My newest adventure with Michael Companies

The summit. Most people view it as an ultimate achievement……a tangible destination and the highest reward for a long climb. 

As for me? I favor the climb itself – the adventure of it. 

Don’t get me wrong. Summits are great. They offer killer photo opps and a moment to pause, reflect and celebrate. Summits are an outcome and an end. This latter point is why I’m all about the adventure. I savor those spaces between a climb’s start and the final objective. That’s the true adventure, and it’s what drives me. 

Here’s why: ultimately, those spaces represent moments with clients I serve and the teams I lead as CEO of The Buddy Group, the storydriven strategy and marketing company I founded in 2006. Through them, shared stories of impact, triumph and hilarity manifest themselves, sparking memories that all of us involved will talk about for the rest of our lives.

We know that together we climbed. Together, we identified and navigated opportunities and challenges. Together, we learned. Together, we charted a brilliant course and executed with purpose. 

Importantly, I know that if I’m present to the adventure and everyone on it, summiting will be that much sweeter. 

With this said, today I’m excited to talk about my latest, brand new adventure. One of our Buddy Group clients, Michaels Company (NASDAQ: MIK) asked me to take the reins as its Head of Innovation (or Chief of Innovation in some circles). In doing so, I will remain as CEO of The Buddy Group; an opportunity made possible by the capable tenured leadership team we all commonly refer to as “Buddies”.

For me, serving in this dual capacity coalesces the whole of my professional journey. Throughout my career, I have collaborated with artists and technologists, focusing on the strategic and execution-centered components of branding, marketing, storytelling and technology. All of this expertise has been dedicated to drawing brands and their communities closer together. 

In the case of Michaels, a creative, technology-forward company in its own right, it is their commitment to customer and community that has proven both inspiring and powerful. Unlike many other innovative firms that build a product in search of an audience, Michaels is (literally) made by Makers – individual artists and entrepreneurs who leverage the company to create one-of-a-kind, small batch or scaleable items such as jewelry, food, art and clothes for selling or for sheer joy. Because Michaels has undertaken an ambitious collaboration with this uncommonly dedicated group, the company is positioned to co-create unique maker-centric experiences within the $100 billion Creative Economy. 

The Buddy Group’s close work with Michaels senior leadership to-date in this endeavor made their offer irresistible and I’ve agreed to our new adventure together for two key reasons. 

First, I have a heart for makers. In many ways I’m one of them. My early creative adventuring sparked the flames of entrepreneurship, teaching me that nothing comes easy, that quality counts and that leaning in to talent and passion is a huge competitive advantage. 

As I pursued my education and career I grew to appreciate the spirit of collaboration and the power of story. Working day in and day out with and learning from artists and creators such as, Ashton Kutcher, Google’s Zoo team, early product development at AOL, members of the Pentel of America’s Creative Collective and our own in-house creative talent over the years provided me perspective on empathy and appreciation for accomplishing adventures together vs. alone. Said another way and to leverage our early company mantra, I learned that buddies working together are always better than one working alone.

Second, what I’m doing at Michaels will directly shape and evolve what we do at The Buddy Group. It will inform how we design and execute our storydriven strategies in service to drawing our current lineup of brands and the communities they serve closer together. That means we’ll continue applying what we call Adventure Capital – a blend of strategic and tactical solutions optimized for the likes of Epson, GE, YouTube/Google, Mozilla, Bosch, King’s Hawaiian Bread, Pentel of America, TakeyaUSA, Western Digital, Blaze Pizza, Bain Capital portfolio clients such as Virgin Voyages, BigTex, HealthDrive, Zelis, Vertafore, and yes, Michaels. – in ways that catapult these exceptional brands to the forefront of the markets they serve. We all know the importance of having empathy for the customer- this move enables us to live as the customer and continue to provide value in the process and programs we support.

So, for The Buddy Group and me, these are exciting times. As I spend a majority of my time over the next year on Michaels, know that your Buddies are here, and we’d always like to share more about what we do and how we do it. Here’s how:

To understand and access our storydriven expertise in ways that can directly impact your business, brand and marketing trajectory, connect with Buddy Group Vice President David Ferguson or Director of Production Jonathan Neubauer by visiting

The best way to connect with me and the entire ecosystem of makers, technologists, business leaders and brand experts in my community, follow me on Twitter @mybuddypeted.

