CES: connectivity, not gadgets, informs the future of marketing

This year, as marketers, agencies, and tech companies flock to Las Vegas for CES 2019, many are wondering what the biggest game changer will be. Will it be self-driving cars? Smart cities powered and supercharged by 5G? Voice-activated commerce and new consumer experiences via VR, AR, and everything in between?

Last year at CES we entered the dawn of “Third Connected Era,”to borrow a phrase from my colleague Rishad Tobaccowala (Publicis Groupe’s chief growth officer). And this year, while tech, tools, and gadgets will, of course, be a large part of the CES buzz, the biggest and most important piece of this year’s show will be the technologies that bring existing platforms together,helping us navigate this Third Connected Era.

Utility for a more productive future

Voice, computer vision, and machine-learned recommendation engines are getting smarter and becoming embedded into our everyday appliances and surfaces. People today are looking for utility and solutions that make their routines easier and serve their unmet needs and expectations.

We’ve made progress: We’re already in an era where you can skip the lines at the market and have your groceries picked up and delivered directly to your door, and where you can buy a car online, avoiding the malaise of the car dealership and salespeople. We’re moving away from creating technology that consumers don’t want or need (think Google Glass), but what’s next? Can we leverage technology to create the next great health innovation or to contribute to the greater good of society — helping solve problems for people in rural areas and less developed countries?

While we’ll indeed be watching to see how technologies like VR/AR/mixed reality evolve, the greater focus will be on how technology surrounds us and works together to make our everyday lives easier, more enjoyable and more productive.

Convergence and connectivity

Here’s a jarring statistic: According to Frontier, there are more things connected to the internet than there were people on Earth as early as 2008. It’s predicted that there will be more than 50 billion things connected to the internet by 2020. Compare that to the world’s population of 7.7 billion people.

Consumers are literally flooded with constant connectivity and a sea of options when it comes to the connected product and service offerings marketers are providing. Instead of more products, what we need to see is how new tech links with existing products — voice assistants, new e-commerce tools, and smart home devices — to build better consumer experiences. Winning brands will evolve their products to offer compatibility with various platforms, letting the user ultimately decide how to curate their everyday experience across the board.

Relevancy in the Third Connected Era

Transformation is happening faster now than it ever has before, and at a much higher volume. We’re seeing deeper data enabling machine learning that powers AI; distributed computing and connections leading to smarter Internet of Things experiences; and new ways of telling stories through emerging tech like voice, VR, AR, and automation. And our job is to help brands and marketers stay relevant in this Third Connected Era of rapid change, evolution, opportunity, and technology.

However, it’s the underpinnings of these new technologies and products and the broader implications that influence the way we help our clients transform their businesses. Our role as marketers is to determine how data can enable personalization, value exchange, and meaningful experiences for consumers — and at CES, we need to see how the fusion of those three facets, with tech playing a key role, can help brands tell powerful stories across platforms and devices, all the while enabling unparalleled consumer experience.

Imagine a world where a packaged foods provider could connect to your voice assistant for real-time recipes and a virtual sous chef, who could then “speak” to your smart refrigerator to see what ingredients you have. Couple that with the ability to get a virtual DJ to play your favorite Spotify playlist while you’re cooking and set the mood lighting for the eventual dinner party via your smart home devices — all powered by interconnectivity between devices and platforms that use machine learning to get to know you better every day. That’s the future.

Understanding how tech, ideas, new behaviors, trends, products and services, and interactions, all work together and power daily living will be crucial to building true consumer connections in the future.

Tim Jones is CEO of Publicis Media Americas

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