities offered by the IoT.
The report noted that connected customers will be completely immersed in the Internet of Things and will expect marketers to deliver relevant, timely, personalized and engaging experiences. Those who cannot — or do not — provide customers with what they want, how they want it and when they want it risk falling behind their competition.
The march of your customers along the road to immersive connectivity is moving forward. Estimates project that there will be 50 billion "things" connected to the Internet by 2020, providing a projected $19 trillion in cost savings and profits that can be directly attributed to the Internet of Things. Those who want to claim a share of that market are already planning and implementing their strategies. Those who fail to consider harnessing the IoT are risking potential obsolescence.