Catalyst

Takeaways for marketers from CES 2020

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on January 09, 2020 Published on January 09, 2020

The big P-word — privacy — and other dominating consumer themes from the global stage of innovation

It may be the largest and most exciting technology show that kick-starts the year with tantalising displays of gadgets and devices to come. But for marketers, CES is more than the technology it showcases — the global stage of innovation is often an eye-opener on consumer trends. Going by the discussions and the exhibits at CES 2020, here is what could shape the year’s marketing themes.

Privacy at the forefront

The biggest P word at the CES was not product but privacy. The event saw several privacy-themed discussions with a roundtable of chief privacy officers that saw participation from Apple, Facebook and Procter & Gamble. The data collection habits of companies came into question as did the issue of what corporations did with that data. Growing consumer concern over the types of data — location data, especially — was voiced during these debates. Tech companies showcased some solutions that would allow users to guard their privacy better. Google, for instance, unveiled a few voice commands – “Hey, Google, that wasn’t for you” and Hey, Google, delete everything you heard this week — that promised to give users more control. Facebook too said it was updating its privacy settings to help users control who could see their shares.

Social fatigue

All that social media hopping is taking a toll on people and the chatter at CES was about “social fatigue” creeping in. Too much information overload, fake news, toxicity of content are all leading to dwindling or stagnating growth rates among the largest social networks. Take Facebook, which in its 2019 October quarter result, reported a monthly active user base of 2.45 billion, but said it was an increase of 8 per cent from the same quarter last year. Significantly, a year before that Facebook reported a growth rate of 16 per cent in its user base.

In many geographies, time spent on social media is also beginning to come down as digital detox is becoming a thing. For marketers who are over-reliant on social media or influencer marketing, this gives pause for thought.

Rise of the conscious consumer

For long, we have been hearing about the rise of the conscious consumer who thinks about the planet. Impossible Foods’ plant-based vegetarian meat alternatives, especially its faux pork, was perhaps the showcase that created the maximum buzz at CES 2020. As more and more sustainability-oriented consumers eschew meat because of concerns that livestock is responsible for a large proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions, vegetarianism has seen a rise.

At CES 2020, Impossible gave a taste to audiences of its expanding range of fake meat offerings. After its faux beef burger last year, in this edition it served up Impossible Pork and Impossible Sausage. And going by the great reviews, pig-free pork could soon be a thing.

Wellness focus

The convergence of technology and health has been a recurring theme at the CES and the innovations this year focus on newer issues in healthcare that companies are grappling to tackle. So, apart from a host of continuous glucose monitoring solutions, there were technological answers to issues such as loneliness, asthma management and sleep deprivation. From air quality trackers providing real time data, to asthma patients, to wearables that promised to help you fall asleep faster, to carebots — robots that work as nursing companions — wellbeing technologies tread new paths.

The 5G experience

If the 4G era made video streaming platforms go mainstream and ubiquitous, 5G is going to revolutionise a whole lot of internet technologies. For some years now, 5G hype has all been about the phone and speed. But this year, 5G at CES went far beyond, touching PCs, useful IoT devices, more gamified experiences, and the next gen of immersive reality.

Era of inclusivity

A constant rant of feminists has been how technological innovations have, by and large, been designed with the male consumer in mind. The CES chose The Female Quotient as its diversity partner and set up the Equality Lounge where there were meaningful conversations on gender, power, inclusive advertising and closing the tech gender gap.

Notably, reports also mentioned how CES organisers this year listened to criticism about booth babes and imposed dress codes. The fact that sex tech companies got space at CES this year — albeit within the health and wellness space — and featured start-ups with female founders who said their products were about empowerment showed how far the event has travelled.

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Published on January 09, 2020
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