Twenty-seven years ago, the movie “Back to the Future 2” painted a picture for us of a future in which technology was at the heart of every interaction and transaction. For those of us who still remember how to rewind a cassette tape using a pencil, or the frustration of trying to rewind a VHS tape without those furry lines appearing, this film provided a glimpse into a future that few of us could contemplate becoming a reality.

From video conferencing and the do-it-all watch, to voice recognition systems and biometric scanning, we watched with glee, but also a sense of implausibility. The likelihood of such technological advances being such a part of our everyday lives was up there with the flying, time-travelling car and the true existence of a flux-capacitor.

However twenty-seven years later, with the exception of the hoverboard, the rehydrated pizza and the flying cars, almost all of the imagined advances have become commonplace in our lives of today; early adopted and then embraced by each generation that has come since.

A few years ago, I had quite the sense of deja vu as I watched the film “Minority Report” with its uncanny accuracy for predicting what the future could look like, and, more specifically, what the Internet of Things (IoT) could look like.

In one scene, we are introduced to Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) in 2054, walking into a GAP store and recognised through enhanced biometrics and facial recognition software. He is greeted by name (though, it’s actually the name of the identity he has stolen) by a virtual employee. This employee proceeds to ask him if he liked the tank tops he bought during his last purchase and whether he’d like to try on some new winter sweaters.

This scene presents a version of the future whereby all consumer behaviour is tracked, recorded and repackaged to provide what seems like an intuitive and personalised service from brand to consumer. Fourteen years ago when this film was made, this technology seemed almost outlandish or dystopian, however in today’s reality we are already seeing this level of individual personalisation and customisation providing a time-saving shortcut for consumers to their desired products and services.

Given that many experts are predicting that marketing will focus on people’s past and real-time behaviour through location based promotion and payment technology co-ordinated with inventory monitoring, the businesses behind the brands have an incredible opportunity to know one’s customer basis on an intimate level. They will also be able to use this intimate level of information to create resonant and long-term connections that drive appreciation and ultimately brand loyalty.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is now a reality, and with it, comes a host of benefits for businesses and consumers. Namely, companies now have the smart technology, interconnectedness and data to truly begin to understand their customers’ needs, emotions and behaviours. Where before customer data was siloed by channel and touchpoint, it is now turning into one fluid information hub that sees customer experience management software unearth all critical aspects of the customer journey, from customer sentiment about products and services, to critical times when the customer needs to be contacted by an agent (moments of truth). It can also track the multiple journeys a customer takes with a company to help unearth complex causes for satisfaction, dissatisfaction, happiness, anger, sadness and beyond.

For customers, the IoT offers them convenient and accurate service, saving them the time and hassle of explaining purchasing history, preferences or problems to frontline employees. Similarly, employees get the benefit of swift access to customer information and history without having to pry for it, enabling them to provide service that is more personalised, accurate and helpful.

One compelling example is retail giant Zara, who uses IoT technology and customer feedback to ensure it has large quantities of the most popular fashions in stock. In particular, “Clothing for each store is ordered and delivered twice per week, and only 50 percent of its designs for each season are finalized ahead of time (versus 80 percent at traditional clothiers). Zara headquarters consolidates customer feedback from across the globe, assesses patterns, and makes changes to clothing designs in as little as two weeks—a feat only possible thanks to the scale, scope, and speed of data transmitted via the Internet. Customers can now get the latest fashions at lower prices.”

Brand owners now have a whole selection of IoT technologies that can be used to identify, connect and engage customers. However customers also have a host of new ways to understand brands and share experiences. This explosion in data exchange of companies-to-customers as well as customers-to-customer information creates a huge opportunity to better sell and engage based on preference and experience if done well—but it also creates a new risk of brands moving more slowly than the connected consumer opinion. It is imperative that the office of the CMO understand the velocity increase that IoT creates in engagement and opinion forming in customers and map that velocity to the cycle times of their brand feedback systems. Any discrepancy between the cycle time of these two systems will create risk of undermining the brand as well as cause leakage and loss of opportunity in increasing the share of wallet in the target customer groups. If you feel that the IoT strategy in your business is causing a disconnect between your brand engagement channels and customer experience feedback channels please leave a comment and tell me more.


[1] “How the Internet of Things Is Changing the Enterprise” May 26, 2014.

[2] Commissioned Study by on Behalf of Zebra, “Building Value from Visibility: 2012 Enterprise Internet of Things Adoption Outlook”. June 2012.

[3] Deloitte University Press, “Closing the Digital Divide: IoT in Retail’s Transformative Potential: The Internet of Things in the Retail Industry,” January 14, 2016.

[4] Deloitte University Press, “Closing the Digital Divide: IoT in Retail’s Transformative Potential: The Internet of Things in the Retail Industry,” January 14, 2016.