To learn more about the vision and passion of the Michaels leadership team, click here

The Buddy Group’s Chief Buddy Pete Deutschman Takes On Head of Innovation Role at Michaels Companies from Pete Deutschman on Vimeo.

Undercover Seller. A brief experiment on reselling

Even before COVID, the need for some extra income and the flexibility to work from home was a growing trend. With 44 Million people filing for unemployment, side hustle is no longer a Millennial game. One of the high-growth areas that we are paying attention to for a multitude of reasons is that of second hand or reseller space. The second hand market is forecasted to hit 64 billion dollars in the next 5 years, forcing the donation and thrifting models to rethink the customer experience.

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In order to better relate to the market and behaviors emerging real-time, we took on the life of a modern reseller. Our hypothesis for this effort at the onset was that by becoming a reseller we’d better understand where the sticking points are and what it will take to grow and scale side hustle into a full fledged business, something that more and more people could do these days. We deployed an online persona to better understand the landscape, the gaps, what works, what doesn’t and what information is available to resellers today. We immediately observed that there is not one selling platform on the market that is taking advantage of the opportunity that lies within successful customer management, simplicity of usage, or reasonable selling fees; ultimately, no platform has it all. People are leveraging the technology that’s being provided to them in order to create efficiencies and own their own destiny. Because the reseller mindset is transactional, there’s no loyalty to any one platform. If the reselling ecosystem is sounding fragmented and labor-rich, you are on the right path. It takes an expert product marketer to know how, where and when to promote a unique one of a kind item. Through this process we have earned deep respect for today’s modern tech-enabled reseller and we can all learn from these self-made product entrepreneurs.

For 7 weeks we immersed ourselves into the reseller lifestyle. Once our online persona was created, we began experiencing spammers, packages getting lost in the mail, last minute canceled orders, shipping delays, huge profit margins, quick sells, slow sells, and much more. While the shipments of items piled up and the car filled with boxes, we got a serious taste into the world of reselling. We found flaws in every platform out there; what they could be doing better, or what they should stop doing, no platform is flawless. Each week we got together to go over which items have sold, new findings, and how much effort was put into the project that week.

We made accounts on 8 different reselling platforms but Offerup, eBay, Mercari, and Poshmark were the most successful.

Here a few of the pros and cons we noted:

  • OfferUp is simplistic, and makes customer interaction and selling easy
  • eBay is a complicated site, but getting eyes on the item is their forte.
  • Poshmark is an extremely saturated, social selling app.
  • Mercari is well, quiet.

No platform offered customer relationship management nor did we find a reseller specific tool that could foster and track relationships and encourage returning customers. In order for us to keep track of the items, which category they fell into (fashion, technology, home goods), when they sold, and to whom, we created a tracking sheet. By doing so we broke down the steps consumers have to undergo, and created ways to measure and track hypotheses. By putting ourselves in those shoes we began to understand the nuances and details that are not shared on the platforms.

There were 3 perspectives we took data from to understand the consumer behaviors: financial, selling life cycle, and customer relationship management. When purchasing an item to resell, the reseller needs to make sure they’re buying the item for less than what it normally sells retail, then determine what to sell it for, subtract platform fees and shipping costs, and even then, it needs to be more than what it was purchased for in the beginning. Jessica, the buddy who spearheaded the persona said, “I did my best to predict potential revenue on each item, but over time negotiations came into play, some of the revenue dropped a bit, but that’s a given and you need to be prepared for it.” Consumers will always want to pay less than what it’s selling it for, so it’s important to have it set a price with wiggle room.

To better understand if the juice was worth the squeeze, we made sure to study how we were using our time. How long does it take to receive a shipment, how many days past from listed to sold, and how many interactions take place in between in order to make a sale. When we ran into longer delays of selling, we began to really focus on ways to bring that down. Getting the items to sell is difficult, even if it’s name brand and in great condition.

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More than 60% of our time was spend getting customers to see it, (i.e. Marketing of a unique item) relisting, promoting, and offering price drops are a few of the time consuming tactics that were used to get a product sold. Simply listing and walking away is not enough. Being quick to reply to customer questions is key.

This experience has given us many exceptional insights into the reselling world.

