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Imagine That, Inc

The Future of Digital Marketing

We all remember the television show “The Jetsons,” right? Well, if you don’t, in short, the Jetsons were a nuclear family residing in Orbit City during the year 2062 … a futuristic utopia of robotic contraptions, aliens, holograms, and whimsical inventions including numerous push-button Space Age-envisioned conveniences. In 1962, when the show first aired, all of this futuristic technology was a bit of a mockery. But, in 2014, the show’s premise does not seem so far fetched. Enter “The Internet of Things (IoT).”

What is The Internet of Things (IoT)?

The Internet of ThingsIoT can be described as sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects – from roadways to pacemakers – that are linked through wired and wireless networks, often using the same Internet Protocol (IP) that connects the Internet. When objects can both sense the environment and communicate, they become tools for understanding complexity and responding to it swiftly. Put simply, it’s the enabling of devices to communicate with each other and to transmit data in order to function more intelligently and provide convenience.

This seemed to be the world that The Jetsons lived in, but these physical information systems are now becoming a reality, and some of them even work largely without human intervention.

While all of this sounds so futuristic and cool, IoT is happening as I write this, and will have an effect on digital marketing as we know it. Digital marketing is all about reaching and communicating the message to the correct targeted audience to influence them about a product or service. With IoT, the face of digital marketing can and will change. IoT is all about things talking to humans and connected to the Internet, so marketers can no longer ignore the opportunities to connect with key audiences in the new ways that IoT will present.

IoT and Digital Marketing

Marketing opportunities have increased with the increase of smart devices connected to the internetDid you know that there are already twice as many “things” connected to the Internet than people? And, according to Cisco, by 2020, this is set to rise to 75 billion connected devices, merging our physical and online worlds. The implications for marketers are obvious and far-reaching – as more consumers connect their everyday lives to an increasing number of smart devices, marketers will have the opportunity to not only better understand the lifestyles and habits of their customers, but offer even more personal and intimate contextual experiences than ever before. So, how will the future of digital marketing be transformed forever by this connectivity and sea of data?

True one-to-one messaging

The IoT presents a huge opportunity to collect, measure, and analyze an ever-increasing variety of consumer behavioral information, which, if correlated, could revolutionize the practice of target marketing of products and services … creating a true, individualized one-to-one experience for customers.

Rebecca Nadilo, director, Digital Strategy at BBDO has this to say about this individualized experience of IoT, “As connected devices gain mainstream adoption in 2014 by moving from flashy features to those with real value for the consumer, digital marketers will have another highly targeted and personal platform to push out their message. First, digital marketers will need to determine whether they can truly provide brand utility on these platforms before diving in. And those that do will need to determine how they can best utilize all the additional data points collected to target their audience – moving from big data to smart data.”

Monitoring and service

There are currently several smart devices that monitor things like activity level, blood pressure, sugar level and temperature, to even your prescription use to enable doctors to manage and monitor your health. So we are slowly starting to get there, but what about integrating this into every one of your products? Talk about great customer service! Your ability to leverage this monitored health or service data captured and relayed automatically by smart devices could reduce the hassle factor and time required to get any needed product or service, ultimately improving the overall customer experience.

Customer Data

Information gathered from the IoT can help generate advice at point of sale based on customer habits and preferences. The IoT will be able to do more than simply gather and organize customer data; it will be able to analyze that data, providing you with actionable results regarding your consumer base. Invaluable to marketers, IoT devices can streamline this process by helping you understand where your potential clients are in their buying journey, so you’ll be able to focus on resolving issues and handing them the correct information that will nurture them to conversion or simply address their needs.

But, with all of this incoming data, customers will expect brands and advertisers to have a deeper, more personal understanding of how they function, so the analyzing of this data will become more important than ever before. Customer expectations will change. They will still highly value their privacy, but they will also look for that personalization and predictive marketing, so digital marketers will have to be more flexible to allow for these radical changes.

According to Amy Lanigan, vice president, Client Strategy at Fluid, “ Overall, the Internet of Things is going to challenge us as marketers and shift power to consumers. It will arm us with immense amounts of rich, interesting data that lives beyond the confines of an Excel spreadsheet.”

Contextual change

Marketing is evolving from channel level data collection (time on webpage, page views, etc.) to customer level data collection (what customer X did on page Y) to digital device data collection (collecting customer level information across all devices, regardless of channel), so as IoT evolves, intrusive ways of capturing attention (banner ads, pop-ups etc.) will become less and less effective. In their place a new approach will involve a much more relevant and contextual method of advertising that will be more about how they engage with the smart devices around them. The data recovered will help companies deliver more contextualized and relevant offers and experiences to their customers. In this manner, not only will the consumer save time by only being served relevant advertising, but also marketers will no longer need to waste thousands of dollars on irrelevant advertising. The better brands can become at collecting device data for use in marketing campaigns, the happier consumers will be. This device data, when appended to a customer data profile, will help brands deliver more contextualized and relevant offers.

Itai Asseo, vice president at DigitasLBi says, “ The Internet of Things is the final frontier in connecting users’ entire physical life to the digital world. From information about their driving habits to what they eat and how much they exercise, the promise of Internet of Things is to get a much deeper understanding of your brand’s consumer, and insights into targeting them to a much finer degree.”


Every day, the connected world is becoming less of a Jetsons fantasy and more of a reality. The number of connected devices is increasing daily, and brands have a huge opportunity to embrace the IoT to make their marketing efforts more effective, engaging, and relevant in real-time. The key here, is to not turn this into a method for being more spammy and inducing a message overload. The more data that brands have about their customers, the more relevant their messages become.

I personally think this will be interesting to monitor and see how companies take advantage of IoT in the upcoming years as digital marketing continues to grow and evolve. I am all for bettering the user experience between human and device. More relevant marketing offers, less time on the phone, and no more batch marketing are all things that I can endorse.