Look closely. You will see in this image the epitome of CES 2018. Amazon Alexa, well positioned on the floor with a full year plus of partnerships and integration including CES 2017 where they dominated the strip, floor and discussion. Google, represented here (left, inside the booth), boxed in and relevant only to those who know where to look for it made incredible efforts to be recognized and part of the conversation at CES 2018. They succeeded as voice became the #1 topic at nearly all meetings and cocktail hours. Despite the showing, Alexa integrations and branding was on display 3 to 1.
Barking “Hey, Google “and “Alexa…” make not a CES. As I reflected on my annual drive back from Vegas, a trip I have been doing for 17 years, I realized the difference between then and now comes down to the value the products are bringing to consumers.
THEN: Back then (and up until about 3-4 years ago), CES was where new, vertical–forming innovation debuted, and where products that made us more productive where recognized. (VCR, CD player, flat panel tv, gaming, IP TV)
What’s interesting to me here is that, in between each of these innovations, we found a period of time where the vertical was evolving and refining. Flat panel TVs were over $10,000 when they first came out and now you can buy them at Costco for $400.
So, where are we right now? Well, I think it is safe to say that 2018 was a year of convenience rather than transformation.
Convenience is what happens when the value proposition is not based on newness or major leaps forward but rather on evolution of the customer experience.
Hey, Google… Ask Alexa what is CES?
2017: CES: Consumer Electronics Show
2018: CES: Customer Experience Show
Products that were not part of the consumer electronics category before are, by nature of adding sensors or voice assistants, smart and now part of the conversation. The low(ish) cost to add tech to products means an onslaught of newcomers to CES which in-turn pushes the already crowded market into the streets, literally. App makers and artificial intelligence SAAS providers took over restaurants for the week and managed to create buzz alongside their clients, the manufacturers. If you didn’t already see it, a beauty company made quite the splash at CES this year.
Thursday morning, after several days of meetings, walking the floor, and demonstration after demonstration, I joined about 100 game changers at the Future Proof event co-hosted by MemBrain and Wunderman (Thank you to Jennifer Sullivan for the invitation). As attendees barely had their first sip of coffee, Cheddar Founder Jon Steinberg wasted no time and started off by posing a profound question about salience. While getting to a different question, Jon addressed the open room asking ‘in a world where 80% of a brand/product’s marketing dollars are spent on Facebook and Google, have we tipped over into a duopoly where a product has limited access to find saliency’?
Just 12 hours later, Facebook made what could prove to be the most important announcement on this topic, addressing the way their algorithm promotes a brand or publisher’s quest for saliency in our personal news feed. This move will bring Facebook closer to its roots and create opportunities for brands and publishers to uncover new angles and platforms in the quest for saliency. Consumers have grown to become addicted to checking facebook (and other apps) enabling a behavior across demographics that is promoting data/information consumption at all times.
This attention to the word saliency really struck a chord and the irony was not lost on me as we sat in this room at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) marking for many the end of a long-product development cycle. The efforts of the makers transfers to the marketers and here we were, talking about how challenging it is to find prominence on a social platform against headwinds of record breaking exhibitors and attendees fighting for a moment of their target audiences’ attention. Now put yourself in the shoes of the connected consumer, bombarded by content, clips and facts.
For a second year in a row, I heard, “it all looks the same” and “there is not anything new”. As I commented last year, the innovation is not on the surface friends. We are entering a time where the show looks the same but what you see is not what’s new.
The ultimate challenge is to demonstrate the value within to the target customer and that challenge requires understanding and empathy and to do so with clarity. Too many “compatible with” statements may sound great, but the consumer experience gets cluttered and confusing pretty quick.
The new value of customer experience is predicated on our ability to provide and extract data. That’s scary, right? No, it’s only scary to give over data when you are not getting value back. In a world where time is perceived to be the ultimate currency, convenience is the ultimate value.
Amazon and Google have a major role in the future of CES and, frankly, a responsibility to give back to the product makers who have embraced them and put them front and center on the floor. Long-live the spirit of innovation and the future of CES as the expo focused on convenience, experience AND innovation. Change is a good thing and I am excited to see how CES evolves again next year.
Prediction: AR with informed interaction
becomes the key driver to upgrade our phones (and glasses)
CNET captured a great list of notables worthy of sharing here: https://www.cnet.com/pictures/all-the-cool-new-gadgets-at-ces-2018/
Now, a few of my highlights where customer experience created value and where products inspired as seen by @DOTLOT and @THEBUDDYGROUP
Western Digital and SanDisk have cracked the code for backing up images and videos from your phone or device while on the go, a feature that has become synonymous with the connected consumer, prosumer and mom-a-ratzi.
@SharperImage is a favorite of mine. I can’t seem to walk through an airport without stopping and spending 20 minutes trying the latest gadgets. Be on the lookout for this smart roller complete with vibration mode. I may have cried a bit while trying this out.
Yamaha showed off a self correcting motorcycle concept that not only looked amazing, promised to allow you to get to your destination safely.
The most talked about item at CES this year, the folding machine powered by AI and controlled by voice.
Want this guy teaching your kid? Someone invested a lot of money to prepare for that to be a reality.
Finally, having worked with Moverio (EPSON) for years, I had to check out Vuzix Blade in person. Where Moverio’s presence was primarily focused on the use of the glasses to maximize the drone flight experience, Vuzix integration of Alexa made the proposition of smart glasses interesting but proof is in the…frames. I am encouraged by Vuzix and hopeful others in the category step up their game to enable unique use cases and provide value to a market hungry for a new way to learn, engage and share.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank may amazing team for all the great efforts to launch @DOTLOT at CES this year. DOTLOT is the only content company engineered for products that evolve. The response has been overwhelming and we are excited to help companies connect the dots between their products and people. www.dotlot.com and firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.