Top Digital Marketing Takeaways From CES 2016

Key product categories on display at the annual Consumer Electronics Show included artificial/machine intelligence, smart homes, autos, and virtual/augmented reality. Let’s look at what each one means for marketers.

Top Digital Marketing Takeaways From CES 2016

More than 170,000 people converged on Las Vegas last week to immerse themselves in the latest consumer gadgetry at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. While there was no shortage of questionable tech, including self-tightening belts and heated smart shoes, much of what was on display represented the maturation of several themes that have finally evolved enough to be on marketers’ radar screens in 2016.

Key product categories shown at this year’s CES event included artificial/machine intelligence, smart homes, autos, and virtual/augmented reality.

Let’s look at what each one means for marketers.

Artificial/Machine Intelligence

Amazon’s Alexa, along with Apple’s Siri and Google’s Now, are all examples of narrow artificial intelligence–in this case, personal digital assistants. They use a combination of algorithms and a deep base of data (indexed search, maps, commerce, etc.) to return answers to questions and perform simple activities, such as destination mapping and product ordering.

This kind of intelligence, combined with the increasing use of multisensory interfaces, such as voice and gesture, are reimagining how end users interact with the digital world. More importantly, we are beginning to see the start of anticipatory workflows, where the artificial intelligence can predict and execute transactions ahead of a user’s input (permission-based, of course).

Implications For Marketers

• New surfaces and inputs: Large monitor surfaces offer potential for brand messaging in environments that were previously off-limits. Voice and gesture offer new forms of input. This new surfaces and inputs could lead to a new wave of pioneering digital marketing experiences that incorporate these surfaces and inputs.

• Predictive ability: Imagine being able to predict behavior and sort users into immediate buyers, considerers, etc., with a high degree of accuracy. Accelerating transactions and deepening brand affinity are just two key outcomes of using predictive techniques more widely; this kind of ability also could open up new forms of anticipatory marketing that haven’t been previously available.


The Brightbox phone charging locker provides a host of analytics data to optimize placement in retail settings.

Smart Homes

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, it’s pretty clear that most current-generation household appliances, from refrigerators to frying pans, will have digital displays and be connected to a household’s home network.

A look inside Samsung’s newest Family Hub Refrigerator, which comes equipped with a camera for internal viewing, as well as expiration features for monitoring the freshness of food items.

Implications For Marketers

• Household display surfaces: Just like new display technology, marketers will now have access to household surfaces for brand messaging and transactions. Marketers will need to consider how to provide an optimal experience for each display surface, though, given the likely fragmented set of different sizes, pixel counts, and abilities (touch, gesture, etc.).

• Household data: All of these devices are collecting data about household behavior and offer unprecedented research opportunities, not to mention real-time exposure to consumer trends and patterns that will enable marketers to react and serve consumers faster.

• Partnerships: Imagine being included as a premier brand on the refrigerator surface in the picture above by offering recipe tie-ins, or by having a one-button reorder for your product. Aligning your brand with major appliance manufacturers might never be more important than now.


Car manufacturers are falling over each other to introduce new display technology that not only improves the comfort and safety of the driving experience, but also creates the platform for a more immersive in-car experience. Plus, as vehicles move toward more autonomy, rather than on the road, consumers will be able to shift their attention to in-car campaigns.

The data collected from vehicle behavior and sensors embedded in seating, steering wheels, and other surfaces will unlock a new wave of location-based marketing opportunities that combine smartphones, GPS data, beacons, and digital marketing campaigns for new forms of consumer engagement.

Implications For Marketers

• Location-based marketing: Consumers can now offer their behavioral data to marketers in real time while they travel in their cars throughout their day. This data offers new insight into behavior and, when combined with other data about consumers, can be used to present highly relevant transactional campaigns and branding.

• Display surfaces: Just as in the home, the car dashboard is becoming Internet-connected and will offer content beyond just vehicle data. As a result, marketers will have the opportunity to reach consumers directly inside their vehicles and with much more richness given the size of these displays.


Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality

As I’ve previously written, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have crossed over from the narrow use case of extreme gaming into the marketing mainstream, as experiences from Merrell, Marriott, and others have shown in 2015.

The combination of falling production costs and falling consumption costs (you can buy a Google Cardboard VR headset for your phone for less than $20) will push VR/AR further into the mainstream in 2016.

Implications For Marketers

• You and your marketing team should assess whether a VR/AR experience makes sense for your brand and, if it does, make as much effort as possible to deploy such a campaign in 2016.

• Today’s VR/AR is best for brand awareness/affinity campaigns. Transactional campaigns are certainly in scope, but until the technology becomes more ubiquitous, offering a transactional call to action within a VR/AR experience doesn’t seem like an optimal use of the technology.

• In a 360-degree immersive environment, two-dimensional brands will need to consider how they and their products appear in three dimensions. They may need to consider appropriate redesigns and enhancements so they don’t appear flat in three dimensions.

NextVR’s rig for livestreaming NFL games.

Other Technologies To Watch

Here are a few other developments for you and your teams to monitor in 2016. They represent the bleeding edge for marketing and are worth keeping an eye on:

• LG Rollable Display Prototype: Not quite ready for mainstream yet, but consider how foldable, rollable, paper-thin displays will fundamentally reshape content consumption in two dimensions when they become fully available. Magazines, newspapers, direct mail, etc., will never be the same.

• Tipron Robot Projector: Robots are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in consumer households, whether for cleaning, entertainment, companionship, or, in this case, projecting content. Here again is another new surface within the household that might have promise for digital marketing in the future.