In many respects, data has become the currency of the marketing world. Those who have it — and know how to use it — tend to succeed, while those who don’t are bound to struggle.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that the Internet of Things has quickly become a powerful force in modern marketing. With billions of everyday objects outfitted with data-collecting sensors and connected via the internet, the IoT offers a whole new world of possibilities for savvy marketers to automate the marketing process, gather tremendously useful data and connect with end consumers in a variety of exciting new ways.

A Deluge of Data

There are approximately 20 billion connected devices currently in use across the globe. By 2025, that number is expected to explode to more than 75 billion.

Despite being a relatively new technology, the IoT has already infiltrated nearly every aspect of many consumers’ lives. It should come as no surprise that more than half of marketing experts believe this technology will be the most important trend in marketing by 2020.

Source: Statistica

Digital assistants run billions of internet searches and manage online transactions. Smart refrigerators automatically order fresh groceries. Wearable technologies, like FitBit, track activity levels, while smart thermostats manage temperature settings based on users’ daily patterns and personal preferences.

All of this data helps to form a snapshot of consumer behaviors and preferences that is exceedingly useful to marketers, offering powerful new insights into every step of the customer journey, from initial engagement through to completion.

Evolving Customer Experiences

In an overcrowded marketplace, the ability to provide a positive and memorable experience is often the difference between success and failure. IoT technology affords the opportunity to create these experiences through highly personalized marketing and customer service efforts.

Customers value brands that understand their particular interests and needs, and with the contextual data gathered from the IoT, marketers can segment their audiences in increasingly sophisticated ways to ensure that each customer receives the messaging most appropriate and important to them.

End-to-End Optimization

Though marketing has traditionally been viewed as a self-contained activity, modern businesses are increasingly realizing that a quality consumer experience requires a holistic, end-to-end view.

Indeed, nearly 90 percent of marketing executives believe that end-to-end optimization will be a primary concern for marketers by 2020, driven in large part by the explosion of smart, connected devices.

The Internet of Things drives this approach by providing abundant data that can be used to improve every aspect of a business, from monitoring demand in real time to prevent supply shortages to observing user behaviors past the point of purchase to drive product improvements and deliver better, more responsive service.

Changing the Business-Consumer Relationship

In decades past, the relationship between businesses and their consumers was primarily a one-way street. Technology has rapidly broken down that old model, and the most successful businesses today treat their customers as partners rather than targets.

The IoT facilitates this movement by opening up a broad range of new avenues for engaging directly with consumers. From light bulbs that trigger a notification when they’re about to burn out to refrigerators that suggest recipes based on their contents and even send coupons for missing ingredients, the possibilities are virtually endless.

However, this kind of interaction is only possible if consumers are willing to share their data, making it important for marketers to incentivize sharing and reinforce the benefits of doing so.

The Power of Conversation

Because consumers are increasingly using Amazon’s Echo platform, Google Home, and other digital assistants to find what they need via voice search, these queries have become progressively more conversational.

Voice search has also resulted in more local, on-the-go searches, changing the kinds of results that users expect to see. The old ways of thinking about search engine optimization must evolve to account for this trend, with a greater focus on full-sentence queries, direct questions and results that include addresses, phone numbers and directions for brick-and-mortar businesses.

Considering that an estimated 50 percent of all searches will be conducted via voice by 2020, this trend is an essential one for marketers.

Successful marketing has always required the ability to identify new trends and adapt to them quickly, but this challenge has only grown in recent years as the pace of change continues to accelerate.

The Internet of Things and other smart technologies represent a clear and present threat to traditional marketing principles, but they also present great opportunities for those who are bold and innovative enough to seize them.

About the Author: Maricel Tabalba is a freelance writer who is interested in writing about smart gadgets, emerging tech trends and environmentally friendly advice. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Communication from the University of Illinois at Chicago.