All I Want for Christmas is My IoT

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As I sat in the office the other day turning on the washing machine at home, I realized that almost every electronic device I plan to purchase this holiday season has an Internet connection.

I also I realized that the idea of buying a washing machine with an Internet connection wasn’t very noteworthy. Although penetration levels still aren’t high, the idea of Internet-enabled devices in the home already seems to be commonplace among consumers. In fact, I recently read by 2024, more than 50% of internet traffic to homes will be from appliances and devices (Source: Business Insider, December 2016).

What I did find noteworthy about the washing machine purchase was the fact that the Internet-enabled option I selected was actually less expensive than some of the “old-fashioned” washing machines I considered. We all know that the speed of technological change has increased by leaps and bounds. Now it seems as if the price barriers that typically hinder adoption have started to fall just as quickly.

About 68% of U.S. adults plan to buy technology gifts this holiday season, according to the Consumer Technology Association. Roughly one-fourth of those people are going to buy IoT-enabled wearables, and another quarter will be picking up smart devices for the home.

It’s shaping up to be the holiday season where the IoT officially breaks through as a mainstream consumer platform. Why the surge? Declining prices are certainly a part of the equation. But it’s also because marketers have stopped promoting IoT devices as cool gadgets for early adopters, and instead are presenting them as real lifestyle-enhancing solutions. (For a great example, check out the recent TV spot for Google Home.)

This is good news for product manufacturers who have IoT-enabled devices to sell, of course, but for marketers who need to find ways to communicate through these devices, it’s a warning bell. A loud one. It means they have even less time to adapt to the ongoing evolution of information consumption. If you’re among the many marketing organizations that still haven’t quite nailed down a mobile communication strategy, then smart watch adoption levels are the last thing you want to be worrying about.

Which leads to another insight specific to a product and its consumer adoption.

Smart watches are fast becoming another option for consumers on the path to purchase. Right now, they don’t offer anywhere the same level of functionality as smartphones; wearers aren’t using them to browse the internet extensively, only to access key bits of information they need to navigate through their day.

That means marketers will have an even tougher time identifying relevant ways to reach smart-watch- wearing shoppers, to help them navigate through their lives rather than interrupt their journey.  Tried and true marketing tactics will need to change yet again; once more, we’ll need to compartmentalize the message to fit an even smaller, focused medium. The message will need to be timelier, more relevant, and much more personal.

One way to achieve that is to collaborate with key retailer partners. Few messages will be as timely, relevant and personal than an offer to the shopper’s wrist while she’s standing in the store aisle. Another is to contact the makers of these IoT-enabled devices, which are fertile ground for collaborative marketing partnerships and can provide highly relevant moments of impact.

But the most important recommendation is to get started. Adoption rates are climbing. Consumers are talking to their devices. If you wait any longer, you will be left out of the conversation.

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