How to leverage the Internet of Things to understand consumer intent

Oliver Smith

With a Masters in business psychology, Olly’s career has spanned the technology space, with particular emphasis on martech and performance marketing. Olly has worked with numerous enterprise brands and retailers including Harrods, Michael Kors and Arcadia Group to help innovate across influencer marketing, analytics and inventory management. Building on his passion for marketing and digital, Olly is Business Director at Performics, the global performance marketing agency that converts consumer intent into revenue for Australia’s most admired brands including ToysRUs, FitnessFirst, Toyota and Stan. ­­Performics is a Publicis Media company.

'Intent' is the single largest performance marketing variable. It shapes our search queries, dictates our purchase paths and mediates meaningful interactions with brands regardless of channel, media or content type.

If we can understand intent, we can better understand how consumers make decisions to interact with brands.  By analysing billions of data collection points, powerful insights can be derived.

Enter the Internet of Things (IoT): An almost endless opportunity to help marketers better understand intent.

According to Forbes, “If it has an on and off switch then chances are it can be a part of the IoT.” Wearable tech, smart home devices and automotive software are commonly known examples within the IoT. However, other, lesser-known IoT devices, such as patient health surveillance, pollution monitoring and supply-chain management, are growing rapidly. McKinsey estimates connected devices will rise from 10 billion to 75 billion units by 2020, adding a whopping US$20 trillion to the global economy.

So what does this mean for marketers?

The IoT creates a new relationship between brands and their customers. It presents opportunities for marketers to use rich, powerful information based on behaviour, interest and even happiness levels, to better understand their customers’ intent.  The result? A two-way relationship beneficial for both brands and consumers.

Today, marketers have strong capabilities in understanding the what, when, how and where - but the why is often an educated guess. However, with growing data from billions of connected devices, marketers can now understand the why through a more accurate display of user behavioural patterns. If this data is used effectively, marketers will have solid insight into their customers’ buying intentions, which sets the stage for a string of ROI benefits such as loyalty, brand engagement, increased revenue, and thousands of dollars saved from irrelevant advertising.

Brands killing it in the IoT

It’s really exciting to hear about brands investing in their “smart” devices. Here are three industry leaders transforming their brand engagement through the use of IoT.


Disney’s Magic Band is a perfect demonstration of IoT potential. Disney’s US$1 billion Magic Band helps the entertainment giant leverage its annual 100 million visitors using sensors, radio-frequency identification chips and innovative software. For US$12.99, Disney visitors get a waterproof Fitbit style bracelet, containing an RFID sensor, Bluetooth connectivity, GPS, and personal information such as ID and payment details.

The Magic Band has empowered Disney considerably. The 40 square mile amusement park can now ensure every visitor has a personalised, attentive and effortless experience. It allows Disney to upsell customers throughout their visit with relevant attractions, offers and personal photos. Disney collects data on each customer’s entire experience, leaving its marketers positioned to get creepily specific with their ongoing retention marketing efforts.


In a partnership with Samsung Electronics, Qantas Airways unveiled an industry-first virtual reality (VR) headset experience in early 2015. The VR headsets give passengers a one-of-a-kind immersive experience while collecting and transmitting data about passengers. This data can then be analysed and insights extrapolated, giving marketers a better understanding of their customers.

It also means Qantas can provide returning passengers with a more personal experience. The airline can predict which offerings will be most attractive to a passenger based on their previous use of the VR headset. This allows Qantas to better engage and interact with their customers, ultimately improving their understanding of them.

Fitness First

Fitness First is leading the way in the health and fitness industry as far as IoT is concerned. The health club’s digital benefits are likely to transform the industry by demolishing traditional sign-up deciding factors such as location, commitment level and price, making way for more contemporary criteria like customer experience and convenience.

For example, Fitness First in the UK has rolled out iBeacon technology that tracks who is entering its gyms. Soon, the health club giant will be able to create personalised content including individual fitness goals, with the aim of increasing motivation and performance for its 170,000 members. In addition, relevant information can be pushed out automatically without manual involvement from staff, allowing personal trainers to spend more time working with clients and less time on admin. Finally, a device-focused approach will eventually allow Fitness First to ‘Uberize’ its services, empowering members to access trainers and classes on-demand in more natural locations as opposed to traditional bricks and mortar environments.

Through IoT data, Fitness First members can expect a revolutionised health club experience with more convenience, flexibility and unrivalled customer interactions.

Where to next for brands

With such powerful insights into consumer intent that the IoT presents, marketers can engage customers on much deeper levels.

Despite the significant investment required in resources to maximise the potential of the IoT and connected devices, we will continue to see brands innovate in this space as they aim to get into the minds of their customers.

Capitalising on the IoT is more accessible than many brands first think if the right considerations and strategy is in place. However, data collected will require ongoing management and support from other technologies such as cloud computing, data analytics, as well as a skilled and dedicated team to provide accurate insights.

There’s also no escaping the growing consumer concerns of privacy and data security. According to a survey carried out by Performics and the Northwestern University, 90 per cent of Gen X’s find it “creepy” when websites know information about them. To overcome these concerns, brands need to focus on building trust. Cookie opt-ins, safe-site options and education are all sensible practices, as well as investing heavily in data security. We believe once consumers understand and experience the benefits of data collected through their connected devices, these concerns will disappear for the brands that get it right.          

Tags: emerging technology, Internet of Things

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