  • Financially, it has amazing potential, but it does take some time to realize what to do and how to do it efficiently.
  • The selling lifestyle took longer than anticipated with receiving items, and then there’s the time between listing and selling to take into account as well.
  • Consumer relationships are a big factor to selling the goods and receiving a good rating.
  • Timely responses, follow up, and their experience is important but quality products matter too

Each platform has something to offer that’s different from the other, but to make an honest living out of this, a system in place for customer management would be an effective way to excel sales on these online services. It’s the creation of this modern way of finding incremental revenue that has us really optimistic. This community is thriving and is getting more popular thanks to the self-made marketing resellers. It can be a real source of income if invested in. Each platform has it’s pros and cons, not one is ultimately superior. Under the right conditions and understanding it can be very successful and these platforms that enable the side hustle has us excited.

I’d like to give a shout-out to Jessica who led this initiative.

“It was a different experience and opened my eyes to the effort and research that goes into being a successful reseller. The only way to truly learn how to participate in this industry was to jump in, because no matter how much you Google ‘how to be a reseller’ you will always come up short,” — Jess

6 weeks ago we didn’t know what we were going to learn, but this experience has enabled us to find relatable elements and better understand the community within it.

Customers make strategies, not executives

Millennials are the most diverse generational cohort in US history,” according to a Deloitte report. Consumer diversity is an inescapable reality for most companies. Brands that recognize this the most make all efforts to understand the heterogeneity of their audience and tailor their strategy to the needs of their customer base.

In this time of diversity, inclusiveness is an important factor in growth and also serves as a risk mitigation strategy for companies. To successfully leverage consumer diversity for success, companies must seek to understand their audience base and put the customers before their strategy.

Benefits of Diversity

  • Growth: Millennials are the generation that values inclusion the most and is influenced by a brand’s display of diversity and inclusion. And Gen Z on a fast track to more variety than the generation immediately preceding them. The rising generation consists of conscientious buyers who are ready to amplify brands that create a positive experience for diverse customers while avoiding and dissuading others from organizations with a negative reputation of diversity.
  • Inclusiveness: These days, you don’t need to be a global brand to have a diverse customer base. Everyone is different in some way, and acknowledging those differences is good for business. If you keep targeting a narrow set of people, you would lose the goodwill of the minorities. A diversity marketing strategy signals to your customers that you care about them, no matter how different they may be from the other customers.
  • Risk Mitigation: From a purely business perspective, diversity can be a risk mitigation tactic. Having a diverse consumer base shields your company from the consequences of the economic challenges of one customer segment. While it is great to maintain a focus when targeting prospects, hyper-concentration might have you using less of your potentials.

Managing Diversity

Because of the apparent diversity in today’s market, a multipurpose strategy can no longer work for reaching your growing customers. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, you need a marketing model that acknowledges diversity without differentiating your audience, and that personalizes customer experience while communicating inclusiveness.

  • Customer Segmentation

The purpose of segmentation must be to understand your customers better rather than to amplify stereotypes. In fact, what you deem important to learn about your customer base would inform the segmentation method you adopt. This may be geographic (location-based), demographic (features-based), behavioral (habit-based), or psychographic (personality-based).

In an impressive example of psychographic segmentation, the marketing team at GoFare, a travel app, ran a campaign that targeted people in each category with an upgrade offer, determined based on their lifestyle information. But this was not until they had identified their most frequent travelers, segmented them according to their attitudes, and created multiple buyer personas to clarify their targets.

By finding common attributes between groups in your customer base, you can serve hyper-targeted ads with direct messaging that would attract more leads.

  • Uniformity vs Differentiation

PepsiCo’s Lady Doritos gaffe is still fresh in the memory of marketers, serving as a reminder to never confuse diversity marketing with necessary differentiation. CEO Indra Nooyi sparked controversy when she hinted at the introduction of new versions of its chips that matched female snacking preferences, which she described as different from men’s.

But what was the problem? Was it that there were no gendered products at all? Of course, there are. But according to business lecturer Jill Avery, “consumers are generally open to gendered products and brands when they can perceive real, meaningful differences in how men and women consume a product.” Therefore, the real problem was that PepsiCo assumed stereotypes about its audience base. A major key to maneuvering diversity is to let the data speak for itself and involve the customers in your marketing strategy. Collecting information directly from the consumers ensures authenticity. Regular engagement with your customers makes them know that they have a voice. But engagement isn’t just saying and doing what your customers want; it includes communicating with them how they want.

