The Internet of Things (IoT) is everywhere around us, yet few truly understand the impact it will have on every aspect of life. In terms of business, the marketing industry will be heavily impacted. And while the changes will certainly require many businesses to pivot and pursue new avenues for customer acquisition and retention, many will find the transition smooth and welcoming.

Understanding the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things has quickly become a buzzword, so it would be foolish to assume you know exactly what IoT entails. In order to avoid any confusion, let’s agree upon a meaning. If you’re looking for a brief and simplistic definition, contributor Jacob Morgan has a good one. He writes, “Simply put this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other).” That’s really all IoT refers to – however, there’s so much more to it.

At a much deeper level, the IoT will connect billions of devices and further tear down geographical and logistical borders that prevent businesses, customers, and people from communicating. Reputable sources like Gartner are predicting that as many as 26 billion devices will be connected by 2020. Others say that number is far too conservative, citing as much as 100 billion.

Don’t get too focused on the number, though. What really matters is the fact that the IoT is going to be a transformative point in the internet’s history. As a person or business that uses the internet on a regular basis, you’ll experience change. As a marketer, that change will be significant.

7 Ways Marketing Will Change

It’s impossible to make very specific predictions regarding how the IoT will affect marketing in the future, as any new piece of software or technology could send the industry in an entirely new direction, but some general trends are starting to appear. Here are a few ways the marketing game will likely change in the coming months and years.

  • More opt-ins. Marketing thrives on participation – and much of that depends on the relationship between brands and their customers. One of the preferred ways of building relationships over time is to gather personal contact information. Businesses do it all the time by allowing customers to opt-in to certain things in return for providing their email address. As devices continue to become increasingly interconnected, the amount of opt-ins (and the flexibility from a marketing point of view) will also increase.

  • New signage opportunities. Advertising signage was once limited to print flyers, billboards, store windows, and newspapers. It then expanded to include things like television and internet ads. Soon, advertising opportunities will arise in the wearable technology field. Marketers and businesses will be able to serve real-time ads straight to a customer’s wrist. In the end, the line between when it’s appropriate to advertise versus when it’s not will be blurred. Signage will further become part of everyday life.

  • POS expands. We’ve already seen how technology like Near Field Communication (NFC) and apps like Google Wallet and Apple Pay have increased point of sale opportunities for vendors. In the future, NFC and blue tooth technology will continue to expand and may allow businesses to monetize marketing efforts at the actual point of sale.

  • Better targeting. Along with the proliferation of mobile and wearable devices on the market comes more data. Businesses will be able to gain incredibly sophisticated new insights on consumers and then apply that information to deliver highly-targeted ads to those users. If you think ad targeting is good now, wait and see what happens in the next five years. It will be astounding. Will a 100 percent click through rate be possible one day?

  • More complementary products. With access to such amazing technology, many businesses will have no choice but to offer complementary products alongside their core products. Even businesses outside of traditional tech niches will find ways to add to existing products and services with trendy apps and devices. (For an example of this, check out the Johnnie Walker Blue Label’s “Smart Bottle.”) As a marketer, this will place an even larger emphasis on staying up to date with trends and understanding how consumers react to various technologies.

  • Marketers and developers converge. Traditional marketers will always be valued for their creative minds and valuable skillsets, but a new hybrid will emerge on the scene. This hybrid employee will be half marketer, half developer. In other words, he will be capable of developing strategic marketing campaigns while also building the technology necessary to fulfill the demands of those campaigns. People who are able to master standard marketing skills while also bringing tech fluency to the table will be incredibly successful.

  • Marketers will have to sell. The IoT will be marked by rapid innovation. New devices and software will be developed on a regular basis and it will be up to marketers to convince the public that they’re worth trying. In other words, marketers will have to put even more focus on removing barriers to adoption and overcoming hesitancy related to completely new products and technologies. It will be a challenge, but it will result in an explosion of creativity (especially in traditional ad spaces).

Again, it’s difficult to say anything about the exact changes and developments in the marketing field (as the IoT is extremely variable), but these seven issues are worthy points of discussion. The key will be staying on top of what’s happening and adapting as new changes come down the line.