More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables—activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more—that track seemingly endless datapoints.  

But here's the funny thing... Most consumers don't even know what IoT is, and unless there's a compelling and meaningful benefit from it, they don't really care. "Socks that monitor my foot landing? Maybe if I was an elite runner, but I'm not. So, why should I pay extra for this irrelevant feature?"

Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be.

Enhance Personalization Capabilities and Experiences

We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smart's sake," and many brands remain in that corner. But many brands are also gradually opting for more strategic approaches. They're taking a breath and stepping back to examine both existing and potential IoT experiences, asking themselves whether their products lend real value.

For example, some customers may be wowed by your super-cool, calorie-tracking hat, but it's not likely to impress the average customer—despite its "smart" designation. So, what will?

Disney's MagicBands or the now-ubiquitous Nest home-thermostat systems are examples of engaging, relevant smart products. From the beginning, they improve consumers' lives and lend real, meaningful, tangible value because they're connected experiences. Their value just wouldn't be as great without the IoT angle.

Want to guarantee you're providing relevancy to your customers? Then you must separate what's cool from what has real consumer value.

To make something "smart," you should enhance its personalization capabilities and benefit customers' lives to some extent. For example, with Nest, my home maintains just the right temperature, which improves my experience and lowers my heating bill. And MagicBands help me dodge lines and stay wallet-free while enjoying Disney. The value of those products is cut and dry.

As marketers and providers of these experiences, we must recognize two things:

  • The value of the benefit we're offering and whether it hinges on this level of connectivity
  • Where the actual IoT experience takes place

 Where IoT Experience Transpires

I bought a connected scale at the Apple Store the other day. My expectations for this high-tech "body analyzer" were off the charts... but all the scale does is weigh me. The real activity and experience —wellness recommendations, diet plans, my home's indoor-air quality—happens in various apps it syncs with. The scale just gathers the data.

The customer experience must be a massive consideration when considering IoT. What role does the device play? Must customers have something else to use it? Do customers need their iPhone or Apple Watch, or is the experience self-contained?

Consider the smart refrigerator... It gathers data about what I put into and take out of it, and provides a personalized experience on its own screen, helping me with recipes, shopping lists, or something else—without ever tapping into another touchpoint.

Over-complicated experiences can be tremendous turnoffs for customers, reducing your cutting-edge IoT product to its most basic form.

For example, if I can't determine how to connect the scale to the apps, or the apps prove to be more hassle than help, I'll use the scale to weigh myself—but I won't be happy about the extra dollars I forked over for nothing.

Equilibrium With IoT Pendulum

Eventually, the pendulum will swing back in the other direction, and we'll reach an IoT equilibrium.

Consumers will expect devices they use and items they wear to be connected and add value to their lives. We'll expect scales to weigh us, assess our body fat, and sync with our mobile device for personalized recommendations. Connected devices will be just another touchpoint in our increasingly digital lives.

But there's much we still need to put into producing these connected devices and understanding what is required to attain full-scale adoption—and even normalcy.

Once we reach these goals, the implications for personalization are staggering. We'll have the data, personalized touchpoints, and context to achieve great success with spot-on relevance that continues to evolve.

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image of Kevin Lindsay

Kevin Lindsay is director of product marketing at Adobe.

LinkedIn: Kevin Lindsay

Twitter: @kevlindsay