Big Data Gets Bigger With The Apple Watch And The Internet Of Things

As wearables and the IoT produce new insights about customers, columnist Josh Manion takes a look at what it means for marketers and how to manage the data.

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Apple’s debut of the Apple Watch stirred not just enthusiasm, but a bone fide firestorm, with pre-orders reaching nearly a million in just a matter of hours. With rows of Apple Watches now on display in retail stores, what Apple calls its “most personal device ever” is both a potent fashion statement and a new platform for mobile applications.

It’s also a point of connectivity in the Internet of Things (IoT), which will drive new sources and volumes of data about consumer preferences and behaviors for marketers.

It’s time to start thinking about what the Apple Watch, wearables in general, and the IoT mean to the evolving marketing mission.

All Eyes On The Apple Watch

Let’s start with the Apple Watch. The watch includes sensors that measure heart rate and an accelerometer, similar to other wearables.

As the watch gets to know you, it will be able to support more and more activities, from controlling lights in your house to making bill payments with Apple Pay support.

Of course, we’ll also see a tidal wave of new applications developed for the Apple Watch, which already include travel, collaboration tools, and iOS versions of Microsoft PowerPoint and Evernote.

But wearables also can be seen as milestones in the development of the Internet of Things, which represents the bigger picture for marketers. Industry analysts at Gartner forecast there will be 25 billion connected devices by 2020.

The Internet of Things will be producing data from interconnected objects, even animals and people, each uniquely identified in network protocols. And it will support diverse human activities, from sensors “planted” in agricultural fields, to usage in heart monitors, and integration into automobiles and other machinery.

What It Means For Marketers

Message for marketers: You are going to be called on to collect data from everything. We are looking at the next big phase of digitally-generated data with tremendous capacity to produce new insights about consumers.

Clearly, the emerging devices and an expanding IoT produce huge opportunities, along with a host of challenges in how data is collected, analyzed and acted on, and in what ways we will need to protect individual privacy.

Let’s look at what this latest addition to digital platforms means in terms of new data and how to manage it:

Connecting the Dots — While we are awash in news about the Apple Watch, the underlying challenge facing marketers has not changed. Marketers must collect and integrate data across all digital platforms, as well as offline data (such as point of sale and customer relationship management systems) to create an omni-channel picture of consumer preferences.

As it turns out, data on the Apple Watch can be tagged like other digital platforms and pulled into a data repository to be managed. Forrester reported that the greatest opportunity for digital marketers to address the omni-channel customer journey is with the unified, multichannel data layer capabilities of an enterprise tag management system. The Apple Watch only adds to this opportunity.

Optimizing the User Experience — With the small-screen, Apple Watch apps are designed for quick, on-the-go “looks.” Apps and advertising will need to be optimized for this device and screen size.

It’s great to see major martech vendors starting to announce support for the newcomer. But the challenge of managing more mobile apps on more types of mobile devices is real, and only getting bigger.

Make sure you are investing in the right tools to improve your ability to optimize the omni-channel user experience by asking a few questions of your vendor first: Can they differentiate and change the experience between an Apple Watch, an iPhone and other mobile devices? What are the types of events they can track? Do they enable you to modify your mobile app in real time or do you need to go through the time-consuming task of resubmitting changes to the App Store first?

Delivering on the Promise of Personalization — Marketers are tasked with delivering experiences that are contextually relevant both to the individual and to the channel — whether online, offline or offsite. New devices and platforms give us more opportunities to personalize engagement at the user level.

Does that change with the Apple Watch and other new devices? Actually, the process is by and large the same.

You need to leverage a tag management data layer to standardize first-party customer data across multiple domains and digital properties to stitch together online and offsite datasets, and tie into the offsite data. The goal is to develop continuously updated and enriched user profiles that allow the marketing teams to provide more relevant offers.

Offering a user experience in ways appropriate to the device or platform is also key. In the case of the Apple Watch and other mobile devices, that means optimizing for the size and use of the screen, while delivering an experience that is timely and personalized.

We can only expect this explosion of new platforms, devices and sources of data to continue. Yet the underlying data-driven marketing principles remain the same.

We need to collect all data, connect the dots at the user-level, and dynamically interact with each individual across devices and channels to optimize the consumer journey. That remains the challenge and opportunity.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for MarTech and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the martech community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Josh Manion
Josh Manion currently is the CEO of Vault JS, a company focused on securing 3rd party technologies for the enterprise. Prior to Vault JS, Josh was the Founder and CEO of Ensighten a tag management technology. Prior to Ensighten, he served for seven years as the CEO of Stratigent, a web analytics and marketing optimization consultancy. Josh has played chess professionally and is currently ranked among the top 60 players in the United States. He holds a degree in Management Science with a focus on Information Technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

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