IoT is a game-changer for any business with a product to sell

How will products and services driven by the Internet of Things (IoT) transform the way we live? Everything from cars to microwaves will be able to self-diagnose their own problems, our oven will be able to start heating up the casserole when we are on our way home, and healthcare services can monitor our wellbeing from afar. These are all part of the IoT mix, and the future holds far more opportunities than we can imagine today.

What we do know is that the IoT will put people at the heart of the technology of their everyday lives. And this has massive implications for the future of how these products are marketed and sold to consumers.

independent decision-making

Opinion varies about how fast the Internet of Things is growing. Cisco suggests there will be 50 billion connected ‘things’ in 2020, creating scenarios where apparently unconnected objects communicate – and make independent decisions – to help us live more efficiently.

For example, in one scenario Cisco proposes, a meeting is pushed back, there are transportation delays, and your car needs fuel to get you to the transport station. Devices share information about these things while you sleep so that your alarm works out when you need to wake up, your coffee machine knows when to switch on for a well-timed early morning drink, and your car starts de-icing itself to be ready when you need it.

share and share alike

In a future where everyday items work together to automatically meet your needs, companies with products that can’t share data with the ‘hive brain’ may not fit into an individual’s lifestyle. Faced with the choice of a toaster that can work with your coffee maker so that tea and toast are automatically ready when you want them, and a toaster that you need to operate manually, which would you pick?

Companies like Cisco, Samsung and IBM are working hard in this area. For example IBM has announced a £2 billion investment over the next four years to establish an Internet of Things unit, building a cloud-based open platform to help clients and ecosystem partners across industries to better integrate real-time data and insights.

All the big technology companies are now fully aware that the IoT is here today, and will grow and change exponentially in the coming years. For it to serve people well, marketeers need to understand it, develop new techniques, learn to collaborate with technology and data companies, and develop a sophisticated understanding of the individual rather than the hive mind.

We suggest five sales and marketing lessons for businesses to have successful products and services in the IoT age.

1. collaboration is vital

As Samsung’s chief executive Boo-Keun Yoon said in his keynote speech at this January’s Consumer Electronics Show, companies will need to work together to make the Internet of Things effective, because it is a technology that’s not about things, but about people, a technology which adapts to us as we move through our world. 

2. data owners are increasingly important

Marketing specialists, who have developed expertise in levers like aspiration and lifestyle choices will need to work more closely with hardware makers who will have rich data about their customers such as where products were purchased, how they are being used, and what other items the owner has.

3. servicing the customer will be king

Marketing messages will need to focus on service rather than raw selling, and to be individualized. Cross selling and upselling will be relevant, but care needs to be taken not to bombard potential customers. Customer feedback will be more readily available, and can be a useful part of the data mix, but if it is not responded to customers could become alienated.

4. personalization is the key

Businesses will need to ally themselves much more closely to individuals’ relationships with specific products. Focus on how the coffee maker, toaster and alarm clock share information to benefit everyday life could be a better approach for marketers than one which looks at discrete products or brands.

5. data privacy is a priority

With so much more information about individual use of products, at a much more detailed level than ever before, there will be key issues around personal data. Allowing individuals access to this information will likely be crucial to winning their support.

Read more about machine-to-machine (M2M) and how Orange Business can help you develop Internet of Things services. Find out why security is vital in the IoT and why your data center needs to be ready for the IoT revolution.