  • Omnichannel marketing

Companies have many digital channels to interact with consumers. On the other hand, consumers, particularly millennials, want companies to focus on seamless cross-channel service delivery, rather than needless expansion. This is the age of omnichannel marketing, a strategy that ensures an integrated customer experience across multiple means. The average internet user has 8.5 social media accounts. And with the majority of people now owning numerous devices, cross-device shopping is much more common, impacting sales by up to 31%. It only makes sense that companies target consumers via multiple channels, and while at it, maintain a uniform CX.

The omnichannel model is an upgrade to multichannel marketing, which only extends the mediums of communication but without focusing on delivering cross-channel consistency. While multichannel marketing puts the medium first, omnichannel marketing puts the consumer first. Hence, greater customer retention; marketers using three or more channels to interact with customers record 90% higher retention rates.

The most common examples of successful omnichannel strategies are Disney, with its My Disney Experience, Virgin Atlantic’s personalized customer experience, the Bank of America’s dynamic experience, and Starbucks rewards app, among many others.

  • Brand Communications

“One in three customers from diverse backgrounds say their needs were often unmet over the past 12 months. Further, they were three times more likely to avoid an organization and dissuade others from their potential interactions, because of an organization’s negative reputation on diversity.” So says a Deloitte report, which underscores the fact that, more than ever, a company’s reputation depends on how they embrace their diverse customers.

The most foundational marketing strategy today is customer-centricity. When a company that serves a different customer base alienates a group of its audience, it affirms that it does not put customers first. Elevating minority voices, in particular, shows that a company holds every customer in esteem. And according to a survey by Google, 64% of consumers took action after seeing an ad it considered diverse or inclusive. The report concludes, “if you seek to enter diverse markets, your organization must become the market you seek.”

The beauty company, Dove has won hearts by embracing the diversity of its customers in an industry infamous for reinforcing stereotypes. Through its multiple campaigns, Dove exemplifies an understanding of the varied psychological needs of their market. A worthy throwback is the Ad makeover campaign in which they let their customers choose their ads messaging themselves, challenging the negative ads messaging that the industry had promoted over the years.


On the one hand, there is the idea that businesses should differentiate themselves by focusing on specific market segments. And then there are buyer personas which are templates for marketing targets. On the other hand, there is diversity to deal with. Unless you are planning an expansion, diversity marketing does not necessarily mean expanding your target. Rather, it is recognizing the differences in your existing customer base and leveraging that to connect with your customers better.

Multiple studies have established a strong link between consumer diversity and brand performance. Today, the talk is not about whether you have a diverse customer base or not. The major question is on how you tackle diversity in your customer base.


Try it…data shows you will like it (Augmented Reality data)

Most consumers have not tried augmented reality on their smartphone, but those who have tend to use it frequently.

These are among the findings in a survey of 2,200 U.S. adults conducted by Thrive Analytics and Artillry Intelligence.

About a third (32%) of consumers have tried mobile AR. Of those who use it, 66% are active at least monthly and 54% are active weekly or greater.

Top AR uses are games (83%), social (36%) and product visualization (31%). As to AR desires, consumers want more games (72%), city guides (39%), sports (35%) and retail apps (33%).

Of those who use augmented reality, 73% report high or very high satisfaction. Of those who do not use augmented reality, 53% report definitive disinterest and 28% report confusion.

For pricing, 65% of mobile AR users say they would pay $1 or more for an app and 14% say they would pay $5 or more.

A majority (55%) of non-mobile AR users say they are unlikely or extremely unlikely to try it and 28% don’t know where to look for apps or if their phone is compatible.

Of those who use augmented reality, 54% are male, 46% are female, 61% have an income level of $50,000 or more, with 41% of those having an income of $75,000 or more, according to the survey.

What is the purpose of a rear-view mirror?


As most of those close to me know, one year ago we lost my father-in-law in a tragic car accident. It was sad, sudden and left us all with a gut wrenching feeling of lack of control.

Despite the title of my post, the accident had nothing to do with a rear-view mirror although we will never know the cause. Regardless, the accident had a significant impact on many aspects of my life.

