British Gas owners Centrica have announced that they will invest £500m in the brand's connected home division. This comes after the UK government promised to invest £40m in the internet of things (IoT). But just how much of an impact will the connected home really have on marketing?
Business Insider estimates that the IoT will become the largest device market in the world by 2019. It seems like a bold prediction, but British Gas have already sold more than 200,000 smart thermostats through its subsidiary, Hive, since its foundation in 2012, and active heating represents just a small part of the IoT.
51% of senior marketers surveyed by the Economist Intelligence Unit said that the IoT will have the biggest technology impact on marketing, trumping even real-time mobile transactions. Why? Because of the quality and availability of the data it will produce.
Let’s start with quality. On a micro level, the IoT presents the opportunity to receive feedback on products near-instantaneously. If, for example, a customer switches a device on and off several times, it could mean they’re having problems: opening a window of opportunity for customer service teams to engage.
On a macro level, even basic products like Gooee’s LED light ‘engines’ can provide useful customer data. They incorporate motion and CO2 detectors, which can harvest valuable information for energy or security businesses, for example. Connected fridges on the other hand, can capture reams of information about shopping habits.
The most significant development in the IoT, however, is that it relies on communication between devices. This requires an open data ecosystem, a stark contrast to the strict protection and containment usually associated with online service providers. Such openness presents marketers with the opportunity to creatively exploit the collected data.
Making the most of the IoT opportunity isn’t just about gathering data, it’s about connecting and contextualising disparate data to build a useful picture of your audience.
Adopting, or even creating, useful data management and interpretation tools will be vital to using this data effectively. Harvesting data from the myriad mix of movement sensors, shopping habits and personal preferences is one thing, but using it to present effective solutions to customers’ everyday problems may be the greater challenge.