How WiFi & IoT can be used for marketing

With each passing day, the internet expands further, providing savvy digital marketers with fresh possibilities. Sticking to the methods that got results 5 years ago isn’t going to have the same potency today. If you want to gain some traction when promoting your products, you need to think ahead and find fresh avenues to explore.

One such avenue that’s often sorely overlooked is the very fabric of the internet: not the data you access through networks, but the networks themselves. They increasing connect diverse devices (not just smartphones and laptops but also watches and even fridges), and provide us with access to the online world we know and love — access that can be leveraged.

In fact, through using WiFi networks (and, in prospect, through using IoT-enabled devices, though this isn’t quite viable yet), you can achieve some powerful promotion. How does this work? Let’s take a look at how the networks that surround us can be used to market products:

The IoT generates valuable context-lending data

Context is immensely significant to marketers, because the same marketing message will land totally differently depending on when, by whom, and in what circumstances it’s seen. The more you know about the context of marketing placement, the better you can cater to the situation, and the more compelling your material will prove.

And context is something that the IoT will increasingly offer. The more smart devices people use, and the more closely linked those devices are, the more data will be generated about their life and purchasing habits — data that marketers can use to better understand them. Understanding the target audience is the core of marketing, after all.

Imagine the prospect of subsidising the cost of an IoT-enabled fridge in exchange for access to analytics about the contents. Even though you had to anonymize the data and couldn’t attribute specific contents to specific people, you’d still have information that could make you money — for instance, you could look for popular items that were seeing stock issues, and promote competing products that were more readily available.

This kind of opportunism would have been unimaginable to marketers before the days of the internet, but now it’s technologically viable, and it won’t be long before it happens. Tech is already subsidised with ads (Amazon uses this for the cheapest version of its Kindle).

Improved location tracking allows complex triggering

Using the aforementioned contextual data isn’t just about taking aggregated data to conduct general marketing — it’s also about using contextual triggers to execute planned marketing sequences with specific goals. IoT devices follow us wherever we go, after all. For instance, imagine that you were marketing a range of nutritional supplements and you were strongly pushing a post-exercise energy bar.

What if you could tap into information from fitness trackers and serve ads for that energy bar to people who’d just finished exercising? They couldn’t have the bar right away, of course, but they could order it — and if you’ve ever ordered far too much food at a restaurant because you couldn’t think clearly while hungry, you’ll know that we’re very susceptible to making impulsive spur-of-the-moment decisions.

The ecommerce field has long understood the value of multi-channel (or even omni-channel) retail. It even forms a core promotional element of enterprise-level platforms such as Shopify Plus or Magento Enterprise (the former features a full page on multi-channel ecommerce). Some case examples may sound gimmicky, but that’s far from the truth— this is something you absolutely need to take seriously as a prospect.

WiFi is a strong incentive to drive ad views and app downloads

Mobile data may be faster, cheaper and more accessible than ever before, but it isn’t free — so no matter how good it gets, it will never reduce the appeal of free WiFi. Furthermore, free when it comes to WiFi refers only to the financial cost of entry, so you can absolutely require people to provide some personal data to gain access (if done well, without discouraging them).

Naturally, you can use that data — as well as general analytics data — to market to people (provided they accept that condition while connecting), but that’s not all you can do. You can also use the sign-up portal as a marketing tool before they even get online, gaining some valuable impressions at no additional cost and priming them for any subsequent marketing.

Furthermore, you can send real-time messages when they’re in your location, notifying them about special offers and products they might be interested in. Because you know the recipients are all familiar with your business, you can be extremely specific with your copy.

And if your business has an app (ideally a retail app), then you could build a simple bridge to get people downloading it. You can either offer free WiFi to anyone who’ll download the app, or offer it to everyone and add a compelling hook for the app to your portal — for instance, you could note that your app is even faster than your WiFi, or that your app offers a discount.

Once you get someone using your app, you have total control over their user experience, so you can present your products however you want to. With that one simple WiFi incentive, you can gain a remarkable amount of ground.

Finding the gaps in commonplace digital actions

Ultimately, using WiFi and IoT technology is a natural extension of basic marketing principles. Instead of trying to push people to go in a particular direction, you install your marketing where they’re already going to be — it makes it feel much less forceful, thus making it massively more likely to prove effective.

And since it’s relatively inexpensive to provide free WiFi (at low speed and with restrictions, admittedly), then why wouldn’t you want to use it as a marketing tool if you had a location that attracted visitors? Doing otherwise would simply be wasting a golden opportunity.

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