CES 2019: Truth, tech and the art of experience

For the past 55 years, CES is where companies, inventors, investors and industry opinion formers have come to learn about, launch and monetize the innovations that have shaped our lives and futures.

More than just a ‘tech’ show, from the announcement of the VCR in 1970 to the showcasing of wearable tech in 2014, CES is the place where brands have defined our modern lives through innovation.

While technology and innovation are the lifeblood of growth for the companies that come here to make a splash, the cornerstone to understanding CES is understanding the world of customers – the deep penetration of technology and innovation into their daily lives, and into the goods, services and experiences they value.

You can find any technology here: intuitive computing, artificial intelligence, augmented intelligence, virtual reality, blockchain and audio interfaces. But the best use cases for all of this technology responds to core evolving customer truths.

Customer Truths

In my opinion, successful innovation focuses around some core ‘customer truths’ and ‘outside in’ perspectives (‘outside in’ because they are derived from understanding the world outside of a business – customer’s lives, expectations and beliefs). These two approaches should serve as guides and catalysts for innovation.

We, as customers, buy into products, services and experiences that make life better. In my opinion they meet our needs in the following ways:

  1. Easier – Is the product simple, transparent and intuitive? We all want brands to eliminate the unnecessary, be proactive in problem solving while also reducing friction.
  2. Faster – With the attention span of less than 8 seconds, we are impatient for performance, utility, responsiveness and transactions. Whether we want to search, find, transact or entertain – we appreciate curated choice that meets our needs – in real time. But remember, accuracy is everything.
  3. Personalized and emotive – 90% of our decision making is emotional, and based on how we ‘feel’, not necessarily what we think. Brands help us navigate this by creating empathy and understanding. The more we engage with customers, the more we ‘know’ them and understand how to deliver value through tone of voice, storytelling and appreciation.
  4. Beautiful – We appreciate the design aesthetics of both form and function in all aspects of our brand and service experiences. We crave multi-sensory attention to detail that also provides benefits associated with differentiation, entertainment, and can complement our lifestyles. 90% of what we process is through what we ‘see’, we don’t want boring or ugly technology. First impressions matter, and consumers fall in love with brands that pay attention to details.
  5. Meaning – Customers appreciate purpose. The realization of ethics, trust and security that accompanies a belief in the power of individuals, groups and communities to hold institutions accountable. Consumers want to ‘do the right thing’ and support values of honesty, craft, transparency, and community.

When the above 5 customer ‘truths’ are wrapped in the emotional storytelling narrative of a brand, and delivered by relevant and functional utility, consumers buy.

Inside Out

Traditional innovation often started in the R&D labs of big companies, or through industry leadership. It was based on what capabilities the innovators already controlled. And it was often based on the prevailing technological developments of the sector (or sectors).

In each sector or category there are trends – or patterns – which consumers respond to and which drive innovation. Some of these trends are applicable to all categories, and some are specific to the category or sector. Today, the convergence of multiple technologies is enabling new platforms and interconnected thinking that is creating both disruption and speed of crossover applications.

The key pillars supporting the tech trends are: AI, 5G, Sensors, Nano-Tech and Blockchain.

Let’s take a look to see how these advancements are being applied from the inside out for innovations that yield the new trends we’re seeing at CES.

The 5 tech trends are:

  1. Voice and audio – as a primary means of data transfer, control and brand interfaces. No longer are we screen or keyboard restricted. Audio allows for virtual assistants such as Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Bixby to emerge as powerful means by which we live, shop, work and connect with devices, our data and our everyday demands.

    Amazon Alexa moves into automotive sector at CES 2019

  2. Immersive experiences – the use of haptic and sensor tech is allowing more multi-sensory experiences to improve entertainment, gaming, travel and wellness, not to mention education. Wearables are now allowing for connected experiences to be part of everyday life and augmenting our ability to interact with our real and virtual everyday.

    Tesla haptic suit ces 2019
    Tesla Haptic Suit revealed at CES 2019

  3. Resilient technology – is the use of technology to respond in real-time to issues of security; disaster/emergency relief or recovery; citizen and community needs and consumer engagement to help prepare and resolve crisis.

    Source Roof Panels at CES 2019

  4. Robotic automation – as automation makes routine or difficult tasks easier, it simultaneously allows robots to do the jobs humans no longer want or need to do. Whether vacuuming a rug, drone delivery or autonomous vehicles – robots are set to be man’s best friend.

    Rollable TVs and butler robots
    Rollable TVs and butler robots at CES 2019

  5. Ecosystems of supply chain and demand value – technology is allowing for brands to partner together, creating collaborative platforms for the development and of new technologies. Open source thinking has fueled an explosion of apps, services and compatible utility which is defining how we interact in a host of different ways. This also has allowed a subscription economy to emerge that caters for different levels of customization, asset utility and connected services.

    P&G Ventures at CES 2019

These are complimented by these broader consumer observations that result at the confluence of the Consumer Truths and Tech Trends:

  1. Your device is your portal – choose ‘systems’ carefully because your decision will have implications of compatibility and connectivity. The big battle is here between the likes of Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Alibaba, Samsung, LG and others.
  2. The world is going paperless – digital living/archiving/security is no longer analog. Increasingly, real time and sensor led surveillance/integrated management (screen, cloud, datasets) and proactive response is expected for more simple and efficient living.
  3. Dashboard diagnostics, predictive forecasting, comparative performance – efficiency and effectiveness are how we live and make decisions which we expect by quantifying and comparing our lifestyles and activities.
  4. Sustainable living –We buy more goods with the intent of creating a less negative impact on the world. In particular, clean energy is required to provide functional utility for home, work, and play.
  5. On demand and subscription business models are allowing for both supply and demand innovation across industries, giving customers value. The concept of ownership is changing and creating new supply and demand value propositions – ultimately transforming industries.
  6. The redefining of families, individuals and social constructs mean the old models of segmentation are increasingly outdated. People want to be treated as individuals. Financial models that recognize individuality, and reward it, are much needed in a climate where the definition of ‘self’ has changed.
  7. Redefined virtual/physical interface at home/work/school/retail is blurring the lines and context of decision making, B2B/B2C/D2C, C2C.
  8. Changing legislation around how technology is impacting lives, and rules and regulations need to be developed which will change how we view issues of privacy, security and identity AND being a citizen.
  9. Healthcare and financial services are becoming de-regulated, less institutional and accountable; more holistic and integrated with lifetime value, and care.

So where do we end? For me, there are two things that stand out. Firstly, customer and user experience are critical to innovating both from an outside in development perspective and an inside out application and development perspective. The brands that involve their customers more are on track to developing compelling propositions to meet their emerging needs. And finally, brands must also use technology to support iconic moves that disrupt, re-define value and create differentiation. Technology enables the impossible to become possible There’s a few boxes that need to be ticked. Consumers value personalization. They value more choice and less complexity. Make it simple, easy and speedy. Make it beautiful and desired. Use my data with care and trust, but be proactive, helpful and purposeful to my values of trust and authenticity.

Once a brand has ticked all these boxes, their perceived value increases in the eyes of their customers. And then that much needed ‘growth’ question gets answered.

Chris Nurko

Authored by Christopher Nurko, Chief Innovation Officer, Interbrand Group.

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