Emerging trends in IoT are changing online marketing

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming online marketing. IoT technologies allow higher levels of engagement with consumers than ever before, with companies receiving almost instant feedback and real-time insights into customer behavior over the long term from sensors, smart devices, and wearables.

Products can be targeted directly at the consumers most likely to buy them. Data from touchpoints also indicate where exactly the customer is on the purchasing timeline. And while IoT won’t replace traditional marketing, it does present marketers with multiple new opportunities.

The pandemic has created new behavioral trends that have had direct impacts on marketing: outdoor and display advertisements – cornerstones for the commuter market – have taken huge hits, as have free newspapers.  A growing number of marketers have realized that IoT offers a direct channel with consumers that they would otherwise be unable to reach.

Key to the new direction marketing is headed and the potential with IoT is data. But it must be obtained and nurtured in the right way, and not all organizations are up to speed yet as to how to extract data to gain the most value. Or, indeed, with navigating the various national legal responsibilities required to be data compliant.

“One of the biggest issues you have is companies that may be experienced with manufacturing, but they’re not used to protecting data,” explains Stephen E. Reynolds, lawyer at US law firm Ice Miller, as well as a qualified computer programmer and IT analyst.

There is a belief that IoT devices collect excessive amounts of data and are also more vulnerable to cyberattacks. While artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are both widely used for making sense of large data volumes, edge computing has the potential to solve a number of data volume and security issues.

Instead of the smart device or sensors sending data centrally to the cloud, the edge sends it to smaller data centers much closer to the data source. The edge performs pre-processing on this data, filtering out the unnecessary and only sending the relevant information where it needs to go.

“We’re going into this accidental collection of too much information,” says Joseph Carson, an expert in cybersecurity and chief security scientist at Thycotic. “Organizations get into this. They want to collect everything and then try to figure out what the right questions are later. But that’s the wrong approach. What you want to do is make sure you have the right questions first, then determine basically how to obtain that data.

“When we have connectivity that’s so good, and we have the processing power that’s so good, we don’t need the data to come centrally. And this also de-risks it.”

The edge can also increase a local network’s bandwidth due to more concise data use, allowing more IoT devices to be integrated into the network. Whereas centralized masses of data on the cloud present an appealing target for hackers, the edge spreads it out across a much larger number of locations.

“It makes it more complicated. Rather than me having to hack into one large database, it means I have to hack in hundreds of places. The likelihood of achieving that possibility becomes more difficult,” says Carson.

Through the edge, online marketers can receive the precise information they’re after instead of having to sort through masses of unrelated data. Carson says that the EU’s GDPR has also helped to refine data collection processes.

“You don’t have this excess of data collection that you don’t necessarily need. That even raises the risk if you don’t know the information you’re collecting,” says Carson.

“The great thing is that GDPR put clear lines in the sand about what’s right and what’s not. It means that you can’t just collect data for the sake of collecting, you need to have a general business purpose or justification. You have to be very targeted.

“Marketers will need to have a legitimate reason. They will have specific questions, and they will be able to get exactly the data they need to make decisions – rather than excessive, accidental collections of data.”