Well over a 100,000 people descended on Las Vegas in January to attend the Consumer Electronics Show, the biggest event of its kind. Almost immediately, trends start to appear. Again, these are consumer electronics, so it’s heavily aimed at products like bigger televisions and smaller earbuds and smart homes and robots.
What makes CES useful to you as a business owner is that it points towards trends and potential paths your customers might adopt and how those could impact your business. You can do a little future-telling, if you think through the implications of what is shown there. To that end, there’s a big trend that keeps growing every year and you’ve probably ignored it up to now.
Time to Think Differently About Computers
The term computer itself is silly. Very few of us ask our desktops, laptops, mobile devices or tablets to “compute.” We answer emails, check texts, watch Netflix, and play music. The device we use for all this has changed rapidly, too. It used to be dominated by desktop computers: clunky things with big monitors. One day, as if someone flipped a switch, everyone was issued a laptop instead. Smartphone popularity soared almost overnight in 2007 with the first iPhone. And then a few years later came the iPad.
How do you run your business? If you’re like most everyone, there are a mix of devices. You might have a few “big” computers, a laptop or two, and everyone has a smartphone, at the very least.
It hasn’t stopped, though. Amazon launched Alexa in 2014. Google Home came two years later. Both devices let you talk instead of having to type, poke or swipe anything. In fact, every date you see in this article was acquired by me asking: “Hey Google, when was ___ launched,” and a voice telling me the dates I needed. I didn’t even have to stop typing this article to get the information.
With Alexa, I can say things like, “Alexa, order me some more Post-It notes,” and she’ll say “The last order was for 3M Classic Yellow Square Post-Its. Would you like me to reorder these?” I say yes and those stickies will arrive in two days without me even thinking about it.
The way we think of “computers” as this thing that certain people in your organization use must change. And further, the way you look at how these devices are changing your customer’s lives should adapt as well.
What’s Here and What’s Almost Here
You might also have heard the term IoT, which stands for the Internet of Things (some say it should be called “the Intelligence of Things”). Smart speakers and more sensors mean there will be even less need to use what you think of today as a “computer” to interact with the world. I can say “Hey Google, what’s the weather” and “How’s the traffic between here and the Prudential Building?”
The people at Intel coined a new term called “the Passenger Economy.” They’re using it to point out that between Uber, Lyft and the arrival of self-driving cars, fewer people will be required to keep their eyes on the road. This drives an interest in more entertainment (podcasts and YouTube and video streaming).
That also means self-driving vehicles will be programmed with a destination and that your location won’t be as important as it once was, unless you make it worth someone’s time to program you into their travel path as well.
Think about that. The way most local businesses operate is that someone either has a direct need to visit, or they are swayed to visit when they drive by your location. That second kind of traffic may dry up in the near-term future, where people provide an end point instead of just wandering around.
People are paying less and less attention to mainstream entertainment and information sources. Meg Whitman (former CEO of Hewlett Packard) and Jeffrey Katzenberg (SKG) are launching “Quibi,” a content streaming service that focuses on sub-10-minute content. Not only are we paying less attention to the standard mainstream sources for news and information, we’re paying less attention period. At 10 minutes max per episode on Quibi, that’s lots more time than users typically spend on Instagram posts or Snapchat videos and the like.
What Can You Take Away From This?
There’s lots to think about, but that usually pushes us into shutting down and ignoring everything equally. Let me give you a few bite-sized nuggets to consider:
● If you need to reach people, the mainstream isn’t enough. You should consider trying out new platforms like social networks and places like podcasts and YouTube.
● Attention spans are smaller and smaller. Package information accordingly. Think in “text message sized” interactions. (Hint: this article is probably too long.)
● It’s no longer okay to shrug off “future stuff” because a lot of it is coming true – and faster than before. Get smarter about mobile devices and smart speakers.
● If people can just ask Alexa or Google Home to buy something, will your product be the one they ask for? Why not?
● What are you doing the old way that might need updating for the 2020s and beyond?
It’s scary, but you need to consider all this, if you want to stay competitive rolling forward.