Monthly Archives: February 2018

The best place for the home to get smart is on the high street

It’s no surprise that the Smart Home dominated last month’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with a whole range of evolution and innovation across security, home appliances and energy management. The trend has no doubt been expedited by the huge success of intelligent assistants with Google announcing that their Home devices sold over 6 million units, that’s one every second, and now Google Assistant runs on over 400 third party devices globally.

Many brands, such as Samsung, have opted to support their brands by integrating their own technology. Its lesser-known Bixby Assistant was integrated into its Smart Fridge with AKG speakers, making it a multimedia centre for the kitchen. Kholer showcased its intelligent bathroom ‘Konnect tech’ enabling your shower, bathtub, toilet, mirror and tap to be connected, both to you and each other. The company’s Touchless Response technology provides hands-free toilet flushing, perfect for those germophobes.

The market is evolving and in 2018 it will start to get a lot more crowded as the category grows from Amazon and Google offering their own speakers in a variety of form factors but also Google, Alexa and Siriin other hardware brands like Sonos. Sonos have already released the Sonos One with Alexa, and they have hopes to integrate Siri and Google Assistant soon. Apple’s HomePod will hit homes but Siri offers some weak competition as it struggles to develop its voice recognition. Yamaha, Libratone, and DTS all announced Alexa driven smart speakers this year, with SonyPhilips and LG announcing Google Assistant integration into their smart products.

And here lies the problem. Confused already? Indeed. Understand what’s compatible with what system? Probably not. Do you know if your Ring Video Doorbell can be hooked up to your Google Home, so you can speak to any visitors without having your smart phone to hand? If you’re reading this, you probably work in marketing and are classed an early adopter. Imagine what it’s like for everyone else seeing and hearing about these products everywhere they go and no idea what to do and how to integrate them.

Smart Home retail value is expected to reach £5.11bn worldwide this year and according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), while online sales continue to rise, e-commerce as a percentage of total retail sales in December 2017 was still only 18%. We also know that a Smart Home device in many instances requires an assisted sale. It’s a considered purchase and for some, a rather complicated buying process with further concerns about installation and integration with existing technology.

This is a great opportunity for traditional retailers to excel and showcase why they are still the best channel for selling ‘technology’ products using the retail environment to educate, engage and sell to the consumer through driving excitement and experience directly with the brand.

Our own research shows that even among today’s tech savvy 18 to 24-year-olds, more than 40% prefer to head in-store to see, touch and experience a product before buying, rising to 58% for the over 55s. Most surprising is that 38% of 18 to 24-year-olds want a personal service and recommendation from in-store staff, the highest among of all the age categories.

When we asked what advertising has influenced a considered purchase, none of the mainstream advertising channels were cited as influential: just 7.5% for TV, 8.7% for website, 4.6% for social media, 3% for billboard and 2% for newspaper and print. Advertising in-situ within the retail environment however was rated the key influencing factor at 19%.

This is a clear signal that traditional retailers should spend time and money working with staff on the shop floor and make the consumer experience as good as it can be as it will pay for itself through category development and increased sales at a higher average sales price – a win win for both retailer and brand.

Click here to read the article on The Drum

 

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THE CASE FOR SMART TECH

Smart tech was everywhere at CES with the latest OLED TVs, an 8K debut from LG and a suitcase that follows its owner around, Gekko managing director Daniel Todaro looks at the latest innovations from the show

CES in Vegas is where the globe’s technology brands for the past 51 years have converged to brag, showcasing what they are doing in advancing technology.

This year, an estimated 3,900 exhibitors from 150 nations will have done so to over 180,000 forecast visitors and a global media audience. An impromptu power cut only added to its media appeal, gaining it more mainstream coverage than ever before.

No surprise was that the smart home dominated, with Google announcing that its Assistant had sold more than six million units – that’s one every second – and also now runs on 400m devices globally. Unfortunately, there are no statistics from Amazon, but with more than 1,500 smart-home devices from more than 225 brands, all supporting Google Assistant, the winner may have been identified.

A lot of third-party brands are choosing to support multiple AI platforms, not wanting to gamble on a specific one. As a result, there are many now supporting multiple AI platforms in particular Alexa and Google Assistant integration, which dominated CES.

Not Samsung, though, whose Bixby assistant was integrated into a smart fridge with AKG speakers, making it a multimedia centre for your kitchen. Its only real game-changing feature is the ability to create smart notes sent remotely by users via text message to inform those in the home of messages like ‘buy more toilet rolls’.

What these innovations offer brands and retailers are alternative methods to engage passively with users, introducing new, intuitive technology into the home. Ordering shampoo or switching to another ‘recommended’ brand, while in the shower, further enables new advertising opportunities and gives retailers different purchasing channels perhaps never before considered.

LG OLED
LG OLED

Despite changing viewing habits influenced by ‘streaming’, TV remained a headline-grabber at CES. In particular for LG, whose dominance in the category is propelling the brand into pole position.

Firstly, it introduced us to the rather neat 65in LG roll-up TV – a 4K panel that curls up like a blind and unfolds into a 65in panel. Quite how the OLED screen is able to completely roll away, while still remaining rigid, is a secret that LG isn’t willing to share.

The display doesn’t have to be completely retracted. You can lower it only part-way, allowing you to change its aspect ratio from 16:9 to the cinematic 21:9, meaning you can enjoy your ultra-wide movies without those black bars.

With another press of the remote, the panel retracts to a wide strip at the top that can be used to show smart-home information, music controls, or whatever other updates you want to see. As it’s still a prototype, don’t expect availability or pricing any time soon.

OLED, launched at CES 10 years ago, is now the lead form factor in TV, and with an estimated 2.35m units predicted in 2018, up 1.4m on 2017. It’s now 25 per cent of the premium [over £1,000] TV market. Other notable brands launching new OLED ranges were Sony and Panasonic.

LG, not content with one a show-stopper, also launched its 88in 8K OLED screen, offering 33m pixels and it may be here sooner than you think. While the feature film Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 was shot in 8K, there is virtually no 8K content available. There are plans to roll out full 8K services by 2018, with Japan once again leading the way. The plan is to air the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 8K through broadcaster NHK, so TVs may well begin to go on sale in time for the 2020 summer Olympics.

Among all the connected home fever at CES were two of my favourite innovations. The first was the ForwardX CX-1 smart suitcase, which knows its owner using face-recognition to follow you through the airport concourse. It also comes with a smart wristband, just in case it loses you.

The second was the L’Oréal UV Sense. I think it’s perhaps the biggest game-changer and possibly the one that will become mainstream sooner. It’s a battery-free adhesive disc that measures UV exposure for the wearer. It’s relatively unobtrusive and uses NFC to let you retrieve your data with your mobile device. Its applications are infinite.

L’Oreal’s presence at CES demonstrates how technology can become mainstream through the most passive of devices and categories, creating a challenge for all marketers and retailers.

 

To read the article at ERT click here

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