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Smart insights: Technology

In today’s connected society, technology impacts all industries - driving opportunities and accelerating the speed of innovation.

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    • 01/19/17
    • Technology
    • User Experience (UX)
    • Global
    • English

    Four reasons I won’t be going to CES next year (and four reasons I probably will!)

    I have been to CES on and off since the mid 2000’s.  My friends and colleagues typically ask me ‘how was CES?,’ expecting some techno-prophesy. There are no pithy, tweet-worthy phrases to sum up ‘how it was’.  CES is a techno-orgy; it’s like no place else.  It both attracts and repels you simultaneously. In reflecting on what I saw, there are a number of disappointments that make me say I really don’t need to go back.  Let me enumerate:
    1. Let me say it again, redundancy.  After the first 20 ‘smart light bulbs’ or ‘drones’ or ‘fitness trackers’, the brain goes numb.  Much of CES is evolution than revolution and thus finding the signal in the noise of the total product array can prove challenging.
    2. Not to be too obvious, but it bears mentioning, the focus is, in my view, entirely too much on Electronics and not enough on the Consumer. As someone more interested in the consumer experience than the electronics, I think the technology can serve itself and not the user. There are so many items displayed that I believe are solutions in need of a problem. Just because we can, does not mean we should.
    3. Similar to the previous point, technology need not solve every problem. I virtually had a panic attack when I saw a ‘dental floss’ device that I feared was Bluetooth enabled.  Thankfully, it was ‘just’ digital (dispensing and reminding), and not connected.  Even then, I’m not sure I need a digital dental floss dispenser.  Perhaps on a more culturally disturbing level, I saw several manifestations of robots for children – to be their friend, to be their helper, to rock them to sleep, etc.  The need that drives this kind of technology is indicative of perhaps larger issues.  My colleague Meredith Paige coined the term ‘Impersonal Care’ to describe this.  Much of the technological solutions displayed are of marginal value – ‘is the juice worth the squeeze?’
    4. On an entirely practical level, with all the media coverage, do I really need to be there in person? In using my Fitbit, I walked (wandered, actually) about six miles each day and felt like I had only seen the bare minimum of the show.  There’s always more to see.  There is no bottom.  So I’m thinking that since most of the media curates the important stuff, what if I just sat back and dialed in to CES Live, Engadget, CNET, press outlets, bloggers, etc?  I’d capture the most far-out and breathtaking developments from the comfort of my own home.
    While I continue to be concerned about what technology is doing to us intellectually, socially, and culturally, there are several reasons I will most likely return year on year:
    1. There are real human problems being solved in new and interesting ways. Technology is being used to make us safer (e.g., in automobiles), augment our senses (smart hearing aids), reduce waste (energy usage), etc.  Unfortunately, you’ve got to go through layers and layers to get to the important/interesting stuff.
    2. Concentration of so much technology in one small space – you can explore drones, cars, robots, appliances, etc. in a small space. If one is looking for category trends or cross-category trends they can be found in ways just not possible through the media, online or in a store.
    3. It’s a great way to stimulate the brain coming off the holidays. The whole environment is invigorating (or, for some, chaotic!).  New ideas are everywhere.  There are amazing people to meet, and some great ideas to build around.
    4. And lastly, it’s just a lot of fun. You get to see, do and try things that you might not get a chance to do anywhere else.  (When else am I going to meet and talk to Nick Offerman?)
    Next time I’m going with a plan.  I find the really interesting things are from smaller vendors, especially those in the Eureka! Hall and those startups funded by large companies (Sony had some really interesting startups present). Second, if you’re there and you want to know what’s hot, look at the crowds.  For really cool stuff, it may look as if the piranhas are feeding on the carcass of some poor erstwhile beast.  There’s usually something there. Next year, let’s hope for more revolution, more relevance, and more fun! Robert Schumacher is an Executive Vice President of User Experience at GfK. Please email robert.schumacher@gfk.com with your comments.
    • 01/18/17
    • Technology
    • Global
    • English

    Get to know me: The emotional appeal of technology showcased at CES 2017

    Amazon’s Alexa was one of the stars, if not THE star of the 2017 CES show.  What is the broader theme that piques our interest?  Is it because Alexa acts as a central hub that “connected things” run on?  Yes, partly.  I believe another key reason that Alexa was the star of CES is the personification of machines and the emotional appeal that comes with it.  This is a broader and very important theme that emerged at this year’s CES.  Across many of the exhibit halls, we saw devices promising to be your friend.

