Like few other conferences, the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas offers a mixture of breathless hype, aspirational visions, and tangible proof that the future is here, with products available for sale The devices and the way companies talk about them offer clues for how the world’s biggest tech companies think about the future: what consumers will want, and what brands can deliver. With all the buildup, marketers and tech leaders need to dig through what’s fluff to where real opportunities lie.
This year’s CES was the first to happen a full year after the explosion of interest in generative AI (Artificial Intelligence), occasioned by the 2022 launch of ChatGPT. Not surprisingly, AI was one of the big themes of discussion among CMOs attending CES, along with sustainability, cookieless futures, and the burgeoning world of retail media.
So, what should marketers be watching out for in these big dynamics?
Here are key themes and potential red flags to watch out for that will impact how marketers power brand growth for years to come:
The evolution of artificial intelligence
A common theme around GenAI conversation at the C Space at CES was the impact of Human+AI working together to supercharge creativity and innovation in content creation in marketing and brand building. GenAI takes away the fear of a blank page, democratizes access and hence provides creators with more ability to ideate, iterate, change direction quickly and personalize content more than even before. It will be especially empowering for smaller businesses with limited tools and budgets to level up the playing field. It can improve productivity and reduce time to market.
Brands can leverage AI as a system connector and “digital project manager,” a trend we saw unfolding at CES. Automotive brands have already demonstrated how AI can lead to improvements in EV vehicles, battery technology, efficiency of charging vehicles, and improving the customer purchase experience. Examples include: ChatGPT that can answer vehicle-specific questions and EV Range Factors, a service that reduces driver range anxiety with improved on-route battery range calculation.
Brands have had plenty of time to roll out innovative AI products and layer an AI gloss over others. However, our first red flag is that brands are claiming everything to be AI, when sometimes they are simply optimization features without any artificial intelligence component.
AI will continue to evolve in all shapes, sizes and capabilities, but making sure the model has been trained on rigorous, compliant data and has strict privacy and regulation compliance regulations will create more trusted and reliable channels to consumer love and loyalty. If the basis of AI’s learning foundation is rooted in strong data signals, you can more effectively connect with consumers without compromising quality.
Innovations are rampant, but assurances of data compliance, security, and privacy are murky at best. Companies need to continue being mindful of Brand Safety issues, in their products and communications, especially in a world powered by AI content.
Sustainability as a strategic imperative
The sustainability journey for businesses continues to ramp up as evolving consumer expectations and new environmental threats demand agile strategies. Year over year, responsibility and accountability are increasingly seen as fundamental counterparts to profitability and brand value. Employees and consumers are already rewarding businesses for positive environmental and social performances, with 36% of Americans 18+ agreeing that they have “stopped buying certain products/services because of their impact on the environment or society” according to Kantar’s U.S. MONITOR Study.
Clearly, brands are feeling the pressure, CES 2024 kicked off with a voluntary pledge for tech companies to reduce their impact by recycling more materials and disposing of fewer consumer electronics. And while it’s great to see sustainability as a bigger part of the agenda, treating it as voluntary is a red flag.
To ensure your brand’s growth, while securing consumer loyalty, sustainability needs to be central in day-to-day business strategies. However, it also means thinking about the vendors you partner with and what they are doing to power infrastructure-wide transformation. So, in future years, it’s key to prioritize partnerships and activations that treat sustainability as a strategic investment as opposed to a “nice to have”. Innovation in sustainability needs to be holistic for scaled success, from responsible sourcing of materials to efficient production and distribution, and more energy efficient devices and recycling.
Cookieless measurement and the future of transparency
The end of so-called deterministic identifiers like the cookie has been a topic, and in some cases a fear, in the industry for the last six years. We need to remember, understanding behavior and performance without cookies has always been possible. Cookies fuel only a portion of passive tracking today, and specifically only browser-level channels. The industry has had plenty of time to evolve to safer ways to handle and track data. The rest of the media universe, including linear television, SVOD, AVOD, CTV, OTT and OOH have identifiers attached to them that are independent of cookies for some time already. Radio and print have never had identifiers attached to them for measurement at all.
