For nearly 60 years, the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has featured the latest in tech innovation with an eye toward the future. While the eye-catching gadgets and future-state prototypes will always generate buzz, the many IPG companies that attended the 2024 edition of the Las Vegas exhibition mused about how brands can best help consumers thrive in an evolving world of product innovation.
If new and emerging products form the “what” pillar that defines the show, the show’s “how” pillar—a focus on how brands can use AI and consumer data to drive commerce efforts—is what attendees need to take home.
IPG agency leaders hosted discussions about the current state of commerce and what brands should be doing to keep pace with tech innovation and dynamic consumer expectations. IPG’s CES speakers emphasized the importance of innovation and creativity, which are crucial to such strategies behind product development, consumer perception building, retail ecosystems and consumer engagement. As consumers continue to move the goal posts, “data-driven agility,” Ronald Ng, Global Chief Creative Officer of MRM, says, will be critical as brands aim to “create content that inspires commerce,” and enhance consumer experiences.
In a panel discussing shopper expectations, leaders from Momentum, MRM and UM emphasized that every customer touchpoint is now a commerce channel. Brands must meet consumers where they want to shop and find creative ways to make the shopping journey an experience and not a chore.
Since the pandemic, it would be natural to assume that this means the experience must move from the physical world into the digital. While there is indeed an emphasis on the virtual experience, brands must bring the digital world to their physical showrooms. Brands have been using AI tools to improve such experiences as online chat capabilities and virtual try-ons for some time now. Therefore, they are obliged to seek new ways to balance consumers’ needs for convenience while enhancing the experience.
Here, only the brave will thrive. Chief Creative Officers Nancy Crimi-Lamanna, FCB Canada, and Ian Mackenzie, Performance Art, said brands must lean into innovation, disruption and risk-taking. Don’t be afraid to fail as long as you learn. Mackenzie said best practices are no longer an innovative roadmap to brand growth or consumer intrigue. Experimentation will foster stronger, deeper connections with consumers.
Brands should be intentional about incorporating creativity into their marketing systems. A recent McKinsey study showed that companies with strong innovation cultures are more likely to succeed in digital transformations. The marketplace is constantly shifting—technology, consumer desires, commerce channels, etc.—and calls for brands to constantly question the status quo. Creative use of data will be important as brands expand and maximize their marketing strategies. MAGNA, the leading global media investment and intelligence company within IPG Mediabrands, recognizes that traditional media formats and mature markets will struggle this year, but the global marketplace will likely continue to grow, especially as the economy begins to stabilize. MAGNA also reiterates that “innovation keeps the market moving.” Crimi-Lamanna and Mackenzie encourage marketers to keep a few things in mind as they experiment and consider what it takes to break new barriers in commerce:
- Being the first to market with a new concept or approach can help with brand perception.
- Find a healthy balance between disruption and authenticity.
- An 80/20 approach to marketing, where brands invest 80% toward reliable channels and 20% toward high-risk, high-reward ideas, is a practical way for brands to explore innovation while still protecting the integrity of the brand as is.
- The marketplace is heavily saturated due to social media and social commerce; individuality is key, now more than ever.
- Keeping human needs at the forefront of marketing efforts will help foster genuine consumer relationships.
- When getting creative, brands should also plan for the different potential outcomes of their fresh marketing approaches. Planning can help mitigate loss/risk.
CES speakers also emphasized that consumers are what matter most. As brands continue to honor their own and consumers’ values, mounting costs amid economic uncertainty are daunting. Ed Kim, Global Chief Commerce Officer, MRM, says strategic alliances will be crucial and brands should look for “partners willing to share the risk and reward.”
Growing cross-category partnerships offer an instructive case study on how brands can reach beyond traditional audiences. CES highlighted, for example, one high-end luxury jewelry designer that showcased a pair of smart binoculars that deploy AI and machine learning, which help users to identify bird and bug species. Collaboration like this will help brands break past their traditional audiences and marketing strategies.
While it will be fun to continue to see the cool, new digital products coming out of Las Vegas, brands must remember to embrace innovation, experimentation, and consumer-centric approaches to thrive in the evolving marketplace.