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Context is King in IoT Era Marketing

Steve ManattMay 07, 2015
Context is King in IoT Era Marketing

In my last post on April 9th I discussed the growth of the Internet of Things, and the devices and technologies that will drive a revolution that exponentially expands a consumer’s data footprint. While there are going to be opportunities to reach someone right on their device with a contextual offer or service, looking at the current ratio of devices which are able to serve as a channel versus those that become another node in the consumer information ecosystem, the latter is still higher. More devices will connect independently to a core device such as a mobile phone, or to an ecosystem of sorts, whether a device operating system or an open source application e.g. IFTTT.

Context in this sense is critical.  While a sole signal is useful, that signal combined with other relevant data for the situation provides much more actionable information. Not too long ago cars would just show an alert when the fuel went below a certain volume. Next came alerts based on not just volume but consumption rate i.e. not only how much fuel I have left but how fast I am using it , and in this way additional context provides more utility. Certainly broader external information can make it even more efficient, such as the distance to gas stations, traffic en-route for each option, addition to initial drive time, brands, and price. I am free to then optimize for price or for least impact on my trip time.

Just like context is important to leverage unique data points, context is important in how marketers take advantage of a new development in their broader marketing efforts.



Marketers will not win solely because they have the most consumer data points or the best marketing technology stack. While these are important components of a wining marketing strategy the winners will be those that better utilize the new data factoring in specific use cases. These use cases must align with brand positioning, established customer data permissioning, and a brand’s current set of capabilities to effectively connect to and integrate this data, to identify when additional IOT based actions can make an impact. These are brand specific but some general paths to begin with are as follows:

  •  Improvement to integration of online and offline data for targeting and measurement
  • Analyze usage patterns to understand next product offer e.g. running shoes, batteries in smoke detectors, filters in refrigerators.
  • Utilize additional data points in existing analysis to improve predictions, user experience, test & control, and measurement
  • Drive more contextual and in-market offers, services, and product recommendations.

This cannot be a standalone initiative, because the strategy will have to align with, and be based on current and planned brand positioning, customer permissioning, and capabilities. While brands can certainly utilize this new development as a fulcrum to reinvent and reinvigorate themselves, it’s wise to keep lessons learned from ERP and CRM, or for those Millennials, digital and mobile in mind.  Could a new use case based on additional insights reinvent a business? Or is it more likely that marketers can drive more precision in targeting to current value propositions. The former is a much tougher endeavor, requiring greater capability and competency retooling and support.

Competition Context:

Certain industries are moving faster than others. Marketers have to determine industry velocity and customer readiness. Not only do marketers have to understand the devices, data, and services that can be tapped into, but also the customer’s view on the value delivered in exchange for sharing information about themselves. Customers may be comfortable if their driving information is used to get better offers on tires and gasoline, but less inclined to have the driving information be used for car insurance. How the information is used could determine whether consumers see value in resulting offers or are turned off by it.

Its critical brands are up-to-speed on the challenges and opportunities unique to their industry, and endeavor to be in front of them to ensure their brand remains strong and strengthens.  To drive competitive gains a key immediate evolutionary step would be to incorporate stronger analytics from the additional information from IoT to more effectively drive targeted offers and services.


Customer information Context:

Critical to brand’s ability to drive more contextual offers and services, is the ability to connect new insights back to their existing CRM data to better understand not just how consumers  are interacting with your product or service,  but how it relates to their broader needs. The CRM data is the foundation of this rapidly evolving universe. Put it in context to understand consumer needs, usage patterns, expectations, and then use that enhanced customer profile to drive more meaningful customer engagement.

Dr. Youngjin Yoo of Temple University is doing some fascinating research on the topic of human behaviors tracking by leveraging big data. According to Dr. Yoo, when humans interact with digital systems, they leave a trace, and the trace data can act as DNA. In Dr. Yoo’s view digitally enabled processes in complex digital systems, are like a living ecosystem that is constantly evolving. He refers to patterns in the trace data as behavioral genes, and alteration to those behaviors as gene mutations. Dr. Yoo’s research is focused on predicting those changes.

I fully agree with Dr. Yoo, nothing is static. Our usage of devices, tools, apps, and products will continue to evolve, change, and increase. Consumer’s digital footprint will expand exponentially and rapidly with the advent the IoTs, e.g. cookies, device IDs, wearables, ingestibles, internet-abled appliances etc.

The key will be to connect these new data sources to brand’s core CRM data to enhance that customer profile. Then use the triggers from these new data sources to further inform our understanding of the customer. This is important because triggers will come and go based on what devices customers use, but our understanding of customers has to be anchored to a more stable core. The brands that win will effectively leverage the additional information from the coming IOT revolution to create experiences, offers and services that fit in context with the customers’ lifestyle and values