CES is flat-out overwhelming. It’s a beat-the-clock search for the amazing, the transformational or the just plain cool, while not getting entranced by what the Japanese call “chindogu”—the stuff that’s almost, but not quite, useless. Take the Hoverbike, for example. It’s a flying motorcycle that every self-respecting Luke Skywalker fan will want immediately—until you learn it flies only 12 feet off the ground for 20 minutes and costs $150,000.
On the flip side, the more viable, cutting-edge consumer tech provides directional, if not profound, insights for forward-thinking B2B marketers. This should not be news to you, as I’ve been pitching CES as a must-see destination for all marketers for several years. But in this newsletter, I’ll connect some dots you might otherwise miss, or at least confirm some of your more prescient hunches.
Like the 2018 CES, Alexa was ubiquitous at this year’s show, appearing in motorcycle helmets, smoke alarms and piano keyboards. Google Assistant is definitely closing the gap by dramatically expanding its reach and integrating with ceiling fans, multicookers and even so-called intelligent toilets, so you, too, can say, “Hey Google, flush my toilet.” As consumers get used to voice activation, B2B products and services should be asking, “What role could this technology play in improving our sales training, product training and overall customer experience?”
Partnerships to Enhance Brand Perceptions
It’s worth noting that Alexa and Google Assistant bring a state-of-the-art veneer to otherwise humdrum product categories like light switches, shower nozzles and thermostats. In some cases, this creates immediate differentiation, while in others, it produces a dramatic change in brand perception. For B2B brands, it begs the question: are their tech partners out there who could help you cut through?
Play to Your Hardcore Niche
Midway back in the South hall, a Chinese company called Nubia showcased Red Magic Mars, an Android gaming “phone” that will soon be available in the US. The device features a liquid cooling system that extends play sessions, touch-sensitive trigger buttons and instant access to gaming menus, which should delight hardcore mobile gamers. And given the 2.3 billion mobile gamers worldwide, Nubia should have no problem finding a sizeable niche to serve. Is there a niche in your B2B plan that you can serve with equal insider ferocity?
Mobilize Your Mobility
Nubia’s efforts also speak to the mobile-first nature of the world we live in. Designing websites as mobile-first experiences is table stakes, even for B2B brands. Chances are, you’re reading this newsletter on your phone, and likewise, your customers are consuming whatever content you’re offering on some type of mobile device. Extend this thinking to customer service, and you’ll want to have SMS-enabled everything. One telecommunications company I talked to now lets customers receive SMS messages sent to landlines, so there’s no limit to where this can go.
Don’t Block Out Blockchain
Also tucked away in the South hall was a French company called Ledger, which featured a tiny security device for digital assets like cryptocurrency. Called the Nano X, this “wireless hardware wallet” promises to be the portable equivalent of Fort Knox, but it costs only $119 and uses a 24-word password recovery phrase. For B2B marketers, the Nano X should inspire several lines of exploration, including new approaches to portable security, design simplicity for even the most complex products and of course, the rapid proliferation of blockchain itself.
Go Big, or Go Google Home
During CES, Google featured a Disney-like ride in a tent just outside the main hall. The experience itself was perfectly pleasant (think “It’s a Small World” meets snarky tech) and offered a surprising payoff: all visitors could get a free Google Home (retail price $149) mailed to them. Now, that’s a big investment, but it guaranteed booth traffic and thousands of new users, many of whom would undoubtedly share the experience with their extended circles. It’s a brilliant example of “going big, or going home” at a trade show—one to keep top of mind when you budget your next event.
As always, your thoughts and feedback are much appreciated.