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StrategyJan 29, 2018

4 Trends from CES 2018 and What They Mean for Your Retail Business

Grace Lee, and Jacob Baynham

In January, people from all over the world gathered in Las Vegas to attend CES, the largest consumer electronics show in the country. CES 2018 did not fail to deliver a glimpse into the future, showcasing everything from robotic dogs to tiny UV sensors to modular TVs. The future is a world of increasing connectedness and autonomy.

In today’s competitive retail marketplace, companies are fighting to remain relevant with current and prospective consumers. While much of the technology showcased at CES will not have an immediate impact on consumers, businesses must begin preparing today for the technology of tomorrow. Here are four major trends from CES 2018 that we believe have major implications for retailers.

1. Voice Assistants: The World Through Your Vocal Cords

The new generation of virtual assistants are rapidly gaining popularity through the convenience of voice control and the potential of new abilities. Voice assistants have primarily been used to perform tasks such as checking the weather, ordering pizza, or reading text messages, but companies are now beginning to experiment with more thorough integrations and advanced abilities.

Innovations Highlighted at CES:

  • Toyota announced they will be adding Amazon Alexa into select vehicles by the end of 2018. This will allow drivers to not only ask for directions or bump up their tunes, but even add items to their Amazon shopping cart while they are on the road.

  • Lenovo introduced a “smart display” controlled by Google Assistant. These displays will be able to offer up useful information or entertainment in your home. You could ask Google to pull up directions to work and check for traffic jams or display YouTube cooking videos in the kitchen.

Lenovo Smart Display

Source: Lenovo

Why It’s Important:

Consumers acceptance of voice assistants forces a shift in thinking for retail companies. The integration of voice assistants into standard consumer products greatly expands the range and complexity of potential touchpoints between consumers and products. Retailers must re-factor their customer experience strategy to incorporate these new touchpoints, and developers will be pressed to meet rising end-user expectations for easy and seamless voice control interfaces.

2. Internet of Things: A Smart New World

The Internet of Things (IoT) is all about connectedness; it’s why the word “smart” appears in front of seemingly every new appliance. At its core, IoT enables devices to connect to the internet and to interact with other “smart” devices. On a small scale, IoT includes thermostats and refrigerators. Zooming out, IoT can transform an entire city.

Innovations Highlighted at CES:

  • Samsung declared that all of its devices will be IoT-enabled by 2020. They will connect to Samsung’s existing SmartThings app, which will facilitate communication between each of the connected devices, from the phone and TV to the fridge and washing machine.

  • Microsoft and Kohler debuted “Kohler Konnect,” their effort to “smartify” your house, from your mirror to your toilet, all powered by a Microsoft Azure IoT platform and controllable using voice assistants. What will this look like practically? Think hands-free flushing, perfectly filled baths at your preferred water temperature, water measured to the exact ounce, and more.

Numi Intelligent Toilet with KOHLER Konnect

Source: us.kohler.com

Why It’s Important:

Widespread IoT adoption carries significant implications for both consumer-facing and operational sides of retail companies. The technology creates new customer touchpoints and gives companies access to a wealth of data that can be used to personalize interactions and better understand customer behavior. IoT also has the potential to transform business operations by providing real-time data to inform decision making. For example, RFID tags can be placed on shipping containers to track product location and provide data that can be analyzed to yield higher efficiency.

3. Augmented Reality (AR): The World Through AR-Colored Glasses

Augmented reality provides a view of the physical world that is overlaid, or “augmented,” with computer generated information. Users can see and interact with a world enriched with helpful information and simulated images (not to mention Pokemon). For example, augmented reality could enable a homeowner to preview furniture in their home or allow someone to see how they look in certain clothing.

Innovations Highlighted at CES:

  • Perfect Corp. introduced a new AR app that allows beauty consumers to preview makeup on your face before making a purchase. Ever wondered what you would look like as a blond or a brunette? With the help of AI, the app can accommodate your curiosity.

  • Vuzix showcased the “Blade.” These smart glasses contain a screen in one lens that can pull up a browser, play games, or display useful information over the wearer’s view of the world, and to top it all off, they are equipped with Amazon Alexa.

CES patron trying out the Alexa equipped Vuzix Blade smart glasses

Source: Vuzix

Why It’s Important:

AR can be valuable for daily operations and store planning, but it has greater potential to elevate customer interactions. Using AR, retailers can engage consumers via their mobile devices, letting them preview products before walking into a store. Once in-store, AR can offer customers enhanced information as they browse products or can delight customers with virtual coupons hidden throughout the store.

4. Mobility: The World on Wheels

Mobility in this context refers to a diverse range of autonomous vehicles and the technologies, processes, and guidelines that underpin them. The introduction of self-driving cars promises to upend how businesses and individuals use, design, and interact with vehicles. Innovative new mobility products offer a variety of potential applications for creative companies.

Innovations Highlighted at CES:

  • Toyota announced its aspiration to be a “mobility company,” and stunned the crowd with its autonomous “rolling rectangle,” named the e-Palette. The e-Palette is agnostic to its purpose, leaving ample room for companies’ imaginations to run wild. The e-Palette could be used as a delivery van, office space, pop-up shop, or restaurant on wheels. It is slated to begin testing in 2020.

  • The auto giant also publicized the e-Palette Alliance, which includes Uber, Pizza Hut, Amazon, Mazda, and Didi

Potential e-Palette Services

Source: Toyota Global Newsroom

Why It’s Important:

The undefined nature of the e-Palette allows great flexibility for companies of all sizes. Small retail businesses can leverage e-Palette space as a pop-up shop in place of a fixed brick-and-mortar location. Larger companies can incorporate the e-Palette into critical points along the supply chain, such as inbound logistics or customer delivery. One thing is certain, the arrival of the e-Palette will continue to fortify consumer expectations for instant gratification.

Preparing for the Future So You’re Not Left Behind

These four CES trends will undeniably create waves in the retail world. Here are a few ways retailers can begin to take action and prepare for the future presented at CES 2018:

  1. Consider potential product enhancements or integrations. Do your products lend themselves to integrations with voice assistants or AR? If so, a good initial step is to develop APIs to facilitate interactions between existing functionality and these technologies.

  2. Starting thinking about IoT for your business. Have you defined use cases for IoT in your business? Before implementing IoT, identify the use cases that will offer the most value to your business and your customer. Once you define use cases, ensure you have the infrastructure to support IoT implementation.

  3. Define a technology strategy and account for disruptions. How could you use autonomous vehicles like the e-Palette to optimize your value proposition? Emerging technologies have the potential to reinvent core aspects of retail. Take the time to identify ways that new technology can be useful to your business and align with fundamental customer needs.

Credera’s teams are constantly helping our clients answer these questions. Although 2017 has been marked by many as the retail apocalypse, 2018 bears the promise of a retail renaissance. Investment in technology of the future could be the deciding factor between companies that pave the way and those that fall behind. If you would like to discuss any of these topics further, please reach out to us at findoutmore@credera.com.