Have you heard of IoT? Unless you've spent the past few years in a cave, you likely have. But just to clarify, IoT stands for internet of things. Here's a more formal definition to work with:
"The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment."
The growth of the IoT industry is truly staggering. DHL estimates that there are 15 billion devices connected to the internet today. By 2020, there could be as many as 200 billion. Furthermore, research firm IDC estimates that spending from IoT devices will go from $656 billion in 2014 to $1.7 trillion in 2020.
If you're excited, take a number. IoT has more buzz around it than nearly anything the tech industry has ever seen before. Major corporations are dumping in money by the boatload, startups are raising venture funding from the biggest VCs on the planet, and the futurists can't help but speculate on what the future could look like in an IoT world.
Another group beginning to recognize the potential will not surprise you. This group is always on the cusp of what's trending and always trying to stay ahead. I'm talking about digital marketers, agencies, and freelancers.
Marketers are masters of identifying opportunities and then positioning themselves to earn a fortune. IoT is a massive field for marketers to step into, and a few are beginning to set the tone for what that will look like.
To learn about the opportunities for marketers in the IoT industry, I asked Kit Hughes of digital agency Look-Listen, one of the companies identified on the Inc.com fastest growing private companies list. Kit is known as the "Zen Ceo" who spends as much time thinking about saving the world as he does about actually making money.
Q: What are the top opportunities for marketers looking to break into the IoT industry?
KH: Marketers can be the guiding light for new brands in the IoT industry. Marketers will help companies stay honest about what they promise consumers on the back of the product packaging because it goes beyond the product. In some cases, the consumer will buy a product they rarely touch, because their relationship will be through the app on their phone. Also, there are opportunities for marketing agencies to offer new services. Companies need to think through the best experience, as it transcends the product design, and how it can integrate stronger into their everyday life.
Q: Why is IoT so exciting for marketers? Why are you excited?
KH: IoT is exciting because it is truly changing our lives. We'll get very comfortable with the conveniences it will bring to our lives, such as automatic grocery reorders, and how it will make us better stewards of our resources, such as alert notifications for excess home water usage. I'm excited because the second largest electronics manufacturer in the world has engaged our company to help them build an IoT platform that will get more IoT products to market faster, and they truly believe in a great user experience.
Q: What marketing needs do IoT companies have?
KH: Companies will need to create a new way of communicating across multiple touchpoints (mobile phone screens, email, packaging, etc.). They'll need to talk about the service they are providing and what the benefit is to someone's everyday life. Most companies are used to talking about specific product features and benefits, but the game has changed. The consumer will have a relationship with the product, the app, the weekly email update, the add on services, etc. It's not just about the physical product design anymore.
Q: What are your predictions for IoT in the next 3-5 years?
KH: IoT products are not just going to top gift lists, they're going to reset how people look at purchasing products. People will only consider products that hook into an ecosystem and that they can connect with through their phones. The products we buy will be defined by how connected they are. This isn't just for small electronics, I'm also talking about core systems in homes, such as water heaters, and broader infrastructure, such as a more meaningful connection with your energy use.
The Future is Here
We're on the brink of the most exciting technological era in history. Within your lifetime, you may get to see real hoverboards, holograms, flying cars, and all the coolest innovations that once existed only in the imaginations of scifi authors. Which means a motivated consumer base eagerly awaiting new products and services - beyond any marketer's wildest dream.