Did the creators of the world wide web ever imagine it would become what it is today? Something that’s seemingly as essential to our lives as oxygen and food? And that’s just for us humans, the internet has also become a vital line of communication between machines, so it makes sense that eventually the machines would have their own internet.

This is exactly what the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is; a mobile, virtual, instantaneous machine-to-machine connection built around cloud computing and network sensors which work tirelessly to gather data. From mobile phones to washing machines, smart fridges to smarter cars, it’s estimated that by 2020 we’ll have around 50 billion internet-connected devices in the world.

So what does the Internet of Things mean for us marketers? A recent Economist Intelligence Unit global survey reports that senior marketers believe companies who are slow to integrate the IoT into their business will fall behind the competition. As a global market predicted to generate $14.4 trillion (£9.4 trillion) for the private sector, you definitely don’t want to be at the back of the queue for this one.

Everyday intelligence

The IoT promises to make even the most everyday items intelligent. From cars, radiators, light bulbs, washing machines and fridges to agricultural machinery and transport, the Internet of Things will allow these seemingly mundane items to collect and broadcast data across networks.

As marketers, we rely on intelligent machines such as computers and smartphones to provide us with data about our customers, but the IoT promises us a wealth of information from sources we’ve never dreamt of. From knowing what radio programmes your customers like, to what time they set their morning alarm, we need to be prepared to receive this amount of information but also, and perhaps most importantly, we need to know how to use this data to deliver more meaningful marketing campaigns.

Smart data

The IoT ushers in a new paradigm of marketing precision, with previously unobtainable data now at our fingertips. POS notifications, real-time interactions, consumer interaction data from both devices and products; the possibilities are truly endless.

The data-driven relationship is going to be a thing of beauty, with more connectivity leading to more data, leading to smarter data, leading to more relevant campaigns, leading to more customer engagement. We’re excited at the prospect! Not only that, the Internet of Things means the connected devices themselves can provide data to improve the customer experience too, so if a customer tries to purchase an item through your online shop on their smartphone and something goes wrong, a triggered alert gives you the opportunity to offer real-time support. Genius!

Hypothetically speaking

Marketing campaigns will no longer be based on vague hypotheses of what your customers might want or need and will instead be factual; based on known data, known behaviour, known habits. This will save you valuable time and money by avoiding ineffective campaigns and obsolete advertising strategies, plus you’ll have a far firmer understanding of where best to reach consumers.

Gone are the days of casting a wide net hoping for a catch. The Internet of Things will allow you to dangle that tasty, targeted bait directly over your customer. You’ll be sure to land the fish you want.

Communicating value

With this influx of new, detailed data, we as marketers have to use it wisely and responsibly. We must seek to create engagement that adds value, rather than using data to bombard customers with promotions or offers that turn them off.

As always, customer experience is of the utmost importance, and where the IoT will provide us with the opportunity to reach customers on mobile devices in real-time, we have to be sure that we are communicating in a thoughtful and meaningful way, and not just emailing for the sake of it.

Final thought

No one is quite yet sure just how huge the IoT is going to be, but we do know that it’s going to create a seamless, interconnected multi-platform user experience like never before. To make the IoT work for you, stay abreast of the latest news and developments in the digital world through our weekly round up. This will keep you one step ahead when the IoT boom hits.