Feb 12, 2019
For anyone that has been to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) before, you know how overwhelming the conference can be and there really is no amount of preparation that can fully prepare you for the onslaught of your senses. CES 2019 lived up to its hype and showcased some of the most fascinating innovation in technology that I have ever seen. In his CES 2019 Trends to Watch address, Steve Koenig, Vice President at the Consumer Technology Association, summed up our near future best with this line: “The last 30 years were about connecting people; the next 30 years will be about connecting things.” I won’t forget that line – I mean, think about the past 30 years and the number of ways we have become connected whether it be the Internet, email, instant messaging, social media, cell phones, FaceTime – whatever. As humans we are more connected now than we ever have been before in our life and we know that technology will keep coming up with other ways to connect us even more. Some technology will have to give way for the newer technology but that it is the way it has always been. Think about the VCR, DVD, and CD. All have given way to streaming services now that Internet access is so readily accessible. I remember someone a couple of weeks ago asking me to fax them a form I had filled out and saying “wow, people still fax? I don’t even have a fax machine. Can I email it to you?” Technology is constantly changing and evolving and the future surely is not going to wait for anyone to catch up.
Now that we are connected in so many ways, it is only logical the things around us begin to become connected. What Steve said in his opening address was so evident as I walked around the conference floor this year. Sure, you had the dazzling 8k TVs and promises of new and improved AR/VR experiences, but what really stood out was how just about every, and I mean every manufacturer out there, were changing their existing products to now be “smart” or connected. This is commonly referred to as the IoT or Internet of Things which are, according to WhatIs.com, “a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.” To a tech-geek like myself, this is a little slice of heaven because I know the more personal devices I have connected, the more the experience is tailored to my likes and dislikes. For example, I saw a “smart” belt being demonstrated and, probably like you when you just read that, said to myself “who needs a connected belt?”. However, upon further investigation, this belt does quite a bit. Besides the obvious waist measurement, it will track your activity, monitor eating habits, alert a predetermined contact in case of a fall, and through its app, allow you to set health and wellness goals. OK, suddenly I could see where a smart belt could be useful. I have a feeling that is going to be my experience anytime a non-traditional device is suddenly made “smart”. How about a “smart” bath tub? Not necessary you say, right? OK, what if I said you can tell it to fill to a specific capacity, like 75%, at a specific temperature, say 80 degrees, and to text you when it is ready? That suddenly becomes useful. Is it necessary? No, but how many of the tech devices that we currently have and use are “necessary”? They just make things easier or more personalized. That is the future – our connected devices that, through improved Artificial Intelligence, will learn your likes and dislikes and tailor their experience to a custom one just for you. I know some people don’t like the idea of AI and connected devices, but make no mistake, that is the way of the future and if history has taught us anything, the future waits for no man.
So what does that mean for our current and future clients? It is pretty obvious - the future is about customization and if your product or service is somehow not personal or uniquely fine-tuned for your customer, you are going to appear antiquated and even irrelevant. As market researchers it will be upon us to discover what features your product or service is going to need to be successful. With the endless possible options, I think it would be fool-hearted for any business to go in thinking and believing they know what their customer is going to want. What the customer wants tomorrow is very different from what they want today and playing by the “we have always done it that way rule” is a sure way for you to be placed out of the market share you have enjoyed for so long. How can any manufacturer pretend to think they know what their customer wants when the customer themselves aren’t even sure they know what they want. Remember what I said about the smart belt earlier? I wouldn’t think I would want or need a smart belt until I discovered what it could do and how it could benefit my lifestyle. Market research can help you with the unknown by presenting, testing, analyzing your proposed changes and options BEFORE you go to mass production so that you can make the best possible informed decision about your business. Don’t think you know your customer as well as you do because the world of goods and services is rapidly changing. Are you changing in ways to not only keep your current customers but attract new ones? Sure, change can be scary, but that is where market researchers like Moore Research can help alleviate some of the dark, scary unknown and lighten your path to success in this evolving connected world.
Frank Mezler, Vice President