For me, the loss was a wake-up call. My health, my relationships and what matter most all become front and center. While addressing the fallout and picking up the pieces, I was dealing with reality and pragmatism; perhaps the business person in me and perhaps the fact the it was the role that my father-in-law expected me to play.  It can be hard to wrap your head around the fact that someone you love was taken away from you so soon. You will never be prepared for this moment, but I like to believe there is a message in each tragedy that comes our way, especially death. Death can teach us so much about life and for me, I learned the value of a rear-view mirror.

I used to see this as a tool for seeing what would prevent me from safely changing lanes. A quick look up, a look in the rear-view mirror followed by a glance over the shoulder provided me enough information to know if it was safe to change lanes. However, I now realize that looking up and looking over your shoulder only provides you with empirical data based on the moment you look. The true value happens when you apply history — the learnings of past experiences to not only safely change lanes but safely look into the past while continuing to confidently drive to the future. Mike’s death made me appreciate the the rear-view mirror as a metaphor for living in the present, embracing what you have and quickly revisiting memories.

With a rear-view mirror you –

You appreciate the people around you more, you want to let them know how you feel or how much you care about them while you have the chance. You take that extra minutes to let people know they matter to you. You don’t hold things in as much as you used to because you know the sting of leaving important words unsaid; knowing that you will never get the chance to say them.

Seeing the past through the rear-view mirror allows you to let go of resentment, envy, greed and anxiety (or at least be aware when you are doing it). Memories are the only way to bring someone back to life and we can’t think positively about memories if we spend our time looking away;  look forward and look in the rear-view mirror.

It put the time I have with my family in perspective. I no longer get (as) agitated by the little things I cannot control at work and choose to leverage the past to enable the future.

The rear-view mirror is there for a reason and I hope you use it — and the memories that make you who you are.


@thebuddygroup @dotlot “creating pre-sales content without actively engaging consumers with R.E.A.L post-sale content is like serving your kids pancakes without syrup”

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Successful brands may “win” at being part of the shopping experience up until they get buyers into stores and, ultimately, in line at the cash register. But many assume — incorrectly — that their job ends once a purchase transaction takes place considering this the job of support.

With online sales representing such a large (and growing) part of the customer experience, the customer experience post purchase is broken in the eyes of the customer. I buy on Amazon (or Best Buy or ….) and then I am expected to have a relationship with the manufacturer. This process repeats for each product I purchase.

The customer journey does not stop with the buy. By neglecting the post purchase experience, marketers are missing out on some pretty special moments and product affinity. Today’s consumers are mindful of experience’s value over product, this could become the demise of healthy products incapable of evolving along side of the customer.

It has been said that Brands’ and marketers’ mindsets must shift away from treating a purchase as a “final destination,” and instead focus on continuous interactions with consumers, even when those consumers leave the store for home or other locations. Today, there are tools available to drive engagement at each step of the customer journey —too many tools perhaps– mastering the post sale experience is paramount.

Whether the destination is a brick-and-mortar store or an online marketplace, many of today’s consumers expect shopping to be an experience. Even in our increasingly digital world, the concept of the consumer journey is alive, well and critically important.

This is because the shopping experience is driven by its primary component: a consumer’s intent to purchase

Alongside the intent to purchase is the moment of brand discovery. Given the ubiquity of smartphones today, this defining moment has become a more immediate and common part of the process. This is because, regardless of location, a consumer can instantly access information about a product, such as who makes it, where it can be bought and for how much. This is the setup for future customer interactions.

Consumers seek personalized experiences. A meal out is oftentimes more about the experience than the meal itself — the location, mood and fellow diners all factor into the decision to dine at a particular restaurant. The same philosophy applies to the goods they purchase. Consumers want to try out the product, interact with it, or otherwise, have an experience that makes their shopping trip even more enjoyable. The process is all about earning trust, something that is very difficult to do online in a world of paid reviews, influencers and paid publisher content.

The purchase is no longer the objective

Regardless of how much creativity goes into an in-store moment to make a shopping trip more enjoyable, an item’s purchase traditionally marks the end of the brand’s involvement in the consumer journey. Despite what a brand represents, there’s an instinct to treat the whole process like a transaction. Once the purchase has been made, you have what you need from a customer, and the conversation is complete.

