Christine Kittinger / Consumers and the Internet of Things

November 2018

Christine, the current issue of the Marketing Intelligence Review features a very hot topic: The Internet of Things (IoT) and the ever-growing digital connectedness of everything with everything. What is the IoT’s impact on consumer decision making? Which value do we get from the IoT?

Christine:  The IoT is coming, but a lot of consumers have their reservation about a truly connected life. People are irritated by stories like the one about Amazon’s Alexa, that suddenly delivered laugh-like sounds in the middle of the night. Myths and stories play an important role in the perception of technologies. In fact, they are more important than a technology‘s objective performance. And not everybody is happy, when daily routines are taken over by machines. Seemingly boring tasks can be important for someone´s identity, and in that case they are not handed over willingly. Even in the age of amazing machines, the quest for meaning in consumption will remain an important driver of buying decisions.

How can IoT managers win consumers over to the Internet of Things? How can they facilitate adoption?  

Christine:  The guest editors of this issue, Donna Hofmann and Tom Novak of the George Washington University in Washington D.C. recommend that technology companies seek to better understand the deeper meaning of individual IoT experiences. Managers should rather encourage users to develop their individual solutions by connecting different devices than suggest predefined use cases. Data privacy is another critical matter with a lot still to do. Also, the concept of customer centricity needs to be reinvented in a digitally connected world and many companies haven´t yet realized which changes will be necessary.    

What are the biggest challenges in the continued development of the IoT?

Christine: The internet of things can be described as a complex system in which brands, people and diverse devices are connected and exchange information. In some cases, it is smart technology that makes a buying decision and no longer a human being. In this environment brands need to make sure that they remain relevant and still reach the actual user. System thinking, machine learning and artificial intelligence are relevant topics for all companies in this context. Our society as a whole is affected by the question as to what extent the human workforce will still be relevant. Will human intuition and algorithm-based rationality cooperate constructively or engage in competition? How will humans and machines adapt to each other? One of our article addresses this topic.  

Did you talk to a practitioner in an interview again?

Christine: Of course. We talked to the CEO of the Californian start-up IFTTT. They develop a neutral platform which helps consumers connect diverse devices and digital services easily.  The broader and more complex the range of IoT offerings gets, the more important it will be, according to Linden Tibbets, being able to interconnect services of different technology worlds like Amazon, Google, Apple or thousands of other providers of smart devices. Not only consumers benefit because they can better satisfy their needs. Being able to connect everything with everything also helps the technology providers because they can ultimately reach new customers.

Thank you for your time!

This is the link to the homepage and the recent issue of the MIR: