IoT: The next best thing to reading your customer’s mind

By Jonathan Moran, Customer Intelligence, SAS

Recently, we have heard a lot about the Internet of Things (IoT). Connected devices all around us emit data that organizations capture and use. Appliances, home automation systems, transportation, and oil platforms are spewing streams of data about their current states of operation. Most commonly, this data is used for preventive maintenance or to indicate potential points of failure. But many more areas of business can benefit from this data and its resulting insights.

How can streaming data and analytics be used to improve marketing departments and better reach customers? We've created a white paper: The Internet of Things: Marketing’s Opportunities and Challenges on the unprecedented opportunities IoT has created and ways to tame the flood of data connected devices and sensors.

Download the paper

IoT is here to stay. Data that is properly collected and used improves the quality of our experiences with brands across various industries.


Retailers (and really any organizations with physical locations where brands and consumers interact) are employing IoT through iBeacons and geofences to understand customer movement through physical locations. Brands are then collecting data from those iBeacons.

If location services are enabled on a mobile device, a brand can see the MAC address and movement of mobile devices. If a customer opts in to receiving marketing messages, this beacon data can be combined with other historical customer information – demographic, transactional or purchase history data – and the retailer can push an offer via a variety of channels. These channels most often include email, SMS or in-app offers. Similarly, when geofences are set around physical locations, marketers can push offers to mobile apps once a customer breaks a geofence, if opted in. This geofencing happens at locations such as coffee shops, gas stations and retail outlets.


Manufacturing is probably the one industry where you hear about IoT and connected devices the most frequently. We all are aware that cars, planes – any transportation mode – have embedded computers and sensors that send data constantly to various locations.

But now these computers and sensors are being applied more frequently to consumer electronic devices and appliances. Manufacturers use this data to improve the quality and design of the goods they create. They can also use it to market directly to consumers. Many large manufacturers, including John Deere, Ford and Caterpillar sell their products through dealerships. As business models change and and direct sales models are adopted, these brands now have more direct access to, and engagement with, the end consumer. With that they can market directly to the people who are buying their products instead of relying on a dealer or agency to orchestrate the marketing efforts.


This manufacturing data can be used by other industries, such as insurance. Telematics data collected from vehicles via on-board devices provide data on driving behavior, vehicle performance and potential points of failure. Telematics data aggregators and providers often sell this data to insurance companies. Insurance companies can then use this information to inform policy underwriting, and also to market to consumers. Imagine if you got an email from your insurance company informing you that your teenager drives too fast and perhaps recklessly in the family vehicle, and given this data, you may need to up the coverage on that vehicle. Not a fun conversation for a parent or a teen – but perhaps a necessary one.


In telecommunications, streaming analytics is emerging as a way to assess valuable data about a consumer. It's becoming common that internet service providers (ISPs) gather data about how their customers engage with their networks. They can monitor how much of a subscriber’s data plan being used along with the frequency and speed of consumption. Gathering this information and stitching it together with other data – traditional customer information, for example – allows the ISPs make better informed marketing decisions. The price, volume and validity of the marketing offers can be checked to ensure its relevance for individual consumers.

Financial services

There’s been a shift in the financial services industry as well. With the gradual dissolution of the bank branch as we know it, it's important for financial services institutions to collect data from other channels. Branded websites, mobile apps and contact centers are becoming more valuable as data sources. As a result, more data is being streamed from ATMs and mobile banking apps and being used to inform how to dynamically place and serve content to financial services customers via digital channels. As for the contact center, on that rare occasion that a financial service organization does get to talk to the customer, they are using streaming data along with historical customer information to serve a next-best action or offer that is much more relevant and individualized than past offers.

IoT is here to stay. Data that is properly collected and used improves the quality of our experiences with brands across various industries. And while I only provided marketing examples, other industries such as health care and life sciences are using streaming analytics to go beyond marketing to save lives. These great advancements in technology will continue to improve and reshape industries and practices, are certainly not limited to marketing. As a marketer, however, I am very excited for the improved customer experience that IoT will be able to provide – an experience that will be much more personal, relevant and effective.