So, cookies are finally being sun-setted, and now, advertisers and marketers need to be wary of how their partners are collecting data and whether they are thinking about long-term solutions or using techniques against the spirit of regulation. Some cookie replacements or data collecting methodologies may not comply with evolving laws and regulations.
Brands should be focusing on the partners who are looking toward the future and understand the evolution of data privacy, globally compliant, and rigorous with data methodology. This can be seen through brands that are leaning into the creation of holistic measurement systems, or unified ways of measurement. Leaders in the alternative UID space are beginning to be established and have made tremendous progress on increasing Sell Side adoption.
Taking full advantage of Retail Media Networks
Retail media is quickly becoming a significant promotional channel for brands in key categories around the world. And given the disruption and acceleration of new consumer behaviors and the increased need for first party, privacy compliant data, retail media is now an essential tool for driving impact both in brand power and sales lift. According to GroupM, the category is forecast to exceed television revenue by 2028, with its advertising revenue expected to grow 9.9%, reaching $125.7 billion in 2023.
Given this ‘new’ opportunity for many, the main and biggest red flag to look out for when picking a partner is how they use measurement. Companies that don’t think about measuring holistically, treating digital touchpoints and in-store differently, are a red flag and may interfere with gathering campaign and performance insights. Many Advertisers still look at and manage advertising spend with Retailers/RMNs in different ways than Retailers view their own media offerings (O&O Digital vs. 3P Digital vs. In-store vs. Promotional).
Partner with those who offer or try to offer ecosystem wide unified measurement through third party partners. First party data is the name of the game and will become increasingly important so connecting your RMN strategy to your broader measurement objectives is critical. Omnichannel opportunities are abounding with new partnerships and formats that include livestreams, shopping and AR; the highest potential for growth and ROI will come from bringing all retail channels together to provide ecosystem measurement and insights. As we move to a cookie-less future, retail media provides new opportunities to connect with consumers and first party data to do it in a brand safe, privacy compliant way.
Standardization of measurement and partners who are actively working towards these is also important. IAB (Interactive Advertisement Bureau) RMN measurement standards while holistic, are intentionally broad leaving much remaining variability in how RMN performance will be tracked and reported. Advertisers and agencies should familiarize themselves with these standards to be equipped with the right questions to ask so they know how to properly compare RMN performance across retailers and other channels, or work with 3P Measurement companies to help support them in making these important investment decisions. Buy Side should continue to push RMNs to enable unbiased 3P measurement and discourage RNMs from remaining walled gardens.
Putting it all together
The connective thread across these dynamics is the importance of new technologies to create greater trust and transparency for consumers and marketers. Whether it be advancements in AI or the growing sophistication of first party data sets like retail media, technology and marketing leaders are slowly closing the gap between innovation and customer experience.
For more insights on how tech is transforming the world of brand, check out our LinkedIn Live. During this session, Kantar experts Carmen Bohoyo, Kantar North America Sustainable Transformation Lead, and Subhashish Dasgupta, Kantar North America Health and Technology Industry Expert, will share key takeaways and insights into what tech trends will dominate 2024. The session further unpacks the biggest conversations from CES, the role of sustainability this year, and the tech trends to watch in 2024. You can access the session here.
Kantar’s Futures Practice can also help your company future-proof business strategies and identify the big bets that will drive long-term growth. Get in touch to learn more or join us for Generative AI 2028: The Human View, a study exploring the future of generative AI as a consumer technology, with implications for brands and businesses.
Kantar’s Retail practice can also help you discover the winning advantage. No matter where your organization stands in developing a retail media strategy, it is imperative for brands to grasp their position in successful media planning. As the retail media landscape continues to expand, new competitors are emerging, posing a challenge for brands on how to effectively distribute their advertising budget across various networks. Learn more here.