Brand experience has already gone the way of “digital first.” But even the concept of digital first has now exploded beyond experiences that were once confined to traditional devices and interfaces (desktops, laptops, smart phones). Digital first now encompasses the ever-growing Internet of Things—a world in which an increasing number of once-inanimate objects are smartening up and serving as interactive conduits between brands and consumers (or us and our stuff, depending on your perspective) from the items we wear to the cars we drive to the houses we live in.
The proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) means that more and more everyday objects will include sensors, software, and connectivity, which will in turn provide an unprecedented opportunity for brands to capture consumer data, and learn about/interact with their customers. And, naturally, we consumers will be incentivized to play along as the Internet of Things offers us information, convenience, personalized experiences, financial rewards, and new security options for our possessions and ourselves.
Just how big a deal is the emerging IoT? Growth projections vary by source, but the overall growth trend is defined by a hockey-stick-like graphic that shows a whiplash-inducing ascent over the next five years—growth that well exceeds all traditional tech staples, including wearables, smart devices, and much more.
Consider the recent announcement from Google ATAP and Levi Strauss as an example of how the Internet of Things is expanding: Levi’s will weave Google’s secret “Project Jacquard” technology into the fabric of its clothing. According to Google ATAP, Project Jacquard is a system in which conductive yarns are woven into the fabric of everyday objects—from clothing to furniture and beyond—to create touch-sensitive, interactive surfaces. For Levi’s, this nascent technology gives the storied brand the ability to integrate technology right into their clothing. (Remember the famous/infamous Calvin Klein jeans slogan “Nothing comes between me and my Calvin’s”? Well, it’s a new day.)
Another good example of the ever-more-personal Internet of Things is the wearable revolution at Disney Resorts. Earlier this year my wife and I took our kids to Disney World for the first time. I think it’s safe to say that the Disney World my kids experienced was very different from the one I experienced as a kid. The thing I remember most about our recent trip to Disney World? The MagicBand. Why? Because the MagicBand made my life easier—from getting into parks to paying for things to accessing our hotel room. Using the MagicBand meant that I didn’t need to worry about carrying my wallet or losing my keys. In the process, Disney engaged me as a parent in a very different way than it did my kids. In exchange for the convenience, security, and personalized offers my family and I benefitted from by using the MagicBand, Disney was able to capture useful data about their customers’ behavior. For me, the experience was helpful and convenient, not creepy or intrusive.
And there’s the balance: for the Internet of Things to work for brands and consumers, it has to be a give-and-take, quid pro quo relationship. As brands capture invaluable consumer data, consumers should be able to use the data provided by IoT-connected devices. The real-time information and insights generated by the IoT have never before been available to brands at scale. In turn, smart brands shoulduse that information to optimize the consumer’s experience and offer them real value.
As the Internet of Things becomes increasingly viable (and prevalent), more and more brands will provide new, more personalized experiences—anytime, anywhere—to drive deeper, richer engagements with their customers. In doing so, brands should always be mindful of their consumers’ needs and preferences. Accordingly, brands should strive to cultivate the following tenets:
- Facilitate the manner in which consumers can access your brand.
- Provide contextually relevant content/experiences that empower.
- Reward consumers for allowing you the access to participate in their lives.
Brands can only benefit by embracing these tenets. And if they do embrace this value exchange that's enabled by the Internet of Things, they’ll not only create better, more individually relevant products and experiences; they’ll also connect with their customers in the most human way: Through the fabric of their lives (literally).
Fab DiCarlantonio is the Chief Operating Officer at SMITH.