The Thing About the Internet of Things
Bleeding-edge digital technology is not going to transform the retail business. The shopper who embraces that technology is driving that evolution.
The glorious Internet of Things that we’re hoping for won’t – and can’t – exist unless Average Joes and Josephines understand, believe in, trust, use and evangelize the technology. The IoT depends upon P-E-O-P-L-E.
I wrote earlier this week about the critical importance of making the shopper feel safe, smart and rewarded when she shares her personal data. If she is given a reason to regret her decision to connect, even a tiny one, a conversion is lost (along with what could have been a long-term customer). The stakes are high, and the margin for error is slim. What’s a retailer to do?
OK. This is where things might get a little circular.
To ease shoppers into feeling comfortable engaging with brands and the IoT, retailers must use the IoT to discover what the shopper really wants so that they (retailers) can make her (the shopper) feel comfortable engaging with the IoT. Still with me?
It’s a paradox, marketers using the IoT to get folks to use the IoT. But here’s how that works:
Many, many people have smartphones, and they use them a lot. Today there are 2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions globally. By 2020, that number will be 6.1 billion. (That works out to 70 percent of the world’s population using smartphones in five years’ time). Connectivity is reaching a saturation point.
Super connectivity leads to more data. These smartphone users serve as resources for all sorts of information about shopper behaviors and product interactions. Plus, this is all previously unobtainable data about how shoppers interact with brands and ideas.
A wealth of new data leads to smarter data. Technology now allows for not only the collection of previously unobtainable information, but also for an exhaustive review and examination of that information. We can analyze IoT-sourced data about shopper habits across platforms, geographies and audiences. The manipulation of Big Data means retail marketers can now gain deeper insights into where a shopper is on the path to purchase.
Smarter data leads to relevant campaigns. Knowledge facilitates fact-based retail marketing that is extremely personalized and effective. It’s not a matter of figuring out what she wants and how she wants it; that’s all in the data. The job of the retail marketer is to build authentic connectivity and active dialogue.
Relevant campaigns lead to greater shopper engagement. So thanks to data and smart marketing, we know what she wants. Real-time point-of-sale notifications? Targeted ads? Suggestions? Alerts? Silence? The challenge now becomes delivering an expectation-busting personalized experience. When the marketing is meaningful, the shopper recognizes that the brand is hearing her, respecting her and treating her as an individual.
Effective shopper engagement leads to more information. Which takes us back to gathering more data. And this time around (if the retail marketer has done the job right), the shopper is a little more receptive to ideas, less intimidated by the IoT, more trusting and willing to share even more.
And around we go.