CES 2022: our favourite bits

What grabbed the attention of Edge by Ascential analysts at this year’s tech expo? 

Another CES has come and gone. Back in Las Vegas this year but a quieter affair than pre-2020 times, with Ascential joining other major exhibitors in being cautious amid rising COVID-19 cases worldwide and pulling out of in-person activity. So, the big question is - did CES 2022 manage to pack as much of a punch as it has done in previous years? 

How did this year’s show rate on the Richter scale of outrageous innovation, quirky products and technology developments that will redefine sectors and industries in 2022 and beyond?

Our Edge by Ascential analysts couldn’t travel to the show, but they kept a close ear to the ground - particularly on the lookout for the innovations that will drive long-term disruption in the world of retail. 

In a list that is by no means exhaustive or in any order, check out some of their highlights from CES 2022 below.

Target reveals the scale and impact of its digital transformation   

Will Duff, Director of Client Insight, EMEA

“‘Open up our app and we know you,” said Target’s Chief Marketing and Digital Officer Cara Sylvester in a virtual panel hosted by MediaLink. Responding to a question from MediaLink Chairman and CEO Michael Hassan on the most surprising change for the business over the past 18 months, Cara pointed to the “growth on top of growth on top of growth” of digital adoption and ecommerce and called out the integral role that Target’s new loyalty scheme, Target Circle, is serving in not only rewarding shoppers, but getting so much closer to their customers and their needs - what Cara describes as “human connection at scale”. Through the rich data collected by Target Circle, which currently has about 100 million members, Target said it can offer greater personalization in experiences via relevant products, offers, rewards and content that resonates with the individual, or guest, as Target calls its customers; an “always on” approach to the customer relationship versus “marketing moments”.
Personalization in retail isn’t a new phenomenon, but hearing from Target’s CMDO how the pre-internet chain retailer is using machine learning and AI integrated in their mobile app to serve the needs of different shopper profiles gave me real pause to consider the pace of digital innovation since the pandemic crisis emerged and where the industry is headed this year.’ 

The launch of world-first invisible headphones
(personalized sound without putting anything in your ear)

Todd Butler, Insight Analyst

“I usually look out for new headphone and earbud releases at CES and there were some interesting new products from the likes of Jabra, Belkin and Bose. Edge by Ascential’s retail data and analytics arm Edge Retail Insight forecasts the consumer electronics, office, leisure and entertainment category will add more than US $1 trillion in chain retail sales by 2026 and so It is unsurprising that we see manufacturers in this space battling it out to have greater share of this market. 

Having said that, it was a product from a company I’d never heard of that really grabbed my attention at this year’s CES. Noveto is a startup Israeli company that seems to have delivered the world’s first smart audio device that creates a headphone-like experience - only without the headphones. 

The Noveto N1 looks like a small soundbar and sits on your desk but promises to beam sound around your ears through embedded AI technology. This could be the ideal solution when working in an open plan office and still being able to hear what’s going on around you, or working from home in a flatshare arrangement when the people you live with don’t share the same taste in music. It will be interesting to see what the more established industry names make of this new audio device and what kind of effect it will have on the market.”

A new protocol that could finally usher in the “smart home” era 

Nick Everitt, Director of Advisory, EMEA

“The “Smart Home” concept is not new; the ability for home appliances and electrical devices to connect with one another, such as the fridge that orders products before you run out, or the doorbell that tells you who’s at the door when you’re not at home. Much of this is already here, but what isn’t yet enabled is the ability for every device to talk to every other one due to manufacturer and tech compatibility issues. 

For this reason, I was struck by several announcements at CES related to Matter, a new communication standard that will allow smart home devices to connect and communicate, supporting the growing consumer demand for solutions that are frictionless and convenient. At CES 2022, a good number of brands demonstrated how their devices are using Matter, and with key players like Apple, Amazon and Google on board, this could finally be the tipping point for a smart home reality that has been heralded for years.” 

