Dispatch from CES: Giant TVs, Obsequious Gadgets, and Artificial People

I’m fresh from a couple of days wandering the halls of the Consumer Electronics Show, affectionately known as CES — the annual conference that descends upon Las Vegas in January and proffers the latest in technological solutions to improve every aspect of our daily lives. This is my first time attending the world’s biggest technology conference, where 4,500 companies this year are vying for the attention of 180,000 attendees, according to my Uber driver.

As I made my way through the crowds at the massive Las Vegas Convention Center and other conference venues, I tried to get a sense of the common themes defining consumer innovation as we begin a new decade. 

Retailers Find New Marketing Opportunities with Wearables

A recent announcement that Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance are working on an open-source network standard is likely to lead to even more investment in connected devices among retailers. The open-source network that the group is working to develop is supposed to make life easier for IoT hardware vendors and software developers, but it also serves a secondary purpose of assuring retailers investing in connected technology that their budgets aren’t being wasted. With a common IoT communication and control standard, smart devices will be even more reliable and seamless to use in the coming years.

“Open source will bring businesses more agility and enable them to process data quickly while simultaneously producing valuable insights,” says Heikki Nousiainen, chief technology officer at Aiven, a firm that develops managed cloud service hosting for software infrastructure services.

LBMA Presents Location Weekly: One Nation, Tracked; Uber Works; Smart Home Synergy

Location Weekly Episode #445 is ready to help you keep yourselves up to date over the holidays. Starting with a discussion on the New York Times article “One Nation, Tracked,” we also discuss Uber Works launching in Miami, the team-up of Amazon, Apple, and Google to make smart homes interoperable, and Goodwill reaching 1.4M mobile devices with location data via Teemo.

2020: The Year Publishers and Brands Truly Challenge the Walled Gardens

We’ve already started to see publishers and brands start to adopt technology that is beyond the reach of the walled gardens. For brands and publishers reexamining their relationships with the walled gardens, the new year is a great time to determine which channels are adding value and are also future-proof. Only those who own first-party data will be in a position to thrive and fight back against industry changes.

Mobile Trends Set to Hit the US in 2020

2019 was a hectic year for many in the social and technology spaces, and we expect that theme to carry into 2020: the “new normal” will become just “normal.” We are optimistic about this new year but also foresee some systemic changes as to how mobile technology will continue transforming our lives while allowing us more control.

Follow the Money: Will Wearables Inflect in 2020?

Apple is far ahead with Watch and Airpods, which may have sold 3 million units since Black Friday. Google meanwhile acquired Fitbit to buttress its wearables play. Amazon and Microsoft launched wearables lines in the past quarter, and smaller players like Bose and Snap are planting seeds for a wearables future.

There’s an underlying driver for this activity that goes back to the perennial analyst exercise of “following the money.” This is all about extrapolating product roadmaps based on tech giants’ motivations. This is often to future-proof their core businesses or diversify revenue in the face of maturing products.

How to Thrive on Amazon around the Holidays: Tips and Tricks to Prep this Season

Figuring out how best to fit Amazon into your holiday marketing strategies can be tricky, especially when it comes to balancing the investment between physical locations and the online experience. Some retailers are doing this well and thriving without Amazon (think Glossier, shoe companies Rothy’s and Koio, as well as any number of DTC brands), but many more rely heavily on the site to augment both digital and real-world strategies. So if you’re looking to leverage Amazon to your advantage this holiday season, here are a few tips and best practices for retail success.

Retailers Hoping for Record Cyber Monday to Follow Friday Windfall

US retailers set all-time records on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, wracking up $11.6 billion in online sales. Adobe predicts that Cyber Monday will also set a fresh record of $9.4 billion, pushing the Thanksgiving weekend total to nearly $30 billion.

The increasing importance of online sales has forced traditional retailers to compete with e-commerce natives like Amazon not only by offering their own robust set of deals but also by investing in delivery infrastructure and reducing friction for consumers ordering online. 

December Focus: The Connected Consumer

When looking at several interlocking tech trends — wearables, IoT, smart devices, autonomous vehicles — one common thread emerges: our escalating connectivity as humans. All these technologies are increasingly melded with our senses as the computing “abstraction layer” diminishes.

In other words, device interfaces continue to get more intuitive and automatic. That can be seen in the progression of personal computing from UI milestones like the mouse to mobile-centric touch controls. Now, we have biometric tracking on the Apple Watch and ambient alerts to AirPods.

The “connected consumer” will be Street Fight’s editorial focus for the month of December.

What’s Ahead for Last-Mile Delivery in 2020

Delivery is emerging as a competitive advantage for local retailers. In fact, in September 2019, Onfleet surveyed 1,000 US consumers to gather their impressions on online versus local store shopping and delivery expectations. Seventy-six percent said they would be more inclined to order from local stores rather than from Amazon if they could get same-day delivery.

With that in mind, here are some delivery trends we’re expecting for 2020.

Is Uber Local Advertising’s Duopoly Killer?

