Opinion

Alexa, how is IoT going to revolutionise digital marketing?

John Hewitt

,

23.03.2021

Alexa, how is IoT changing digital marketing

By 2025 there will be 481 million smart homes around the world. At least 75 billion connected devices are being used right now. The Internet of Things is a big part of everyone's future. 

In the home, most people's everyday portal to the IoT is their smart speaker. The "almost human" gadget they talk to regularly, shout at sometimes and treat as part of the family.

An estimated 200 million smart speakers have been sold around the world since the Amazon Echo was launched in 2015, and the trend is steeply upwards. 33% of Gen Y consumers say they plan to purchase a smart device in the next two years. 

The Atlantic reported that there are now "almost as many personal assistant bots on the planet as people." 

Accelerated by coronavirus

The COVID crisis has brought a whole new level of importance to domestic technology. Most of us have been spending much more time at home, needing reliable connectivity to earn, learn and see our friends and family.

According to a recent Vodafone report, 84% of IoT adopting companies believe that it has helped them with business continuity during the pandemic. 87% say it is crucial for their future success, and 84% are using it to fundamentally improve their environmental sustainability.

Marketing is no exception to this general trend. If you want to engage and persuade tomorrow's ever-more connected customers, you are going to have to reach them through multi-channel marketing, harnessing the IoT.


Can't wait, won't wait

Your audience is now hyperconnected. And they don't just want stuff. Whether it's information or merchandise, they want it now. So brands need to be consumer-centred, digitally savvy, software and channel-agnostic. The Consumer Electronics Summit 2021 confirmed that people want tech that's simple to install and easy to use immediately, and they want to be able to integrate anything with anything.

Goodbye smart, hello sentient

With more connected devices per household and each device getting increasingly sophisticated, more tasks in and around the home will be controllable from one central hub. The smart home is evolving into the sentient home, learning your likes, dislikes and needs. Providing what you want before you've even asked for it. This going to make us all more reliant on the IoT.

So if you're going to reach the right people most effectively with your marketing messages, you're going to have to work with Alexa, Google, Siri — and all the devices and appliances in their network. 

Let's talk voice search 

People don't just have smart speakers gathering dust on a shelf. All the evidence is that they use them a lot, and the habit of talking to technology is spreading to their other devices. One study reports that 54% of people who own a smart speaker use it more than they did at first. And 56% have started using the voice assistant on their smartphone more as a result.

This is changing the way search engines are used. When people who have adopted smart devices want information, they don't type words into a box, they ask their household oracle a question:

  • What's the weather forecast?
  • Is Sharknado worth watching?
  • What's the capital of Outer Mongolia?

This means it's vital to optimise your website for search by spoken question, rather than typed terms.

Other things you and your search engine optimisation advisers need to be aware of are:

  • Alexa has a boss called Jeff Bezos. Beneath that oh-so-helpful manner lurks a determined Amazon sales bot, just waiting for an opportunity to turn your query into an order.
  • Google Home favours SEO tactics that provide concise and useful information. Numbered lists, recipes, and price estimators are prioritised when answering queries.

Listen to the future

Amazon only started running audio ads on Echo devices in 2019, and direct advertising on smart speakers is still in its infancy. Promoting brands, products and services via the Internet of Things is much more likely to be indirect, via music channels, streaming services, podcasts and radio stations. For example, Spotify sells ads that specifically target smart speaker users. 

Skills (called actions by Google) are the smart speaker equivalent of apps on a phone or tablet. They enable you to access all types of knowledge through a smart speaker, such as recipes, repair instructions or translations. Brands can use skills and actions to indirectly build awareness by associating themselves with useful or entertaining content. For example, Hellmann's Mayonnaise has had a lot of success with a recipe service on Amazon Echo.

Get to really know your customer 

Those billions of connected devices all over the world are producing a tsunami of data. The IoT will enable customer resource management tools to gather, organise and analyse this data to provide actionable results. 

A wealth of real-time insights into consumer behaviour from IoT devices can help to understand where prospects are in their buying journey, so messages can be created to nudge them closer to making a purchase.

However, this needs to be balanced by the need to reassure consumers that they are not being spied on or having their cybersecurity compromised.

In-store personalisation

Marketers will be able to personalise customers’ in-store experiences too via IoT. Imagine being able to tell when a shopper has been lingering near an item without buying it. Maybe a message on their smartphone could inch them closer to making that all-important decision to buy.

Predictive social media

IoT is optimised for use with social media. It has the potential to help marketers predict the development of social communities and target them effectively. An early example of how this can work is Toyota’s Friend platform, allowing cars to communicate with their owners via social media — sending alerts when regular maintenance is due for example.

Instant customer feedback

IoT and social media enable customers to provide instant feedback. If a product isn’t living up to expectations, they'll tell you about it in no uncertain terms, so you can make the necessary changes without delay.

Connected marketing via APIs

The Internet of Things can also enable companies to unlock the business value of the data residing in appliances and devices. Manufacturers are building IoT developer stacks that can be accessed by other businesses to build applications for the marketplace. Already, salesforce.com generates 50% of its revenue through APIs, Expedia generates 90% and eBay 60%.


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