But transaction-based thinking doesn’t fully value the rapport built during the brand discovery phase and undermines what brands are at their core. Strong and successful brands are built on relationships with consumers — pre- and post-purchase — that inform customers, educate and inspire them. If a brand’s interaction with the consumer ends at the point of purchase, it’s a substantial opportunity lost.

Be the exception by being R.E.A.L

At The Buddy Group, we have development a model based on the acronym, R.E.A.L.

R- Relate

E- Educate

A- Advocacy

L- Learn

The 2017 Getting Serious About Omni-channel Experience study by Huawei, the Customer Experience Board, and the CMO Council, found 60 percent of surveyed marketers altered their content strategy by offering more content types and formats for potential buyers to consume. This is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. According to the same study, only 38 percent of marketers have turned consumer engagement into a 24/7 opportunity to connect with customers, proving that creating pre-sales content without actively engaging consumers with R.E.A.L post-sale content is like bringing your kids pancakes without syrup.

Going the distance

In essence, turning consumer engagement into an around-the-clock operation is synonymous with accompanying a buyer on each step of their shopping journey, as both embrace the idea of extending the dialogue well beyond the moment of purchase.

Major analyst firms such as Gartner also recognize the importance of this kind of brand-to-consumer engagement, citing its positive impact on customer retention. In fact, the Gartner 2017-2018 CMO Spend Survey found that CMOs are spending twice as much on customer retention as on customer acquisition.

As Gartner notes, marketers and brands will need to focus on capturing lifetime value or, simply put, keeping customers for life. Once brands know how to keep customers, they’ll also be able to better understand how to gain them.

The good news is, there’s never been a better opportunity to start engaging with consumers at home, particularly when smart or connected products enable access to custom video content or other unique digital experiences such as voice search, image recognition or up-to-date access to evolving content. Access to videos or tutorials on how to use the product with other products in their ecosystem or addressing common issues caused when using the product with others generate positive outcomes and deep customer trust that your brand will support the ongoing evolution and relationship.

Since consumers already treat shopping like it’s a journey, brands should be treating it the same way. The “final destination” no longer exists in the consumer shopping experience. A purchase transaction is just the start, and it can be the beginning of a conversation that fuels business growth, drives additional sales and creates ultra-loyal and satisfied customers.

Ultimately, it comes down to trust: trusting the sources from which you get information, whether it’s from brands, news sources, family members, Twitter accounts, or wherever you’re engaging. @dotlot @thebuddygroup

There’s no question that we live in a society in which information moves faster than ever before. So the old adage that “a lie is halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on” is quite accurate.

A recent study in Science found that false news travels faster and wider and that the blame lies with humans. It’s the same reason that gossip tabloids have always flourished and that the Kardashians are so widely followed. Human nature seems to gravitate toward a willingness to spread falsehoods and exaggerations.

And this is why Facebook (and other big technology companies) are in a pinch ahead of the midterm elections. Because what they have to fix isn’t just an algorithm: it’s human behavior. Behavior that they’ve trained with Pavlovian-like responses tied to endorphins that ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ cause in the brain. The ubiquitous nature of technology and its endemic effects make this a societal problem, with reverberations that are being felt in government, child-rearing, school, and more.

There’s still a need to be aware of and efforts made to stomp out fake news. Interestingly, even amid the growing era of machine learning, journalists may be better suited to do sniff out fake news. That is, journalists who aren’t being coerced into bashing national media companies by their employers.

What’s Life Without Information?

But what’s the answer? One New York Times columnist took a two-month hiatus from digital sources, getting his news only from print newspapers. The result was a less frenetic, richer experience with himself and his family. And an Ohio man completely cut himself off from every kind of news. Those kinds of solutions may not be for everyone, but they do indicate just how deep technology pervades our minds and the need to make some kind of change to our behavior.

Ultimately, it comes down to trust: trusting the sources from which you get information, whether it’s from brands, news sources, family members, Twitter accounts, or wherever you’re engaging. And knowing that you have the power to influence others, because that’s who people trust over all sources. Your employees, customers, fans, family and the like — they’re the ones who will be the best resource when it comes to leading and defending your brand or your story. If you have a good relationship with them and can be consistent and persistent, you stand a chance of breaking through.