While Amazon is challenging the duopoly, when zeroing in on local advertising and commerce — Street Fight’s hallmark — as opposed to driving eCommerce, another challenger may loom: Uber. In fact, we have a longstanding prediction that it will blitz local advertising by strategically building from the Trojan Horse that is “in-ride mode.”

This theory is based on the fact that Uber has your captive attention during rides, given in-app utilities like mapping and ETA. Furthermore, it knows where you’re going (think destination-based promotions). In the aggregate, it has lots of behavioral data for a richer mosaic of audience-targeting gold.

Google’s Fitbit Purchase: Peek into Next-Level Local Dominance and Healthcare Hacking

Prescriptions by Google, then? The company indeed lacks Amazon’s delivery capabilities but has a stranglehold on search and therefore on consumers’ connections to local businesses. It is not hard to imagine a world in which Google appears to keep its privacy promise by refusing to sell ads directly based on Fitbit user data but still capitalizes on the data by using it to connect Fitbit users with local health care service providers, pharmacists, and even gyms. That would just constitute one more way Google is edging out the digital middlemen that once closed the loop from Google search to a local service provider.

November Focus: The Holiday Blitz is Here

This year’s holiday shopping season is not new (by definition), but there will be salient differences and revelations this season. The past year has seen lots of retail innovation as the industry looks to counteract the cautionary tales of late-adopting counterparts in the “retailpocolypse” graveyard.

It’s those innovations and integrations that will be exposed when put to the stress test of the holiday shopping blitz. After reading and writing about them in the pages of Street Fight all year, we’ll now get a look at how a lot of these implementations perform (good or bad) with greater shopping scale.

The Art of Making a Retail Holiday

From Black Friday and Cyber Monday to back-to-school sales, retail holidays may be arbitrary, but they have become a core component of successful sales and marketing strategies. As a result of their success, these holidays are becoming expected, fixtures of the retail industry embedded in its collective psyche. Companies must innovate to keep them fresh. Brands need to monitor competitors to see what works and what doesn’t work and tweak their strategies appropriately. 

Data on successful “holiday” campaigns reveal how to make the most of holidays, whether long-established or freshly innovated.

mobile data

3 Challenges Keeping Chief Growth Officers Up at Night

The role of the Chief Growth Officer is challenging enough without digital ad budgets getting upended. But that’s exactly what’s happening. Thanks to radical changes made by the three largest U.S. online ad platforms, the digital advertising ecosystem is undergoing a transformation, and it is forcing Chief Growth Officers to reconsider their marketing strategies. Here are three challenges keeping Chief Growth Officers up at night—and a straightforward solution for getting more sleep.

Amazon is Making Meaningful Gains in Search Ad Market

It will be key to see if the pace of Amazon’s overall and search ad revenue slows down in the next few years as it exhausts. For now, its ad success is just one more sign, like the news that it will likely sell its Go tech to retailers, that Amazon can find and dominate new businesses beyond its core identity as the Everything Store. 

Retail as a Service: Amazon Tips its Hand

Amazon has a knack for moving into new vertical segments and then applying its logistical mastery and economies of scale to carve out margins and undercut incumbents. Then, it doubles down by scaling things up to its signature high-volume/low-margin approach. As Jeff Bezos ruthlessly admits, “Your margin is my opportunity.”

The latest place for this to unfold is retail. No, we’re not talking about Whole Foods, though that’s part it (more on that in a bit). We’re talking about Amazon’s transformation of the in-store experience — upending and streamlining logistics just like it’s done in shipping and cloud computing.

Here are some predictions for how Amazon’s disruption of retail via licensing of its Go technology will upend the industry.

LBMA Vidcast: Amazon to Roll Out Hand Recognition Payment at Whole Foods

On this week’s Location-Based Marketing Association podcast: Skoda announces in-car voice assistant Laura, Philadelphia bans stores that don’t accept cash, Kochava teams with CubeIQ, GOAT let’s you try on exclusive sneakers in AR, Olo powering restaurant orders from Google search and maps, Amazon to roll-out hand recognition payment at Whole Foods.

Last-Minute Shoppers Help Small Retailers Compete with Amazon for Holiday Sales

During the holiday shopping season, it’s Amazon’s world — or is it?

Outside the digital sphere, brick-and-mortar holiday sales at big-box shops like Walmart and Best Buy continue to be buoyed by bullish shoppers willing to hit the streets in search of timely deals during consumer-focused quasi-holidays like Black Friday. As a result, shoppers are spending more during the holidays than ever before. 

And then there’s the independent, local retailer. How is a small shop supposed to compete with the ease of mobile e-commerce or the allure of big-box doorbuster deals? Turns out, they have an ace in the hole: last-minute shoppers. 

LBMA Vidcast: Verizon Media Turns to AR; Uber Testing Essential Grocery Delivery Down Under

On this week’s Location-Based Marketing Association podcast: Verizon Media goes AR, Pared app for restaurants, Veeve re-invents the shopping cart, Uber testing milk/bread delivery in Australia, Albert Heijn piloting their own Amazon GO, Apple quietly adds UWB to iPhone 11.