How Internet of Things (IoT) Technology is Used in Marketing


Internet of Things (IoT) Marketing Applications

The Internet of Things is a buzzword on everyone’s lips. It’s a hot tech trend, and what’s interesting is that it has remained hot for several years now. The term was first coined in 2003, and in 2016 it is still the subject of countless white papers by marketing gurus and tech innovators alike. Like any trend, one area IoT is making an especially great impact is in the world of marketing.

Marketing moves fast. By its very nature, it is quick to leverage the latest technologies and news items. After all, whatever gets people talking can also get them buying. Below are some of the general trends we see in the IoT marketing space, as well as several specific use cases that illustrate them. Overall, marketing has taken to IoT quickly, easily, and effectively. Some of the ways the technology is being used may surprise you.

Advertising on Control Surfaces

One aspect of consumer-grade Internet of Things products is the need for some type of control surface. Whether controlled by a smartphone, tablet, computer, or the most exotic wearables, consumers need to spend time looking at some type of device in order to get the most out of IoT.

Anything that attracts a consumer’s eyes is ripe for advertisement and marketing, of course. Owners of smart watches glance at them countless times per day, and savvy IoT-era marketers are quickly learning that advertisements placed on a consumer’s wrist can be highly effective.

The fact that these watches and other control surfaces are IoT enabled, often serving as data sources in their own right, makes them even more valuable to marketing professionals. A watch can tell if its user is awake, for example, and it is aware of the time of day. Most of them can even tell if a user is currently engaged in exercise by measuring their heart rate.

Although such advertisements have not yet been implemented, marketers are already considering the possibilities. What if your watch could automatically point you in the direction of the nearest smoothie shop at the end of your daily run? What if your home automation panel could advertise the latest movies available for digital rental when you close the windows and dim the lights?

New Avenues of Communication

This type of tight integration between platforms and technologies is one area where IoT shines. Data is data, and given the right permissions and security, that data has countless uses. The home automation platform could potentially talk to the smart watch, and appliances could talk to shopping platforms. There are innumerable ways these avenues of communication could translate to marketing gains.

  • A smart oven could notify a consumer when it needs to be cleaned, and recommend a cleaning product to use
  • A consumer who regularly goes on long runs could be reminded to replace their shoes, and shown the latest model
  • Music fans who frequently stream a particular artist over their Internet radio service could be notified of live concerts in their area

If IoT excels at communication, then marketers excel at spotting and leveraging opportunities. IoT, if nothing else, provides new opportunities the likes of which have never been seen.

Use Case: Johnnie Walker Blue Label

One of the most creative and innovative marketing applications of the Internet of Things comes from a collaboration between distiller Johnnie Walker (owned by beverage conglomerate Diageo) and IoT pioneer Thinfilm Electronics. Using IoT technology, Johnnie Walker has created a smart bottle that knows when it has been opened. The bottle, which will be used for the company’s signature Blue Label whisky, features an NFC chip that will send personalized messages to consumers based on whether the bottle is sealed, open, or closed.

This application is the sort of free, open, and fun communication between a brand and its customers that marketers dream of at night. The ability to make drinkers laugh during a party, or encourage them to start a party if the bottle is closed, is invaluable to Johnnie Walker’s brand appeal and awareness. The decision to use NFC rather than a QR code, although it limits the audience to owners of NFC-equipped phones, makes the feature much more likely to be used by those who can. This type of easy user experience is crucial to marketing stunts like this one, and it turns the smart bottle from a one-trick pony into something that drinkers will be proud to show off to their friends.

Use Case: Uber and Spotify

On the other end of the marketing spectrum is the idea of providing actual useful features to consumers. Taxi industry disrupter Uber and music industry disrupter Spotify teamed up in 2014 to allow riders to stream their Spotify playlists through the sound system of their Uber car. From the consumer standpoint, the marriage between the two services is quite simple. They already use their smartphone to call an Uber, and already use it to listen to Spotify. Using their smartphone to do both things at once seems like a no-brainer.

Brand synergy, the idea of collaboration between brands to add value to both, has been tremendously enhanced by IoT technology. The Internet of Things allows companies in entirely different market sectors and even industries to jointly offer technologies and services that benefit customers. From a marketing standpoint, the benefit is obvious. Uber customers sitting in an Uber car are likely to sign up for Spotify just to try the service, and Spotify customers are likely to call an Uber in order to use their favorite service in a new way.

The experiment has been a great success, and today Uber riders can also listen to Pandora during rides through a similar partnership.

Use Case: In-Car Pizza Ordering

Uber isn’t the only IoT-enabled marketing experience to enjoy inside a car. In 2015, Pizza Hut and BMW announced a joint project along with marketing firm Accenture and the Visa Checkouts payment platform to create the first voice-activated, connected car pizza ordering platform.

Billed as a car commerce experience, drivers can use nothing more than the power of their voice, along with quite a bit of technology under the surface, to order a pizza for pickup while driving. The system uses GPS to alert the nearest Pizza Hut of the order, and when to expect the hungry driver to arrive.

Although more of a marketing exercise than a serious product development (the car was a proof-of-concept only), all four firms involved expect technologies like this to become commonplace by 2020. As Bill Gajda, the Visa VP heading the project, stated, “As the number of connected cars on the road increases, so does our ability to bring secure online commerce to consumers everywhere. We initially focused on a specific use case – ordering a meal on your way home – but we envision a world where consumers can seamlessly make many of their everyday purchases from the car.”

It may seem far-fetched to some, but it’s difficult to win when betting against companies like Visa. The IoT offers more opportunities for new technological applications than perhaps any other movement. The only sure thing is that marketers will leverage it for maximum effect.