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Connected Consumers Changing CE And Retail: Marketers


If you think your head
is spinning dealing with the brave new
world of connected electronics, consider
the marketers who now have to
sell products to newly empowered consumers
carrying devices that keep them
linked to the Internet at all times.

During a Brand Keynote Panel at the
Hilton Theater during 2012 International
CES, six high-ranking marketing executives
representing multiple industries
gave their views of this sea change, how
it impacts their companies, and how it
will affect consumers as the object of
those marketing messages.

What was surprising is the fact there
were no definitive answers to these
questions. Realistically, one shouldn’t
expect them as an avalanche of new
technology spreads across the globe,
which was readily apparent at the show.

One thing for sure though is the
growth of connected individuals. “The
next billion people coming onto the Internet
will be coming via mobile, not the
desktop,” said Keith Weed, chief marketing
officer of Unilever. “Technology
is changing behavior and as marketer
you’re interested in how consumers behave,
what they value, and how you can
make their life experiences richer.”

“Mobile is going to revolutionize retail
— we’ve known this for decades,”
agreed Stephen Quinn, Walmart chief
marketing officer. As he recalled how
male customers would use their cellphones
to get buying directions from
their wives, to knowing chuckles from
the crowd, Quinn stated how the move
into the social space — with everyone
posting on Facebook and other social
media sites — would have a “massive impact”
on retail.

Carolyn Everson, global marketing
solutions VP for Facebook, said, “What
we see at Facebook is that human behavior
hasn’t actually changed since
Neolithic times. People lived in villages
of about 150, the average number of
friends on Facebook. Technology is
connecting us to people we know and
those we don’t know and within four degrees
of separation you’re connected to
about a million people.”

“We’re seeing our customers are
massively engaged in this,” added
Walmart’s Quinn. The question for him
was “How do we create an ecosystem
around our joint objectives” with vendors.
Along with cash register receipts
Quinn watches other metrics. “We are
watching our fan count on Facebook,
using that as a real key metric.”

Another issue raised was the growing
amount of data posted to social-media
sites. GE chief marketing officer Beth
Comstock mused about who owns the
data, what is its value, and how marketers
could use it to customize sales
pitches to individual consumers.

Moderator Michael Kassan, CEO of
MediaLink, pointed out that more marketers
than ever are attending the show
to learn about the latest technologies
and what it means for people selling everything
from cars to Pop-Tarts. CES —
which Unilever’s Wood said now means
“Connecting Everyone Socially”— is the
launch pad for these devices, and marketers
need to understand the changes
they’ll bring in order to survive.

Since this was CES, Kassan queried
the panelists as to what they considered
their most indispensable tech device. To
a man, and woman, it was a smartphone.