As posted on

This is a great example of how quickly an Internet of Things transforming technology can take off @dotlot

Consumers using digital voice assistants want some help from brands.

Primarily, many consumers want brands to help them improve their knowledge or help organize their daily lives.

However, the top thing they want their favorite brands to do is tap into their voice-controlled smart speakers to provide innovative new products, based on a new study on voice devices.

The study comprised a survey of 30,000 internet users aged 16 to 64 who used voice search within the last month or currently use a voice-controlled smart speaker. It was conducted by Global Web Index.

Here’s the breakdown of what voice tech adopters most want from their favorite brands:

  • 25% — Provide innovative new product
  • 24% — Improve knowledge and skills
  • 19% — Help simplify/organize daily life
  • 16% — Provide entertaining videos, content
  • 15% — Provide personalized recommendations for purchases

Researchers also found that more than a third (35%) of internet users plan to purchase a voice-controlled smart assisting within the next six months.

The adoption of smart speakers varies widely by age. For example, more than half of millennial internet users either use or plan to purchase a smart speaker. Here’s the breakdown by age of internet users who currently use a smart speaker or plan to purchase one in the next six months:

  • 57% — 25 to 34
  • 55% — 16 to 24
  • 49% — 35 to 44
  • 37% — 45 to 54
  • 27% — 55 to 64

This is a great example of how quickly an Internet of Things transforming technology can take off. And this is only one of them.


As seen on

The #IoT sector is expected to grow to 20.4 billion devices by 2020, and businesses are expected to spend $134 billion annually by 2022 just on cybersecurity for IoT devices

There’s a running joke regarding connected gadgets and the internet of things: “The ‘S’ in IoT stands for security.”

And yes, I’m aware there’s no “S” in IoT.

Oleg Šelajev, a lead developer for Oracle Labs, coined the phrase in 2016, and it pops up almost every time researchers find security flaws with a connected device. And it happens a lot. Think security cameras. Or toys. Or smart locks.

Yet homes, businesses and facilities are stocking up on more and more connected devices, the idea being to make people’s lives easier. The IoT sector is expected to grow to 20.4 billion devices by 2020, and businesses are expected to spend $134 billion annually by 2022 just on cybersecurity for IoT devices, according to Juniper Research.

But more connected devices means more potential vulnerabilities. And the security of these devices hasn’t gotten much better. Researchers have been warning about this issue for years, but the number of threats is only getting worse. The real problem is that no one’s listening.

“We demonstrated problems last year,” Denis Makrushin, a Kaspersky Lab researcher, said at his company’s Security Analyst Summit in Cancun, Mexico, earlier this month. “This year, it’s the same problems, but now with huge numbers.”

Even more distressing is the bigger threat to the more than 8.4 billion IoT devices already available today — especially as security vulnerabilities in old devices keep popping up. So even as politicians and the tech industry look to address this for new products, it’s the legacy gadgets that could prove most vulnerable. It was one of the key themes at the Kaspersky conference, where researchers exposed vulnerabilities affecting decades-old gas pumpsrobots in malls and smart cameras for homes.

Panels at Kaspersky’s 10th annual summit in Mexico took place in windowless conference rooms just a stone’s throw away from Cancun’s sunny beaches. While couples were cooling off by the pool and families were playing in the sand at this popular vacation destination, security researchers were inside showing off vulnerabilities with the gadgets that increasingly run our lives.

It didn’t end with robots and gas stations. Other panels detailed how you could hack a yacht, a car, industrial control systems and hospital tech. The one common thread for all of this research: It wasn’t shiny, new gadgets with security flaws, but devices from years ago. These are the ones makers have moved on from, but people can still buy in stores.

Medical malware

Your typical hospital serves as a case study for how vulnerable we are. Kaspersky Lab’s researchers found 27,716 open entry points for a hacker. Yury Namestnikov, one such researcher, attributes this to a rise in internet-connected devices in hospitals, some of which might not even be medical equipment.

IoT devices will number 20.4 billion by 2020. That’s a lot of potential security hazards.

James Martin/CNET

They found issues with the lighting systems, air-conditioning units and printers. Many of them were using out-of-date management software open to attacks. The researchers pointed out that the popular Cancun resort they were staying at might also have these same security issues.

