3 Takeaways for Marketers From CES 2020

Foldable phones, 'human tech' and 5G

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week in Las Vegas represented a new wave of technology, including flying taxis, 24-foot TVs and Charmin’s toilet paper-carrying robot. These consumer-facing innovations and oddities overshadowed another key facet of CES, though: It’s one of the b-to-b sector’s biggest events.

It’s reportedly the year’s biggest show for advertising deals, and digitally-minded agencies and in-house brand practitioners are there to understand what technological innovations are afoot, what consumer behaviors are changing, what big device might be next and what it all means for their jobs. Indeed, CES runs the gamut of influence in the brand marketing ecosystem, and its scope underscores melding b-to-b and b-to-c worlds.

Around 175,000 people walked the event halls—which covered 2.9 million square feet—and the buzz was palpable. So, let’s look at three takeaways that marketers need to know about from CES 2020.

Foldable phones can bolster customer service

It’s an unwise roll of the dice not to constantly learn about how new devices, networks and voice features will impact CX and relationship marketing in the months to come.

For the second straight year, foldable phones were a red-hot topic at CES. What made 2020 different is that these bendable devices with dual screens are suddenly on the path toward being affordable for a large swath of consumers.

The beta TCL 10 5G garnered considerable attention because the phone costs less than $500, which is similar to what folks pay for a used iPhone and far cheaper than 5G phones out there, especially foldable competitors like the Samsung Galaxy Fold ($2,000) and Motorola Razr ($1,500). Dual-screen phones offer the promise that these phones will soon be budget-friendly for everyday people, which could lower competitors’ pricing while further hastening the adoption of the folding phone.

What marketers need to know

The way mobile consumers regularly use click-to-call, chat, text and other channels to communicate with brands will only be enhanced with foldable phones. What’s more, with their high-quality screens, foldable phones will encourage more video calls with customer service teams, especially for high-stakes categories like home furnishings (custom renovation projects), residential and business insurance (claims) and medical care (doctor follow ups). After all, video calling is now an established trend. During the last few years, there’s been a 175% increase, with 25% of millennials using the communications channel daily.

We’ve recently seen brands like Turbo Tax, Ikea and Avaya took notice, offering video-enabled customer service calls. With the split-screen experience offered by foldable phones, these calls can—as just one example—entail a video chat with a brand rep on one side and a product page on the other. Foldable phones can elevate brand and customer conversations and improve customer experience.

Google innovates by being more human

Last year in a post-CES development, it was revealed that Google Home users could make phone calls by speaking into the smart speaker. At CES 2020, the digital giant showed its commitment to building on that voice AI momentum with a bevy of Google Home-minded announcements, including the ability to say commands like, “Hey Google, run the coffee maker at 7 a.m.” It also debuted voice-activated sticky notes on the home screen of a Google Nest Hub. And Google Home now offers a voice command where users can strike the last part of their conversation from the database by saying, “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you.”

What marketers need to know

The ability to immediately delete a conversation from Google is the key takeaway here because it shows that automation needs to always be carefully applied in the customer experience. That’s true even when you are the biggest digital platform on the planet. Sometimes consumers want greater control over whether they are in a digital or human context. The more self-service tools brands create, the more they need to remember to think like their customers.

Device marketers and retailers should keep their eye on 5G

Last year at CES, 5G still seemed far off from becoming a reality. At the show in 2020, signs pointed to 5G actually becoming “a thing” soon, with AT&T and Verizon declaring their 5G networks to be accessible nationwide by at least December. And more than 15 or so smartphones should be 5G compatible this year, tripling 2019’s number. Also, last month, Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon predicted that more than 200 million 5G smartphones will ship this year.

What marketers need to know

Many of them need to track how well these 5G smartphones sell because, by early fall, the devices could gain traction. This would definitely impact the holiday advertising creative for electronics brands but also retailers that want to move such products. And brand CMOs should task their teams with understanding what the data implications will be once 5G is more the norm in the U.S. They don’t want to be behind their competitors in nine or 18 months from now.

In sum, while CES is a consumer-tech wonderland, it’s not hard to figure out why b-to-b companies are also there because the show provides an impressive look into the future of marketing. In 2020, the Las Vegas event showed that it’s an unwise roll of the dice not to constantly learn about how new devices, networks and voice features will impact CX and relationship marketing in the months to come.