The IoT rage in a lot of ways reminds me of the “Big Data” craze of 2013-2014. You can find mentions of IoT in just about every tech blog and marketing conference. Wearables! iBeacon technology! !

This article in HBR is another example of IoT gone wrong. Today, IoT offers more data around the customer experiences than ever before, but more data is not necessarily a good thing or the answer to any business problem – it’s just more data. Those who are not as experienced in IoT or data solutions may gloss over the minor details of assimilating the data into information in an actionable format. That is a huge undertaking and not one that can be taken lightly.

Professor Jason Baldridge, co-founder of People Pattern remarked this past week that we need more scientific method in marketing and I could not agree more. While more data continues to pour into businesses today, it does not make the business processes better automagically. This requires planning, careful thought and execution. I’m confident marketers will eventually follow the scientific method to it’s conclusion instead of perpetually living in an experimental phase.

Successful, empowered businesses I predict will see marginal impact to their customer relationships from full IoT integrations. Why?

Technology doesn’t solve business problems, people do. “Journey Mapping” and “Identifying Customer Experience Journeys” are great – but empowered businesses probably can predict what the technology will say. These are the businesses that listen to their customers and are poised to act on any signals or opportunities to provide a value. Adding technology layers or reporting without the ability to create organizational actions is a waste of time and effort but the harsh reality of many social listening programs in the Fortune 500 today.

Lastly, there is potential for a new onslaught of more avenues for push marketing. IoT issues aside, let’s examine e-mail. I’m sure everyone has 2 or 3 examples in their spam folder today of companies that have killed their e-mail programs. I have never shopped at Land’s End but I’m apparently on their list and receive messages daily that I relegate to spam.

My spam accounts are filled with corporate examples of e-mail programs attempting to squeeze a cent out of clicks while sacrificing any potential relationship we could have.

A few weeks ago I abandoned my shopping cart online while I was searching for a Father’s Day gift. My exit was prompted by the recognition, after filling out all their forms, that their shipping options would not work with my travel schedule. The next day I received an e-mail triggered by their system that I still had time to complete my purchase.

If I had abandoned my purchase because I had to pick up the kids or was distracted by my day, this might be a great reminder. It just did not apply to me. The context was and is lost. Research continues to show the more targeted and relevant your contact with the customer, the more effective your returns. This is the promise of more data and more information from IoT.

The opposite is also true. I can see marketers digitizing the annoying sales representative in the store:

Hi, , we noticed you walked down an aisle our products were featured on display at Major Retailer, 100 N. Main St, at 9:56 am this Sunday. Because you are a valued customer, we wanted to personally extend that offer to you today with free shipping on our site! Just click this link to accept the offer!


The promise of the IoT world will indeed offer more data and more context to customer journeys and retail patterns, but it needs to be managed with care. I’m glad more science is coming into the field to help reign in push-marketing behaviors and, ironically, bring more humanity to the outcomes. IoT holds a lot of promise, but

With over 11 years of experience working with digital and technology companies, Greg currently serves on the board of several start-up firms and as Vice President of Industry for a digital marketing technology company.  He previously served as a digital leader for the Global eTransformation Team at 3M. Accomplishments at 3M include data analytics and the first interactive PGA tournament. Before moving to this role, he was the Global Lead for the 3M Consumer & Office Business working with brands such as Post-it®, Scotch® and Nexcare™.  He also holds a law degree from Michigan State University College of Law and a Communications degree from Texas A&M University.