CES: Consumer Trends Serve As Blueprint For Innovation

The CES Trade Show dubbed “The Global Stage for Innovation” takes place every January in Las Vegas and sets the tone for what consumers can expect in the new year.

For more than 50 years this has been the high-profile event of choice for many companies to launch their latest high tech, innovative products.

In 2020 we saw many futuristic products on display such as massive, curved monitors, concept cars, folding tablets and even a Segway S Pod.

This year, due to COVID-19, CES hosted its first ever all-digital event; not only was there a shift in the format of the conference, but there was also a shift in the types of products put on display.

Board members would be well served to look for emerging trends and examine how the innovative products and services at this year’s CES event reflect shifting consumer sentiments.

CES 2021 had a lot of home products that have clearly been designed with a pandemic-influenced user in mind. Products include a touchless video doorbell system, a refrigerator fitted with a UV light water sanitization system, touchless toilets as well as air purifiers and home gym equipment. There is a macro trend here on health and wellness that can be mindfully applied to product and services offerings across many corporations. Both the positioning and messaging around wellness as well as identifying follow on products /services that your company can develop in its future roadmap.

Consumers are now spending more time than ever at home and are looking for ways to make their time at home as comfortable, frictionless (and touchless) as possible.

As Scott Galloway notes, 2021 will be the year where we see an even greater dispersion of products and services. There will be more friction taken out of the customer journey than ever before as companies continue to leapfrog over traditional distribution outlets such as retail stores, movie theaters, gyms, etc.

Consumers are now getting everything faster and more directly than ever before with contactless delivery and curbside pick up being the new normal. AmazonAMZN Prime 2 Day delivery was once extraordinarily fast – now with curbside pick up ready in 2 hours or less, consumers are not as willing to wait a full 48 hours for their products.

The second clear macro trend is the enormous value in taking steps out of a process. Removing extra steps drives huge loyalty. This has been reinforced by Amazon. We showroom on other sites but transact on Amazon because there are fewer steps to checkout. Ask your company’s to explicitly see what steps can be removed from using their products or services. This is a very high impact goal.

As Mary Meeker pointed out in her Coronavirus Trends Report, “Covid-19 has upended our modern lives in ways we’re just starting to understand”. Digital transformation has been accelerated at unprecedented rates due to the fact that many are working from home and companies have had to quickly meet that demand for a seamless at home continuation of work.

Companies should take note of this accelerating trend and examine how it applies to their own business. Perhaps there is a way to make your product or service more geared towards home use or perhaps you may want to consider how your product can be more “touchless” as that is now a top priority for consumers. Perhaps it is time to look at the marketing budget and have a larger percent allocated to social media marketing as consumers are spending more time than ever on social media sites.

The pandemic has expedited a shift in consumer sentiment; there is now a greater demand for more open airspaces as well as the desire for brands to offer more digital services geared towards achieving mental and physical wellness.

Products that help consumers achieve a more seamless multi use experience in their homes will thrive; consumers are now working from home, teaching children from home and using their homes for exercise and wellness purposes as well.

Products such as the Samsung Smart Trainer shared at CES that allows users to connect a webcam and app on your TV screen to track workouts and offer guided home training, are an example of a company meeting the evolving needs of consumers. The rapid rise of consumers purchasing at home exercise equipment is another example of the dispersion taking place in 2021 – consumers are now realizing they don’t need to have a pricy gym membership to exercise. Those in the exercise software and product space would be wise to re-evaluate their offerings and see how they can be modified to better serve the at-home user.

The need for community and connectivity is a key trend; note how Peloton has embedded this community aspect as a foundational element of their subscription model. Boards can ask management teams how this concept of community can be applied to their products / services.

Meeker notes in her report that the companies that will fare the best in this pandemic are the ones that use cloud technologies, have products that can easily be found online and are always needed, and have a good social media presence.

Meeker argues that these trends have been emerging for some time now and have just been accelerated by the crises.

Perhaps these unprecedented times and rapidly emerging shifts in how consumers operate can be a catalyst for a company refresh. Bringing in new outside leadership can help a company reinvent quickly. For example, at Bose the iconic audio company, they have just brought in their first outside CEO, Lila Snyder, who is leveraging their unique audio domain expertise to accelerate the market impact of their differentiated, break through products like Sleep Buds and Audio Frames.

Companies and boards would be well served to evaluate the products shared at CES 2021 to better gauge how consumer sentiments can influence your company’s product innovation efforts as well as your company’s marketing strategy. There is a lot to learn here as consumer trends are rapidly influencing all businesses: the company’s who adopt these consumer trends will be leaders in 2021!

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