CES: A Post-Mortem: Part Two

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, January 20, 2020
For those attending CES 2020 last week, there was a whiff of disappointment in the air that there weren’t enough breakthrough “things,” and the existing technologies were in the process of evolving rather than disrupting.

As a volunteer floor guide for CES at Tech West and Eureka Park, I heard this firsthand from clients, but for me the story this year was about the foundational technologies, 5G, Wifi 6, biometrics, AI and voice assistance, and how smart combinations of existing technologies are pushing the envelope.

What truly sets the limits of innovation isn't device-based -- it's our collective willingness to exchange data, permit machines to decide for us, invest in the time to set these technologies up and upgrade to better power (electric and computing) to enable this lifestyle.

Whether you're an advocate of generational marketing or not, what's inarguable is that the one thing that sets generations apart is their digital nativity.

As part of our post-CES read on consumer interest in innovations, we partnered with consumer insights platform Perksy to get an in-the-moment read of which innovations appeal most to Generation Z and Millennials.

Perksy, with their gamified mobile app that rewards users for answering questions, gave us a way to read not only the innovations themselves, but the applications of the technologies that drive them. Some elements of this survey we fielded in 2019, so we have established benchmarks as to how these attitudes are evolving.

One of the questions we start with is the generations' attitudes toward algorithms, and this year's emphasis on the streaming wars has only made this conversation more apt.

The experience of content -- whether it's video, music or podcasts -- has evolved significantly over the last twelve months. Streaming -- via algorithms -- is now truly a mass experience. Has that experience improved?

Looking at Generation Z, they are very comfortable with algorithms making choices for them, citing “Just makes life easier” and “Helps me know what's trending” at 41% of respondents. Millennials rate streaming algorithms for keeping them current, with “Helps me know what's trending” and “Helps me know find music and video I wouldn't normally” at 38%.

The latter is interesting compared to last year's survey, where Millennials showed some disenchantment, with 27% of the sample citing algorithms such as “Take the fun out of discovering things." For content providers, this is excellent news, as both generations feel that between the multiple streaming services and the improved algorithmic experiences, there are lots of choice and discovery.

Another foundational technology is voice assistance. In our tours at CES, it's ubiquitous -- practically every smart home and health application has to have voice assistance. Like many other studies, our fieldwork indicated that Alexa, Google and Siri are now embedded in the way we connect to our environment.

We are seeing daily usage rise across the board year-over-year: 39% of Generation Z uses voice assistants at least daily, up from 25.4% year-over-year, and Millennials are even bigger fans, with 43% using voice assistance at least once a day.

Marketers and ad agencies take note: voice is now an expected element in the brand experience.

Whether it's machine learning or true artificial intelligence, AI is also a common element in many of the innovations we saw at CES.

Artificial intelligence -- and the degree to which we give machines agency over our decision making -- is one of the controversies of our times, so we felt it was only fitting we ask about real-life applications of AI. Both generations are more comfortable with applications of AI that touch on less serious topics, like recommending restaurants or entertainment suggestions.

Predictably, other applications that suggest artificial agency are less comfortable, although interestingly, respondents found it less concerning for AI to diagnose medical conditions than to create a social media personality.

When we peel apart the generations, Millennial Males are more comfortable with AI applications across the board, but in some cases Generation Z females are just as comfortable with AI.

Innovation invariably comes down to data, and the comfort with which people view sharing their data with brands. Both generations are savvy about their data usage and understand the value exchange.

For Millennials, the top two types of data they are comfortable sharing are the location of their phones and everything they have bought in the past year -- very transactional.

Gen Z are most comfortable sharing their social media contacts and interestingly, have a far higher comfort level with sharing biometric data like facial recognition and fingerprints.

Jacob Chang, director of insights at Generation Z consultancy JUV Consulting, notes: “Whereas the Millennial generation really value personalization, we (Generation Z) value a seamless user experience that is simple and efficient. Facial recognition technologies allow us to login to apps, access our phones, and do a myriad of things much more quickly. It's ease and speed.”

Neither group are comfortable sharing either their dating history or their DNA, which is not encouraging for innovations like DNA Nudge, who showed their DNA-driven diet and grocery platform at CES this year.

Broadly speaking, much of this is good news for marketers and agencies that are looking to innovation to create better brand experiences.

Both Generation Z and Millennials expect voice assistance, algorithms, and to a point, artificial intelligence as key elements in technology, no matter the application. As long as marketers pay attention to the areas of substantial discomfort -- whether that's AI taking too much agency, or requiring data that's too personal, innovations should be welcomed.

And finally, for those technologies that require deeper biometric personalization to deliver on a great experience, Generation Z will be your earliest and easiest adopters.

CES 2020 was a year of evolution and integration, and the foundational technologies that drive better experiences are becoming more widely accepted across generations. Personally speaking, I'm ready to accept the Sleep Number biometrically monitored temperature controlled bed into my life right now, and I know I'm not the only one!

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