As we wade slowly but surely deeper into 2016, we can reflect on what the first week in January is known for: holiday gift exchanges and returns, starting (or in some cases, ending) New Year’s resolutions, and if you’re in the tech industry … CES. An army of techies converge each year in Las Vegas to learn all about the gadgetry and gizmos we can’t yet buy — this year was no different.
The TVs were sleeker.
The wearables were smarter.
The cars drove themselves.
But what’s left to say that hasn’t already been said? Quite a bit, it turns out. While there’s always cool new stuff to gawk at, there’s always skepticism about the usability of many new devices. Do I need a refrigerator that can take photos or an expensive toy that I’ll likely break in 24 hours (we’re looking at you, drones)?
Gone were the “here-and-now” innovations that consumers are able to buy today. For a communications team this can often present a unique challenge of taking a “soft launch” product to a “hard launch” on the most closely watched show floor in the consumer tech space. This is where industry expertise and the ability to transform an announcement into a story becomes invaluable. Communicators will need to be able to maintain customer interest in the midst of a hypercompetitive landscape filled with comparable products that may be available sooner than theirs.
In the past at CES, companies have unveiled the latest tech alongside their retail and distribution strategies, meaning someone can walk out of the Las Vegas Convention Center and into the nearest Best Buy to purchase their cool new gadgets. While most of the gizmos on display were great, one wonders how much steam consumers will lose because their new favorite device isn’t available for 3, 6 or 12 months. Communicators need to approach this strategically, and not forget long-term implications of focusing on short-term, first-to-announce wins.
For better or for worse, companies will continue to unleash new and cool tech at CES even if only to beat their competitors to the punch and extend consumer excitement.
So what’s the next step for CES, consumers and communicators? That remains to be seen, but in the meantime we still have our infrared helmets to keep our hair follicles warm.