CES 2018: Five Steps for Retailers

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When it comes to summing up CES 2018, Brian Cooley says it best: “The Future of Interaction is Anticipation. The Future of Interface is Ambience. And all of it is made interesting by AI”. Without a doubt, the three A’s – Anticipation, Ambience, and Artificial Intelligence were the centerpiece of CES this year.

Here are five steps for retailers to consider in the year ahead. Each one has a direct impact on how retailers invest in data, meet immediate consumer needs, and determine the right technology investments within their individual innovation roadmaps.

  1. Get ahead of Voice: Voice will be included in every app, interface and consumer exchange in the years to come. With Amazon and Google exploding into every household through voice-automated devices, voice is a new consumer search tool that cannot be ignored, and retailers will need to figure out how make themselves relevant in this space.
  2. Use AI to know what a consumer wants before they do: Thanks to the amazing steps that have been made in Artificial Intelligence, we can anticipate consumer needs now more than ever. The use of first, second and third-party data built into AI will be the footprint for the full 360-degree view of the consumer. There is nothing holding us back from offering up our products in relevant, contextual (and not creepy) ways that beat the consumer to the punch. I can hear a future Alexa speaking to me, “Julie, would you like me to order your regular coffee to be ready for pick up in advance of your 9 AM meeting this morning?”
  3. Be present in the home: The Connected Home is not going away—it’s expanding. As marketers, it is our job to think about how we can be present in the home and offer extra convenience and time to our consumers. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the role of advertising will continue to be a debate, because once we enter someone’s home, do we have permission to clutter that space with more messages? How can we offer our products to consumers in a relevant and solution-oriented way?
  4. Use AR to let consumers touch and “try on”: Brick and mortar is not disappearing, but we may see footprints shrink in the future as e-commerce and virtual shopping take on larger roles in consumers’ lives. As part of this shift, we need to find ways to bring the store experience into our e-commerce interfaces so that our customers can still “try on” and “try out” our products from the comfort of their own Connected Homes. Augmented Reality will be a valuable tool to consider in this space. It is THE technology for allowing customers to be able to try on jewelry accessories, dresses—even hair color. It is also an opportunity to one-up the store experience by letting a customer see what their new living room could look like with a new couch or new paint color on the walls. The possibilities here are endless.
  5. Context is king: It is no longer about how much data you have, but how and when you use it. The power of context, reaching the consumer at the right moment in time, leveraging the right intelligence with the right product and message will be the winning combination in 2018 and moving forward. While this is not a new theme, it is now a much more crucial one. And, if retailers cannot find ways to be relevant, they will not only be ignored, they’ll become a nuisance.

To stay ahead of the curve and focus on your priorities, try this wise mantra shared by Fred Gerantabee (Global VP, Digital Innovation, COTY) during a fireside chat at CES: Build for the objective, not the technology. If you keep your objective in mind and use technology as the tool to get you there, you’ll deliver value above and beyond the products you sell.

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