The annual Consumer Electronics Show is a playground for tech aficionados and those who mark their calendars when Apple or Samsung are scheduled to make a big announcement. It is a literal playground of technology showcasing the best and most forward-thinking technology out there. Although the CES in Las Vegas may be about the products and the consumer, the hyper connectivity implications of this year’s event is a signal to the marketing industry – specifically “digital” marketing – that cannot be undersold.
Greater levels of connectivity with prospects and potential sales became a focal point with the emergence of the smartphone about a decade ago. Now, in the start of 2015, rarely do we disconnect from the digital world. Social media, real-time news, CMS, Skype and global messaging platforms put the world (and millions of new customers) at the touch of a finger.
Although smartphones and mobile technology still sit at the head of the CES table, the buzz this year was around how connectivity and technology are expanding into other parts of lives. And, if successful, these products may redefine our lives and the ways brands and companies market their products and services.
There is a big push amongst tech companies to create wearable devices that meet the functionality needs of users, but also are aesthetically pleasing. Watches and bracelets continue to dominate the landscape with tie-ins to fitness use and social media integration.
But although most of the buzz still remains around watches with connectivity to smartphones and the such, there are other advances in the wearable market that are more than just fitness and data delivery. A number of companies are developing products with medical applications. Part of the wearable showcase, companies and university researchers unveiled plasters and temporary tattoos capable of sending vital signs to a cloud-based server. There were non-invasive thermometers for use on sleeping babies, and devices that transmit body temperature directly to a smartphone. Some of the exciting wearable news came from XelfleX, a smart shirt created by Cambridge Consultants here in the UK. The shirt uses fibre-optic cabling to track every part of your body’s movement in real time.
The Internet of Things
Homes that think about things from keeping you warm to doing the laundry; hyper connectivity of all the machines in our lives was lauded at this year’s CES. There was the introduction of self-watering plants and thinking light bulbs from a company called Misfit Bolt.
This is the area that marketers will be watching closely. If washing machines can digitally communicate, companies might be able to tell when the exact moment to contact prospect during their customer journey. From breakdowns to upgrades and even the need for more washing powder, emails and social media can be triggered by real-time data from the products themselves. Although this type of responsive marketing takes place whenever people use their mobile devices through “cookies” and tags, the connectivity of the Internet of Things allows for the collection of data without an action coming directly from the consumer. Rather, the data will come directly from their devices themselves.
With a release of a wireless devices that can charge your gadgets from as much as 15 feet away without touching them, the future gets really interesting when your machines don’t even need to be plugged in to provide useful information.
The Impact on the Consumer
Clearly at the centre of the week of gadgets and staged announcements during CES is the consumer. According to global estimates, the consumer electronics market is approaching $300 billion annually. From producers like Samsung, Apple, Sony, Microsoft and thousands of others, competition for marketing buzz, consumer purchases and return business are higher than ever before.
But this competition amongst producers has (unintended or intended) consequences because of this consumer tech movement towards wearable devices and the Internet of Things. This hyper connectivity will be able to gather data about users in regards to where they shop for things like food, clothes, and cars. It can tell us what restaurants they frequent, how warm they keep their house, and when they are most likely to be doing laundry.
In the film Minority Report (2002), billboards used a retinal scans to tailor adverts to those walking by. As technology continues to advance, the tech products you use will help pick the perfect advertising pitch for you at the perfect time. You just burned 800 calories on the treadmill? Tesco across the road from the gym may be able email you an instant voucher for a multipack of Lucozade to help you re-hydrate. Or, maybe, your fitness band buys it for you. All you need to do is shower off and pick it up.
The future is connected by thousands of data points. And the smart marketers will be following the dots.