Anyone walking the exhibit halls at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show would have a tough time avoiding the vast array of Internet-connected sensors, gadgets, monitors and appliances – all part of what is being referred to as the Internet of Things, or IoT. In my earlier blog on this subject, I urged marketers and media companies to put the consumer experience first through added value and utility, to resist thinking of IoT as another media channel, and to leverage IoT in the context of customer loyalty, rather than customer acquisition. I hypothesized when marketers and device manufacturers partnered to make IoT more affordable and valuable in the eyes of consumers, the payoff will be a win-win-win for everyone involved.
After publishing my post, I reached out to three influential industry trade leaders to learn more about what their members believe is the likely future of IoT for marketers and media executives. One of these leaders is Tom Benton, the Chief Executive Officer of the Direct Marketing Association, whose 1,500 members include marketers, agencies, publishers and data-driven marketing services providers.
“The DMA membership includes some of the most sophisticated data-driven marketers in the world. This group sees IoT as a treasure-trove of insights on consumer behavior, and at the same time, recognizes how important it is that they proceed responsibly and don’t demotivate consumers to share,” Tom said when we talked. The data that this new breed of devices is capable of collecting is enormous, and marketers are just beginning to understand how to integrate these new insights into the ways they interact with consumers.
“DMA members represent both supply and demand sides of the marketing ecosystem. We’ve led and operated the marketing industry’s self-regulatory program for the past 60 years. So it’s no surprise that we’re hearing from members who want to figure out how to marry technology advancements with consumer trust. For our members, it’s about protecting self-regulation while enabling marketers to transform data into actionable insights.” These insights, Tom continued, will drive more and more innovation for the benefit of the consumer.
“In this third wave of the Internet, marketers have the opportunity to completely reinvent their businesses,” said Greg Kahn, the newly-appointed President and CEO of the Internet of Things Consortium, a trade body representing 60 leading connected device hardware, software and analytics companies. “The truly innovative marketers are creating entirely new products and services that simply couldn’t exist before IoT. They’re establishing direct consumer relationships where the ability to do so was limited or non-existent just a year or two ago.” Greg referenced Tide’s early partnership with Amazon Dash, and imagined a near-term future when P&G launches a direct-to-consumer subscription replenishment service in partnership with one or more IoT device manufacturers, completely eliminating the retail channel.
This is a growing conversation across the DMA membership, according to Tom Benton. “Many of our members have direct consumer relationships today, and so creating additional value and utility through IoT is incremental for them. I think you’ll see some incredible innovation among this group of members and particularly for those that put the customer experience first.”
That sentiment was echoed in my conversation with Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, the trade association representing 70 premium content publishers. “Of course, I like anyone talking about putting the customer experience first. Let’s not forget, however, that the customer experience must include consumer trust built from their confidence in how their data is collected and used.” Referencing the relatively recent uptick in online ad blocking, Jason warned that, “you can collect data for business value, and you can collect data for customer value. We’ve seen the undesirable outcome of putting business value in front of customer value.”
Greg Kahn wrapped it up succinctly. “At the IOTC, we talk about the shift from the Information Age to the Intelligence Age. You can read on our website the notion of intelligent devices that are sensitive to the presence of a person, that communicate autonomously and respond by performing a specific task that enhances that person’s lifestyle.” We both agreed that to accelerate this anticipated future, all parties involved must first seek to enhance the consumer’s lifestyle. If that becomes our collective purpose – a purpose that governs how we design products, how we deploy new services, how we ask for and create value from data – the outcome will be a revolutionary win for everyone involved.