“If you’re an administrator, you need to decide what kind of stuff needs to be on the internet,” Namestnikov said in an interview at the resort. “You need to make inventory, what’s connected and what you should protect.”

Hospitals were among the first victims hit by the WannaCry ransomware attack, preventing patients from getting urgent care while computer systems were locked up. Security is a major concern at hospitals, which hold sensitive data for attackers to target. But hospitals are increasingly embracing connected devices.

“They have to use new equipment to keep up, but they don’t understand a need to adopt security also,” Namestnikov said.

When companies aren’t building their devices with security in mind, it ends up falling on researchers to both find the mess and help clean it up.

Eyes on IoT

There are always new places to find security vulnerabilities.

After successfully hacking the Pepper and Nao robots, Lucas Apa, a researcher from IOActive, said he was interested in a looking at Knightscope, the robot that notoriously was used to disperse the homeless in San Francisco and that comically was found drowned in a fountain in Washington, DC.

For Ido Naor, the Kaspersky researcher who discovered issues with more than 1,000 internet-connected gas stations, he’s always keeping an eye out.

“As researchers, we walk around the world, and check out everything,” Naor said. “Marks, logos, different types of devices we’ve never seen before, and it tickles our mind to look for information about it.”

The scariest thing: Plenty of hackers are probably just as curious.

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PEOPLE TRUST PEOPLE: The Internet of Things isn’t even so much about things

What the Internet of Things is NOT about

It seems that if your company doesn’t have an IoT strategy nowadays, you might as well quit. But not just any strategy will do. Let’s look at some of the hot topics in IoT today that are unlikely to make a dent in market adoption. Here are some insights from our most recent publication, IoT Developer Megatrends – a short publication on the most important trends for IoT.


Here’s what everyone knows about the Internet of Things. It’s going to be enormous. We’ll have tens of billions of devices by the end of the decade. This is a multi-trillion dollar opportunity over the next years. All the major players in consumer electronics, mobile, cloud, factory automation, enterprise IT and more will be fiercely competing for a piece of that pie. All this information shouts: [tweetable]if your company doesn’t have an IoT strategy you might as well quit[/tweetable].

Not just any strategy, of course. The history of technology is littered with great concepts and engineering feats that never became mainstream products. It’s worth looking at some of the hot topics in IoT today that are unlikely to make a dent in market adoption.

What IoT is not

A lot of the buzz in the media and on industry forums is about the Internet of Things technology itself. Standards. Security. Privacy. Whether to use Bluetooth, Wifi, cellular or mesh networks. If history is any guide, all of these important questions will get solved over time, but none are an actual roadblock to market adoption. iOS and Android didn’t depend on app standards to revolutionize the smartphone industry, for example.

Meanwhile, product designers have discovered IoT and are adding connectivity (internet) and services to their products with blazing speed. Washing machines, socks, ovens, shoes, cars, door locks, toothbrushes and even flower pots are becoming “smart”. The problem with this “product with an app” approach is that all those disconnected, individual apps will soon become impossible for users to manage.

The Internet of Things isn’t even so much about things. For example, companies like Google-owned Waze achieve better traffic intelligence by crowdsourcing smartphone data rather than through an extensive network of road sensors, typical for a Smart City project. True smart cities have taken note, and are starting to use Waze’s data. Waze literally never shipped a thing.

Breaking Free of Internet and Things

Here’s an uncontroversial, but often forgotten truth. [tweetable]The value of IoT products doesn’t come from the technology or the internet or the things[/tweetable]. Value is created in IoT by making sense of data, turning it into knowledge and meaningful action. It’s not the parking sensor that matters, but finding a free parking spot quickly and without frustration.

This perspective on the Internet of Things has some interesting implications. We predict that the most interesting IoT applications in 2020 will use data that already exists today, rather than new sensors.

Why? Value is created by making sense of data, and many data will have more than one possible source (like in the Waze vs traffic sensor example). New devices will be more expensive to build, install and maintain than solutions that mine existing sources of data. When a solution can be found that doesn’t require new sensors or hardware, it will prevail. Already, companies like Cellint use data from mobile network operators to monitor traffic jams in cities.

Internet of Things is not about how to add a service to my product, but about making my product work with every other service. It’s about how all those sensors, devices, things and services can be integrated into the user’s digital lifestyle. IoT is breaking free from Internet and Things.