CES Ups Its Software Game

For many years, CES was largely ignored by most marketers and was typecast as a “hardware show”, the place to see televisions measured in feet, and cars that can hover out of parking spots. While hardware is still a focus of the event, the main attraction this year is software. Ultimately, it is software that is creating more connectivity between products and pushing the boundaries of what consumers expect from brands.

Here’s a preview of three trends we expect to see at CES that will be relevant to marketers and how they connect with consumers.

Artificial Intelligence: Going Beyond A Buzzword

AI will no longer be a buzzword in product descriptions; we’re less skeptical that it will be the true enabler of product differentiation this year. Evolutions in cloud computing and the democratization of data science tools over the past 12 months have made AI far more accessible. This allows even more data to be analyzed, more patterns to be identified, and more models to be trained to create more powerful algorithms for products.



For marketers, AI is already used heavily for activities like personalizing content and making recommendations. For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides a content personalization API that can make 1,000 individual recommendations for just 6.7 cents.

This year we will see a trend around how AI is being used with image recognition to automate repetitive tasks and reduce errors with products that help avoid accidents and automate measuring.

What does this mean for brands?

When process automation gets combined with content-creation algorithms, this gets interesting for marketers.

For example, Vivivik, a startup from South Korea, has a product that leverages an AI algorithm to generate a company logo by answering a few questions. As an added bonus, they can even take care of the trademark registration and order printed materials.

Right now, machines are nowhere close to replacing humans when it comes to creating content, but definitely look for products and services that bring AI into the marketing supply chain to improve your team’s efficiency, reduce error rates, and close the Insights-to-Action gap. 

Everything's Smart To Everything's Connected

We've had our fair share of chuckles over the years at the number of ordinary products that show up at CES as “smart”: smart flower pots, smart water bottles and even smart hair brushes.

The race to make everything smart has been fueled by embeddable computer chips with WiFi and Bluetooth that cost less than $1 each. This will result in a world where everything isn’t just smart, but everything is connected, providing a fascinating amount of detail around product usage.

Two of the biggest remaining hurdles to consumers connecting with these products are the clunky nature of connecting to WiFi and the user experience of the associated apps. However, 5G’s looming pervasiveness will be a breakthrough: It will alleviate these challenges and drive even more innovation.

What does this mean for brands?

Think about how connected devices and smart products not only provide utility, but how they provide valuable insights to understanding consumers’ behavior. Many established companies are reworking their product development and R&D processes to integrate digital feedback that’s far more insightful than traditional panels and surveys.

Turning Consumer’s Personal Data Into Actions

When the personal health category first emerged at CES for tracking personal data, it was comprised of step counters and sleep trackers that presented largely uninspiring insights. This year we will see metabolic breathalyzers that can detect specific illnesses and tiny skin sensors that help doctors understand how wounds heal in at-risk patients.

There’s also an interesting category developing related to neuroscience that has been demonstrating products that measure brain waves and provide treatments for conditions like ADHD and PTSD. A number of vendors are taking this to the next level and allowing consumers to control devices like robotic arms with their thoughts.

What does this mean for brands?

We've talked for a number of years about the concept of agency in emerging technology. How much personal data are you comfortable sharing with a machine, allowing it to make decisions on your behalf? This ranges from setting the temperature of your home, to driving your car and changing lanes at highway speeds. Consumers are increasingly aware of the data that is being collected by the products they buy and have an increasing expectation that it will be used to provide an enhanced experience.

And yes, there will still be plenty of companies at CES solving problems that don't yet exist. But look closer and CES is increasingly the single best place for marketers to see the intersection of emerging technology and shifts in consumer behavior and expectations.

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