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Future Trends, Consumers The Talk Of CEA CEO Event

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico — Predicting future CE trends and identifying new customers were among the topics discussed during today’s opening program of the12th annual Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) CEO Summit, here.

The annual meeting, which draws top CE executives of all stripes, featured a panel called “Trend Watching: The Scene on the Streets and Predictions For Tomorrow” moderated by CEA senior VP/industry affairs Jason Oxman, with panelists Brett Bonthron, CE practice leader of Microsoft; Andy Hines, custom projects director of Social Technologies; Michael Tchong, founder of Ubercool; and Jennifer Wong, owner of Muse.

In giving an overview of the subject, Bonthron said there is an “opportunity in improving the customer experience” for retailers and manufacturers. “Consumers are looking for a more personal experience, a human face on your operation.” He noted, “Retailers can certainly do it,” and manufacturers can do it with “a personal conversation” via aspects of the Web, with social-networking sites, blogs on their own sites and other means. “There is tremendous customer experience that consumers really crave.”

Hines noted the need for personalization that Bonthron discussed has evolved over the years beginning with “the Woodstock experience of self-expression.” Back then it was in the fringe, but now it is mainstream with consumers seeking “self-expression via products and services they buy.” That attitude, and the way they use devices and the Web, is “driving a lot of the changes towards meaning and self-expression” in the marketplace.

One of the changes Tchong has seen is “time compression and the acceleration of life.” The ability to double the amount of data consumers can store digitally has accelerated. “I always tell people that the reason why people collect around the small LCD viewer of a digital camera after a picture is taken, is because the owner is really saying, ‘I am just too g–d—- busy to email it to you!’”

He said that this new digital lifestyle has created a “marriage between man and machine. The average consumer spends more time with a PC than a spouse. I am excited about a business that on YouTube shows” the reverential unwrapping of “digital gear … that is a deep-seated trend.” Tchong also noted that ever since Zenith introduced the first remote control, “Wireless has intrigued everyone” with wireless entertainment possibilities and Wi-Fi devices for the home.

Wong said that many of these trends “stem from technology” but that “snap culture is one of the things we see … instant gratification. The Flip camcorder was introduced and it is simple and everyone loves it. Consumers are looking for ‘intimization’ in their products,” Wong said, which she described as an extension of the customization of products a decade ago. “Products have to be personalized, individual ringtones for friends, photos on your phone or videos, so if someone calls you know who it is.”

She added, “The success of the Wii and iPhone, when you think about technology, makes you realize it is the sense of experience of the technology” is what is important, and how easy it is to use. “It isn’t just about the technology anymore.”

Gabriel Joseph, president/CEO of ccAdvertising/True Tally, discussed in his presentation how his company can identify new customers in this difficult economy. In showing how his company’s phone surveys work, which also employ info from a variety of publicly available billing records of consumers plus GPS technology, he outlined a consumer preference study performed on June 9 of 48,629 residential households across the United States. Of that number, more than 21,000 (44 percent) were live respondents; more than 6,000 (13 percent) answered yes or no to one or more questions; and more than 1,400 of the live respondents completed the survey.

Here are some of the findings:

  • 27.89 percent were optimistic about the economy;
  • 94.34 percent had one or more TVs at home;
  • 42.61 percent have a flat screen or HDTV;
  • 61.1 percent have one or more computers;
  • 67.24 percent have a mobile phone;
  • 29.4 percent have an MP3 player or iPod; and
  • 63.35 percent have Internet access.

As for Holiday shopping, the survey showed:

  • 51.65 percent plan to spend $50 per person or more;
  • 25.93 percent plan to spend $50 to $100 per person; and
  • 8.81 percent plan to spend more than $100.