How the Internet of Things is about to change marketing

With the proliferation of wearable devices, and with the Internet of Things imminent, we’re witnessing an explosion of consumer signals. Anyone who paid attention to CES last week will tell you that the next wave of technology is poised to push the stream of real-time signals available to marketers far beyond the social messages, apps and wish list additions available now.

To learn more about the role of devices in our lives, and how they will inform tomorrow’s marketing efforts, we spoke with David Rose. As a researcher, entrepreneur and author of the book, “Enchanted Objects,” he had a lot to say about connected tech, new intent signals and what it all means for advertising.

What’s so enchanting about your “enchanted objects”?
Well, they’re characterized by three things: It has to start out as an ordinary thing, something like a pen, a lightbulb, a trash can. It needs connectivity, to be able to talk, a connection to the cloud.

The third thing is a subjective part of the definition, which is that it needs to enchant, to have an emotional connection or evoke a sense of wonder.

Why a sense of wonder?
It sets a high bar for designers. If we’re good at product design and thinking of appropriate uses of technology in people’s lives that enhance the ordinary, it adds a layer of excitement so people are almost seduced by it.

What sets these apart from the devices we’ve come to know in the Internet of Things?
Today, most of our interaction with tech is dominated by machines that overwhelmingly monopolize our attention. I’m excited about these tangible, haptic, incidental displays that don’t feel like a Twitter stream. Imagine a handle that changes the way it feels so you can tell if someone’s sleeping in a hospital room.

But marketers use those attention-monopolizing machines to detect consumer intent. What do they do without them?
I’m really interested in instrumenting people’s current behavior. Rather than have people use an app and do something that’s new and out of the ordinary, if there’s a cap that’s already going on your pill bottle — that’s the place to put technology. It’s in the stream of gestures that you’re already doing. You’re going to open a pill cap in order to get the pills out.

Interesting, but why should marketers care?
It presents the opportunity for a higher quality service. And it would be as seamless as possible, but opt-in. It won’t automatically refill unless you opted into that service. It has two interactions. One is a manual “push to refill” button on the bottom of the cap. Then the “automagic” mode counts the depletion of your meds and can tell Express Scripts that it should send you more. Examples like this introduce more commercial flow into our lives.

So my Nest thermostat will eventually sell me a sweater because of the signals it’s picking up?
I don’t know if the Nest will necessarily be the channel for sweaters, but it will certainly be a data source that can inform your social network.

How does traditional advertising fit into this world of devices?
Overwhelmingly, the way that we discover products — and make decisions about buying products — will be in the social network space. It’s irrefutable that discovery and intent to buy decisions are made in social streams, but what’s new is that the cash register will live in the social stream as well.

We call that advertising today, but I’m hoping the world of eCommerce looks more peer-to-peer.

What’s an example of peer-to-peer advertising?
Most of what we’re consuming on social media is photos, [but] the photos could be carriers of more information with the ability to link directly and dynamically: Get the score of the game or the cost of buying seats. All of these verbs, all of these actions that you might want to take could be embedded in the photos themselves.

What other signals should marketers be looking at on social?
We’re really starting to get smart about understanding influence in social networks and predicting based on how many of your friends have done something. Whether that’s homophily, that birds of a feather flock together, or real influence is still up for debate right now. But it’s still something that retailers should be spending a lot of time looking at.

What intent signals are on the horizon that will change the game for marketers?
There’s an MIT startup that has to do with emotion. It uses a camera on your computer or phone to figure out what emotional state you’re in. Brands can really improve the way they deliver messages just knowing that. It doesn’t make any sense if you’re calling AT&T in an irate state for them to try to upsell you something in that moment.

Understanding the correct time to serve particular content has a lot of potential if devices can understand your emotions.

So emotion becomes another targeting context?

Isn’t that a bit personal?
It does bring up this interesting question of whether it’s beneficial, if you’d want advertisers to know what your daily activities are so they could better personalize their ads to you.

And what do you think?
I’ve personally been a champion for personalization technology of all kinds, whether it’s content personalization, Netflix and entertainment personalization or eCommerce personalization. I’m hoping that the products and services that I’m interested in will become more personalized to my preferences.

I’m trying to give these services more and more data from more and more streams in my life just to be more relevant and useful to me. I think they could be doing so much more to understand our interests and meet our needs.

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