Local Business, And the Internet of Things

infographic of the internet of thigns

The Internet of Things Courtesy Intel (click for full size)

We’re living in an unprecedented time of technological change. Wave after wave of new technologies and advances in existing technologies come at us almost daily.

But the explosion of data since the dawn of the commercial internet is just the tip of the iceberg compared to the wave that is about to hit us.

As connected technologies make their way into everyday objects, data will expand at a rate that will make current methods of search far less practical.

Much as the explosion of web pages made the early search engines and directories impractical the vast amount of data created when everything is connected (often referred to as the Internet of Things) will render current search and discovery methods unable to keep up.

What The Internet of Things Mean For Local

Consumer Experience Will Change

Customers are already becoming accustomed to personalized recommendations, search results, and offers, but personalization isn’t enough. Consumers will expect the information and opportunities presented to them to change on-the-fly. Such adaptive technologies will have to keep up with consumers ever-changing demands while receiving minimal input from the users themselves.

Business Marketing To Consumers Will Change

While marketing is still the primary channel for driving customer engagement, marketing alone is not enough. Cross channel teams will engage, monitor and improve the customer purchase journey every step of the way.

A recent article by McKinesy & Company about on-demand marketing summed it up well:

Today, many companies have successfully defined and addressed customer interactions across a few channels. What they need to be designing, however, is the entire story of how individuals encounter a brand and the steps they take to evaluate, purchase, and relate to it across the decision journey.

Context Grows In Importance

Context is already critical for local marketing. But even as technologies are starting to catch up with the opportunity, the landscape is changing. Before long context will involve much more than location and time. The amount of contextual data is increasing, the types are expanding, and the demands on consumers attention are growing.

In coming years to see contextual algorithms will rival today’s search algorithms in terms of complexity if only because they won’t be as static. Contextual formulas will be highly variablized and will adjust on-the-fly to a myriad of contextual factors.

Marketing Goes On-Demand

Part of the new consumer experience will mean moving them from “I want” to “I have” with ruthless efficiency. The danger will be in overwhelming consumers with information and offers to the point where merchants all drown each other out. Delivering information as simply as possible will be necessary to keep consumers from simply tuning out.

Information Will Seek Us Out

An early example of information finding us is demonstrated by the mapping application Waze. Depending on your location, brands are displayed to you along (or near) your current route. While a lot of context is missing from that basic scenario, it won’t be long before what is presented is tailored to the individual based on more than just location and route.

Our devices will also “know things” that we don’t and will make recommendations to us. For example, a refrigerator will know that it’s water filter is ready to be replaced and will add it to your shopping list while you’re out and about. But it won’t just tell you to pick up a filter. It will help you find the best deal, the right type, and at a location that is near you or some place you frequently go. The data will find you and make you aware of its presence.

Local Merchants Face An Uphill Battle

For merchants things could get a little rough. While there are a lot of companies trying to make local marketing more accessible to SMB’s, the glut of data is growing faster than new technologies are coming to market. And that doesn’t even begin to address the fragmentation of those technologies or the usability issues that must be overcome in order to make them practical for busy business owners.

Merchants will feel the pain of needing to keep up while sifting through the potential options without really knowing where to turn, creating an opportunity for media companies and consultancies who serve SMB’s.

Then there is the learning curve. Given that as recently as 2013 roughly 40% of SMB’s don’t have a website, upgrading to the more advanced technologies will be a tall order without help.

Publishers and Media Companies Are Ripe For Disruption

Many of the publishers and media companies which dominate local marketing aren’t prepared for the new wave of data and technology any more than the SMB’s. The few that step up to the plate will have a chance to survive but not without first undergoing considerable cultural change. But without that change it could easily become the blind-leading-the-blind.

If history is any indicator, the pace of change will continue to accelerate. Keeping up will become a useless concept replaced by adaptive businesses which remain fluid amid ever-changing circumstances and demands.

The good news for consumers is that the power is their hands.

The irony for businesses is that the best customer approach may still mean keeping things simple and personal for their customers.

For publishers and media companies, the time to innovate and disrupt their own business is now.

Leave a Reply