    Emotional appeal and the personification of machines

    Robots with a human stance were built to greet and help you at an airport.   Toyota’s new concept car promoted the vision of artificial intelligence that could learn your needs, grow with you, and yes, love!!  This was billed as more than a machine.  It will be your partner.

    Making technology relatable

    There’s something about LG’s application of Alexa that gets to know all of your needs when you get home that makes this technology relatable.  It can warm up your house to a perfect temperature, turn on the lights, put on your favorite music, heat up the oven, and so on.  Can it bring your slippers when you sit down on the couch? I’m sure that can be arranged.   We’ve gone from “take me to your leader,” to “let me fold your laundry.”  Laundry folding robots using image analysis can take care of this tedious household chore for you now.   The AvatarMind iPal(™) Robots For Children, Eldercare, and Hospitality/Retail are billed as caretakers for your kids or your elderly parents.   Even the way marketers and reviewers talk about devices can put a “human face” on it.  Now there are drones that are concerned about how they dress – “too awesome to fly casual.”   Of course, to succeed, all of these technologies must address a need, but don’t underestimate the power of bringing the emotional benefits together with the rational benefits these new technologies deliver.  I look forward to seeing how this develops in years to come at CES and beyond! To share your thoughts, please email rob.barrish@gfk.com.

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    • 01/12/17
    • Financial Services
    • Technology
    • Global
    • English

    The future of FinTech goes far beyond mobile wallets

    I must admit that I find the term “mobile wallet” a little silly. After all, wallets have always been mobile, right? At the same time, I am not at all averse to the idea of making transactions with my phone. I’m getting the hang of accessing coupons in stores, and I felt pretty cool the first time I got into the movies by having the ticket-taker scan my phone. I’m sure I will continue to move in this direction, although I consider myself mainstream rather than an early adopter in the area of financial technology (aka FinTech).

    Digital payment

    Pundits have been talking about the pros and cons of mobile wallets for several years now. Overall, these payment systems still face obstacles and adoption has been slow. Only 22 percent of American mobile phone users regularly pay for products by scanning, tapping, or passing their devices in stores, according to recent research conducted by GfK Consumer Life 2016. At the same time, other types of digital payment are entering the playing field, such as the UPI system introduced in India last year, which moves funds directly from the consumer’s financial account to the merchant’s without a middleman. India will be an important market to watch in terms of the shakeout among digital payment systems following demonetization. Indeed, developing markets such as India and Nigeria will be testing grounds for FinTech in general, as indicated by the growing use of biometric identification ranging from fingerprints to facial recognition and palm veins.

    Seamless shopping

    The AmazonGo concept, currently in test mode in Seattle (where else?) goes beyond the financial transaction itself to tackle other deterrents of in-store shopping. The idea is this: You scan your phone as you enter the store and go along your merry way grabbing the items you want. Then you walk out of the store, and your Amazon account is automatically charged for your purchase. Some may like the idea of avoiding checkout lines or the need to swipe/insert/tap/scan their payment device of choice and wait for approval. But what tickles my fancy is the prospect of cutting a couple of steps out of the usual tedious process of putting things in a cart, taking them out of the cart, putting them back in the cart, putting them in the car and taking them out of the car. If this idea catches on, I will be on board with it much faster than I am with self-checkout, which I personally find no improvement over regular checkout aisles. In the case of AmazonGo, the potential is not merely a streamlined financial transaction, but a streamlined shopping experience.

    Conclusion

    Ultimately, consumers will adopt FinTech to the extent that it makes their lives easier. Being different for novelty’s sake will only draw in the earliest adopters; the rest of us need to be sold on more practical benefits.
    • 12/20/16
    • Retail
    • Technology
    • Consumer Goods
    • Connected Consumer
    • Global
    • English

    Remaster your trade marketing to create the perfect promotional tune

    Ensure your trade marketing delivers greater ROI. Our promotion and retail marketing expert Karsten Holdorf will show you how to use different sales drivers in our webinar recording.
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