Goodyear reinvents the wheel - and augmented reality takes a leap 

Jonathan Jagard, Director of Client Insight, Americas  

“Sustainability (and the badges they earn on your Amazon product detail page) picked up momentum last year and the launch of Goodyear’s 70%-sustainable-ingredients tire at CES 2022 may prove to be a bellwether for things to come in manufacturing and retail. Industry leaders are actively seeking out ways to move ahead of their competitors with initiatives centered on renewable product development, packaging and delivery. To see that proactivity and forward-thinking in something as timeless and ubiquitous as the wheel is a refreshing and relevant swerve (pun!) from the more showy, next-gen car marketing stunts… and at a much more affordable price.

The other stand out theme for me was some of the developments in gaming and the immersive online experience (which all got lumped into the buzzy and overused “metaverse”). While the metaverse is a long way from becoming in any way mainstream, CES 2022 did offer a glimpse into a slightly more blurred online-offline reality. Launches in this space included a new glove that allows you to touch things in VR by bHaptics and a device that can act as a control centre for all your electronic accessories - the Keymander Nexus. 

What does this mean for ecommerce and the retail landscape?  More opportunities to connect with these plugged-in folks, with in-game product placement and advertising becoming a real possibility in the near future.”

The AnkerWork B600 Video Bar and a bath that runs itself   

Chris Elliott, Head of Market Insights 

“Throughout the pandemic many remote workers have struggled to create a comfortable workspace with good lighting, audio and video for meetings throughout the day. As of September last year, 45% of the US workforce were still working partly or full-time from home, according to a Gallup survey and this situation seems to be trending permanent. The AnkerWork B600 Video Bar seeks to offer the growing army of permanent and semi-permanent work-from-home-ys a solution to looking and sounding more professional. The product sits stylishly on top of your monitor reducing wire clutter. It provides an all-in-one camera, speakers, microphone and lighting bar to make those daily meetings a bit easier. At a not horrific $184.99 (early bird price) it also might appeal to people wanting to dip into the world of content creation.

After that long day at work, a relaxing bath could be the ticket to alleviate the day’s stresses. Enter the Kohler PerfectFill. Using the Kohler Konnect app, or by voice command, it will draw a bath to the perfect temperature and depth. With 10 different experiences you can pre-set, Kohler is pushing boundaries with personalization in the bathroom. And if people can’t even face the thought of switching on a tap for their own bath, imagine the escalating level of expectation in the path to purchase.” 

 Samsung puts foot into the virtual economy 

Michael Rogosa, Senior Director, Global Consulting 

Each year, CES serves as the testing ground for the latest and greatest in the world of gadgets. Where you or I eventually bought those gadgets, increasingly online and increasingly through digital retail platforms, like Amazon, has been the biggest focus of retail development over the past two decades.      

But there is a much more seismic shift in commerce taking place that finds most retailers and brands still wildly unprepared; because ecommerce, for all its disruption and change, is still just another channel for which to sell physical goods. The more significant evolution is the creation of an entirely new economy: the purchase of digital goods. 

You know it now by many buzzwords, VR, NFT’s, the Metaverse and other, and it was on full display at CES 2022:

  • Samsung Neo QLEDs with Smart Hub - allows you to trade and display NFTs
  • Sony PlayStation VR2 Headset - next gen virtual reality gaming
  • Shiftall Virtual-Reality Hot/Cold Simulator - adds sensory experience to the virtual world

But while most companies still give it just casual consideration, billions of dollars are already being spent on things that will never be shipped, unwrapped, or thrown out. The biggest historical drivers of retail cost are disappearing, and while glamorous, high price items like art and memorabilia make headlines, the majority of digital goods are being purchased dollars at a time by millions of young consumers. Any brand that doesn’t already have a strategy for how to sell digital versions of its physical products is years behind and risks missing out in this new economy.

The virtual economy is in its infancy but ecommerce is very much mainstream and growing at pace. Get in touch to discover how digital commerce is disrupting your sector and how you can track, manage and optimize your online performance across the websites you sell on.

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