Consumer desire lines will shape the intersection of technology and experiences

Empowered by technology, people today are carving new paths through brand categories and shaping their own brand experiences, often in unexpected ways. And this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the technology itself takes center stage. Be it 5G, the latest smart screens, driverless cars, or any number of other products showcased throughout the week, there’s no question these technologies are pushing new bounds of innovation and opening up new channels for marketers.

What we often lose sight of, however, is how people will use these emerging technologies to shape their world. As we walk the floor of CES and ponder trend reports, I would challenge marketers to think more about how and where technology and human experiences intersect and the consumer motivations — or desire lines — underpinning people’s actions. Because ultimately,it’s not about gadgets. It’s about people.

For brands to grow, thrive, and drive the right business outcomes, predictive planning, designing towards people’s desire lines, and creating unforgettable technology-enabled experiences will be critical. In examining CES through the lens of the human experience, what can we take away this year? In my view, there are a few key desire lines that are shaping the intersection of technology and human experience.

Immersive experience – AR en mass:While augmented reality (AR) certainly isn’t new, we’ve seen the technology continue to evolve, with even more innovative use cases unveiled this week within car dashboard displays, movie entertainment, and education, just to name a few. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t lose sight that AR is ultimately a layer over the real world. For people, it is additive to a real-world experience, making it more immersive, informed, and connected. With innovations such as the iOS Dev Toolkit making AR more accessible to developers, AR experiences are easier to make and use than ever. From a commerce perspective, they are already natural parts of retail apps from Tencent to Amazon to Walmart, and we can expect to see AR layers matter more in all parts of the commerce experience, effectively linking the physical and e-commerce experience. We’re also seeing AR rise as an innovative and scalable way to demo products, as we’ve seen with brands such as Ikea, L’Oréal, and Zara.

Rising influence of spontaneous thought:For years, search has been the most immediate signal of our intentions — and the bridge between what’s on our minds and our actual buying behavior. With search being as easy as uttering a phrase, voice search has shifted people’s behavior to search more spontaneously, and more for their immediate context of ‘right now’ and ‘right here.’ In 2018, we saw Amazon expanding its ecosystem to capture those spontaneous thoughts people may have while driving through AutoVoice. And this week, we’ve seen Google Assistant dominate voice AI at CES as it unveiled a number of upgrades, including voice embedded into Google Maps and voice-enabled travel support.

Using tech to get more IRL credit:An important motivation that transcends various technology categories is to get social credit for all the amazing experiences you are having in the real world. People value their real-world experiences and technology enables us to amplify and share them all with the world — and get social credit. Set a record on your 5K race? Share your cardio performance via one of Withing’s latest fitness watches released this week. Go on an epic trek to Everest Basecamp? Chronicle the experience on Instagram Stories. Sometimes what we do is only to have something to share, as illustrated by the rise of social content optimized experiences such as the Museum of Ice Cream and all the other iterations that have followed. Ultimately, the intersection of technology and real world is often about new ways to capture and share what we do.

The headlines from CES may be about the shiny new tech innovations and gadgets, but the real value for marketers will be in understanding how people use technology to shape their world, disrupt the status quo, and carve out new and unexpected paths through brand categories.

John Sheehy is the global brand president of Starcom Worldwide

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