Tech & Innovation
Engaging Customers With The Internet Of Things

Recently, Apple was granted a patent for a smart wearable device variously referred to by the tech giant as iWatch or iTime.

Even before Apple fans queue up to buy one of these ‘wearables’, content marketers should recognize that this impending rollout heralds a milestone in the monetization of the personal Internet of Things (IoT). The opportunity for you might not entail launching a nifty wearable product; rather it’s to engage customers with valuable insights culled from their personal data stream.

The IoT typically refers to machine-based information that streams into a cloud and becomes big data fodder for analysis by IT or marketing experts. The Internet of Things, which connects previously ‘dumb’ or isolated devices to the Web, also subtly alters the information exchange that unites brands and consumers.

What is an acceptable exchange for brands and consumers? Brands want (aggregated) data and consumers want actionable information. But brands will also seek to monetize the information they collect by offering targeted content such as personal reports designed to entice customers to visit them more frequently.

Adding sensors to networkable devices is the early leader in this category. Here are some examples of current or possible opportunities (and yes, you’ve heard of some of these):

  • One tennis racquet (Babolat Play) now connects to an app to report on your tennis game

  • A wearable device (such as Fitbit Flex) can tell you how you slept, how far you’ve walked and how many calories you’ve burned in a day

  • Apps that improve your experience at home (such as Nest thermostat or Apple’s nascent HomeKit) and enable you to control your environment

  • Streaming video images (Google Glass) enable you to share or potentially analyze how you’re spending your day. (In my view, this category needs a rethink specifically around what to do with this information.)

  • A car could send you a report that tracks driving metrics such as energy efficiency or time spent behind the wheel, but automakers haven’t figured that one out yet

  • Financial apps could analyze your spending patterns (from your viewpoint, a tax planning viewpoint or even a credit bureau’s perspective) and provide reports, but they don’t

Harvesting data streams represents an enormous opportunity for content marketers to create highly engaging—and personalized—content. But, like everything else in content marketing, there’s both a right and a wrong way of going about this.

What could go wrong? Not acting in the customer’s interest, for starters. A wearable device may figure out that you’re a highly motivated, possibly out of shape fellow and then shares that information with gyms or Weight Watchers in your neighborhood.  And what if your car, which has sensors that may capture your tendency to drive 80 mph and get terrible gas mileage, sells you out to insurance companies? Granted, that’s unlikely, but not impossible.


Content strategists realize that companies must make it exceptionally worthwhile for a customer to register for a personalized content experience. Amazon succeeds at this because its personalized recommendations are perceived as adding value, even if the retailer’s suppositions about your buying preferences are imperfect. Fitbit succeeds at this because personalized reports are the whole point of the product.

What does the Internet of Things mean to content marketers? Primarily, it means tread carefully but don’t be caught flat-footed.

Keep in mind that when it comes to harnessing the IoT, consumer trust is everything. If you abuse the power of your insights, don’t expect a second chance to make it right.

In truth, brands such as cable companies and cell phone carriers have collected tons of customer usage (and geo-location) data for years, but none of it is applied to marketing or personalized campaigns. I believe that these corporate giants have moved at a glacial pace for a reason: they literally don’t know how to add value to customers with this vast data trove. Will you?




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