Advertisers know that with the ubiquity of the Internet, that the balance of power has shifted from marketer to consumer, as the latter now engage with brands how, where, and when they want. But if there was one overriding trend to trump all others at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show which ended last week in Las Vegas, it was the idea that through evolving technologies, that choice and control will empower consumers to whole new levels in the coming years. In the simplest terms, tailoring experiences – whether they be in terms of entertainment, security, household chores, or transportation -- will increasingly be subject to the tastes and whims of the individual, and in many cases, the smartphone will play a central role. Here are five examples of such technology due to take broader hold in the marketplace and the opportunities and threats they may represent to marketers.
Virtual Reality: A year ago, virtual reality experiences were often blurry and a less-than-satisfying experience. But this year, advancements in technology, including 360 degree cameras, have made the experience richer and more enjoyable. Many of the platforms will of course employ headsets that the consumer’s smartphone will snap into, providing yet another platform that the handheld devices can leverage. Opportunities for advertisers may include everything from traditional sponsored content, to signage at events like live sports, or even product placement in gaming environments. The bottom line is that soon consumers will have yet another way to entertain themselves on demand based upon individual content preferences. This will continue to erode audience size in favor of niches, and pose a threat to the interruptive advertising model.
New & Improved Television: Speaking of the traditional interruptive advertising model, TVs still take center stage at CES. This year’s innovations include paper-thin models that hang on a wall like a poster and feature ever greater resolution. In addition to ultra 4k models, 8k models were featured that continue to ramp up the quality of you-are-there images and sound. With integrated smart technology that allows you to surf the net using voice commands and find whatever you want, the line between the TV and so-called second screens becomes increasingly blurred, as each of these devices, regardless of screen size, essentially becomes a portal to the full breadth of entertainment options available. Obviously, the nimbleness of this technology will present both opportunities and threats to advertisers who will be challenged with making their marketing content as relevant as possible.
Artificial Intelligence: With the advent of Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home, cylinder-shaped speakers controlled by a cloud-based assistant, not to mention Apple’s Siri, artificial intelligence (AI) is now being adopted on a broad basis. In addition to playing music and answering common questions, Amazon’s Alexa enables the ordering of products to migrate from the tip of your fingers to the tip of your tongue. But this is just the tip of the iceberg and this kind of capability will extend into every avenue of our lives. In addition, robots that do everything from make coffee to act as a virtual nanny were on display at CES, suggesting that AI will be taking on new dimensions very, very soon.
Smart Home: One of the most profound ways such AI technology can be employed is by integrating voice commands and keystrokes to control one’s home environment – whether present or not. That includes everything from home security locks and cameras, air conditioning, and smart appliances. Again, the smartphone with corresponding apps plays a central role here whether inside or outside of the four walls one calls home.
Cars of the Future: In addition to an emphasis on more electric vehicles, carmakers introduced a plethora of innovations such as modular designs that allow for different interior configurations. Automobile tech that was once thought of as novel such as touchscreens and self-parking capability, are being amplified and augmented to include self-driving, and hand gesture commands in addition to those that are voice-activated. Ford, in partnership with Amazon, will allow drivers to integrate Alexa voice commands to play music, audio books, and get directions (and shop for your products, naturally). But beyond that will be voice-activated technology that gives one the ability to start and stop their engine, lock or unlock doors, check fuel levels and tire pressure, and other metrics. In addition, integrated dashboard technologies will allow motorists to control their smart home functions such as controlling their home lighting, locks, and garage door.
As the above brave new world is described, it is obvious that marketers will be challenged to provide mass customization effortlessly and breathlessly. Consumers will continue to buy and acquire based upon relevancy and utility, but as this year’s CES was a testament to, it is the ability to provide instant gratification that is increasingly becoming the currency that consumers most care about.
Peter Koeppel is Founder and President of Koeppel Direct, an influential direct response media firm focused on direct response television (DRTV), online, print and radio media buying, marketing and campaign management. He can be reached at 972-732-6110 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/DRTVBUYER.