The Consumer Electronic Show should now be called the Connected Everyday Shopper show, because the speed at which Internet of Things technology is converging into everyday products was front and center this year in Las Vegas. The driving forces behind all of this is a mix of consumers, manufacturers, and tech companies. Here’s how it’s all coming together.
Consumers and Manufacturers Wins
Everywhere you looked at CES, you could not escape products with labels that said, “Amazon Alexa-enabled” or “Works with Google Assistant.” In fact, it was reported in Forbes that Amazon Alexa is now working with over 4,000 consumer products and Google with over 1,500. These numbers will continue to grow and drive the proliferation of IoT technology, changing the functional aspect of shopping.
We are now living in a world of “autonomous commerce,” where the ability to buy things becomes frictionless and simple. What CES showed us is that the infrastructure is now in place, but something like asking your bathroom mirror to order more soap is a new behavior that will evolve over time. Think back to the early days of the internet, when it was foreign to buy a pair of shoes online.
That hesitancy quickly went away, and now apparel and accessories ranks #1 in terms of online commerce, according to comScore 2017. That’s what we see happening with ordering basic everyday consumer package goods from connected objects. It won’t happen overnight, but there will be a casual adoption of basic commands for everyday products; according to NPR and Edison Research, over 40 million people now own a smart speaker.
Tech Companies Lay the Foundation
What was evident at CES was that Amazon provides simple functional capabilities, from dimming the lights on your connected bathroom mirror, to having Alexa turn on your microwave and begin defrosting food. In speaking with many of the floor attendants, every conversation ended the same way, “and when you run out of your favorite product, you can always order directly from Amazon.”
Unlike 2017, Google was omnipresent at CES this year. Everywhere you turned, there was a virtual Google Assistant walking around and kiosks highlighting their retail partnership via Google Express. Google was determined not to be outshined by Amazon this year and that was on full display.
What is even more apparent is that autonomous commerce and simple daily task automation are a reality. Google and Amazon are driving this, and both partners want what the other has: Google excels in the information space and Amazon in the transaction area.
Utility and Convenience Are Becoming Affordable
One of the more convenient and useful consumer experiences was Whirlpool’s work with Yummly, integrating the food app within its appliances and mobile app. Through the app’s image recognition capabilities, you can scan your fridge, and based on the food you have, it presents you with a recipe recommendation. If you’re missing any of the items you need, you can connect to Instacart and have those items picked up and delivered to you.
There is no cost associated with this; you can just use the app to deploy it — even if you don’t have the appliances. If you do have the connected hardware, the cooking instructions can also automatically set the temperature appropriately for the recipe when you begin meal preparation. This is an indicator for the future, as the price points on connected appliances start to drop.
What This Means for Brands
The world of frictionless commerce is coming — and if your brand isn’t part of it, you’ll lose. It’s imperative that we leverage new technologies and techniques such as voice commerce and commands to build a foundation and begin to future proof. We must begin to understand what your autonomous shelf risk is in the world of voice commerce. Is yours the first product to pop up when someone asks Alexa for more cereal or diapers or sheets?
As many brands have learned from the early days of digital, it is not a wait-and-see approach. Instead, you need to embrace this new space and be aggressive in learning as much as you can. Test, learn, fail, learn and succeed. Ultimately, CES 2018 was really the launch of the first Connected Everyday Shopper show.