I survived my first Consumer Electronics Show, #CES2016. Truth be told it’s been on my personal and professional bucket list and since I’ve dubbed 2016 as the year to be “all in”, I jumped at the chance. So, I packed my bags and headed to Vegas. If you’ve never been, it is all the craziness you imagine with booth models and million dollar displays. And while it’s a “can’t miss” for buyers and press, marketers can be a bit scared off. This marketer dove in head first and brought back some interesting takeaways.
Virtual Reality - Did she just say that? Virtual reality like gaming in the 90's? Yes, I just said it and baby, its back. And, it’s possible uses are growing leaps and bounds. Virtual reality (VR) is now a real tech used by marketers and if you’re not using it, you should consider it. The shift to include VR in mainstream marketing was particularly striking for me with a background rooted in customer experience. Why? Because it was another reminder that shopping brick and mortar isn’t just most people’s second option for investigating and buying a product, it’s really fading all together as a shopping approach. When a company can’t interact real-time with the consumer in a physical store the entire paradigm on which a brand performs customer experience changes. Your ability as a company to set expectations and meet or exceed them is done very differently.
Virtual reality is the technology enabling companies to bring their physical store and products to the buyer, wherever they are. VR places consumers inside the virtual store; interacting with products in a 360* view as if they were holding them right in their hands. Guests can tour a hotel room before they book it; checking out the bar, gym and pool as if they were actually navigating the property. They can explore the interior and exterior of a car before they decide to actually road test it. It’s an interesting attempt for marketers to bridge the gap between the physical and online shopping experiences; to leave a memorable experience at the consumer’s time and place. I can’t help but wonder what other ways virtual reality will be used in business. Will employee training and even events be very different in just a few short years? Only time and technology can tell.
Who’s Holding the Wallet - If you aren’t sure who you’re buyer is, there’s a really great chance it’s a woman. In fact, women were the target buyer in nearly EVERY product line I explored. While this has long been true for consumer goods such as toothbrushes, blenders and washing machines; it was certainly the case in everything we looked at from fitness trackers to cars to robots to home security systems. And the features being marketed to women were every bit technical as they were form and function. Women have grown to amass buyer roles in both home and business and companies are tuning in. If you haven’t already, be prepared to fine tune your marketing approach to that which works with women. If you’re not sure where to start, contact me. And, if your primary buyer is a woman, please rethink the “booth babe” approach. Many women don’t actually need to receive their marketing material from a stick thin model in a strapless dress and mega high heels. I have an affinity for nice cars more than the average woman but last time I checked, I wasn’t driving my kids to school and sports in a strapless dress and 4” heels. Maybe next year they’ll merge this approach with robots and use fembots for booth babes.
Lessons in Tradeshow Exhibition – actually watching this tradeshow in action caused me to finally write an entire other blog about making the best of your tradeshow spend. It’s been on my mind for a while and it took the mother of all tradeshows to put it into action. Look for it in late January. What I will say now is this – I toured miles of exhibit space and so many vendors missed the “wow”. They did nothing to capture my attention in the first 5-10 seconds. While #CES2016 attracts more people than maybe any other show in the world, exhibitors still need to do something to grab the attention of passersby’s. After the first 30 booths, it’s all just noise. Unless your brand has a following like UnderArmour or Samsung, you’ve got to work for it. You need to do something to draw attention to your brand. Some other observations - giveaways were few and far between. I’ve never been a huge fan so this wasn’t a huge surprise to me. It could be they couldn’t cover the masses of people expected but very few companies were using this technique to engage attendees. Say goodbye post-a-notes and flashlight pens. And finally, many companies were marketing a concept, an idea, a vision and not an actual product. This is a longer conversation for a future blog but marketing vaporware was taken to an entire new level. Look for more thoughts on all things tradeshows in my next blog.