Connected shopping at CES: What's next

Smart devices, voice activation and virtual reality will redefine point of sale, says the managing director of Mindshare's Shop+ Lead

LAS VEGAS — Retail has emerged as one of the most important verticals at the Consumer Electronics Show here. New devices on the show floor help consumers engage with brands and purchase. You can't even mention drones without discussing how Amazon is considering them as delivery vehicles.

Big trends from CES this year include the proliferation of smart devices, voice activation and virtual reality. Even when these features do not enable immediate purchase via the device, they point the consumer in the right direction to make it happen.

Here are some key CES highlights and takeaways for connected shopping:

Voice command integration. Voice command is creating a tremendous opportunity to make shopping faster and more convenient. We’re seeing increased use of voice recognition as technologies such as Amazon Echo and Apple's Siri are embedded into other devices. In fact, one of the big announcements from CES was the integration of Echo into a major automotive brand, so that you can use the Echo to check on your car from the house (or vice versa) or shop while on the road.

Virtual reality. VR provides retailers a lot of benefits: to showcase a product from different angles, for example, or show what that product might look like against different backgrounds. When buying something expensive online, VR can help you make up your mind. Travel booking is a great example — wouldn’t you love to take a VR tour of a resort before making that reservation? Or think about dining: When you’re at a restaurant, seeing what other people have ordered can influence your decision. This year VR is getting a major push from Oculus Rift (it just became available for pre-order Wednesday).

Connected devices. "Smart fridges" are not a new idea, but this year's crop at at CES offer enhanced capabilities that range from turning transparent (so you can see what’s inside without opening the door) to purchasing groceries through a large touchscreen display. Consumers like convenience, and depending on how the technology unfolds, the potential for commerce to replenish the fridge is there.

The basics. Despite all the novelty at CES 2016, retailers can't afford to ignore the basics. Leveraging new wow-inspiring technology is for naught if you can’t provide an easy fulfillment experience for the consumer. When people can’t easily make the purchase they were promised, it damages your brand; those consumers often don’t come back to your platform, no matter how cool or new the technology is.

The future. A lot of what we’re seeing on the show floor likely won’t reach mass scale in 2016 (though 2018 or 2019 is a different story). Instead, brands can — and should — experiment with executions on a smaller scale, even if it’s in just a few stores. CES isn’t just a time for considering what’s next this year; it’s a time for dreaming bigger and planting the seed for what will happen two or three years from now.

As marketers and consumers alike continue to redefine the "point of sale," the once simple ideas of in-store versus online will get much more muddled — and that much more exciting. 

Joe Migliozzi is managing director of Mindshare's Shop+ Lead.

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