Connected Consumers Changing CE And Retail: Marketers

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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.


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