Finding the IoT Value Behind the Button

Do we really think the simple press of a button can change the future of marketing?

In September, Amazon announced an expansion of its Dash program, that amazingly cool little experiment in instant shopping gratification that lets consumers reorder household staples with the touch of a button, at the exact moment and location in which they first realize something is needed.

Amazon has taken its initial test mainstream. Any of the 40+ million Amazon Prime members can order up to 29 of the branded devices. They can order Tide, Gatorade, Gerber Good Start and Greenies with as much ease and as little thought as they change TV channels. (They'll also get the $4.99 purchase price reimbursed as soon as they place an order.)

Dash is a great example of the Internet of Things, the latest communication phenomenon capturing everyone's attention. The IoT is a natural evolution of the digital space as we know it, where communication is less focused on technology and more on the way technology connects consumers with their environment — and with marketers and their messages.

The IoT has unprecedented potential as a communication vehicle. But as with any new technology, the marketing industry wants to charge into activation before fully understanding its potential. The IoT is viewed as being able to solve all our marketing needs, turn our companies around and send our career trajectories into the stratosphere. But before you call Amazon to get a Dash button of your very own, take a deep breath and ask yourself one very important question: Why do I want one?

When it comes to adopting new technology, the question all too often is, "How can I use it?" when what marketers really should be asking is, "How can I use it to effectively drive my business?" And “How am I going to measure that effectiveness?"

Adopting technology for technology's sake is not a winning strategy. But trying out new technology by considering how it will help achieve business objectives, and how it can be used to find ways to measure whether or not it works?

Why a Dash button? Because it's a forward-thinking, attention-getting technology?

There's nothing wrong with wanting to be the cool kid on the block. But even here, a smart marketer should translate that objective into more concrete business goals (increased brand affinity or share of voice) and run control tests or panels to measure against those goals.

Do you want a button to drive sales? Of course not. Dash won't have anything approaching scale for some time, and might never.

The real benefit of Dash isn't its potential to drive incremental sales of Tide or Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. It’s in learning that the typical homeowner runs out of laundry detergent during the third week of every month, or is more likely to reorder easy meal solutions on Saturday nights instead of during the week. It’s about getting a glimpse into household behavior.

The real value of the emerging IoT landscape is that it will give marketers a closer and more frequent view into consumer and shopper behavior than they've ever had before. It ultimately could be a means of communication that facilitates a faster, more direct path to conversion because it provides a deeper, more actionable understanding of behavior, and will help marketers build stronger, more sustainable relationships with consumers.

Now that sounds a lot more like a Holy Grail.

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