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Beware of shiny objects: CES boasts innovations that lack mass appeal

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“Whoa” is the first word that you noticed in this year’s CES promos and on attendee badges.

And, if you are similar to me, it’s the first word that you utter across all show floors and exhibit halls in Vegas.

Like when you see a “smart” bathroom promising to test your urine (that’s actually dumb). Or when you come upon signage proclaiming a “robot revolution” (that one is my official hype winner in what was, as always, an extremely competitive category).

I’m no anthropologist but some of my best learnings come from taxi drivers on the way to and from the conference.

This year, on the road in from the airport, a middle-aged gentleman at the wheel scoffed at the need for voice-activated devices all throughout his home.

“I’ve got that on my phone with Google,” he said. “Anything I need to know, I can get it already.”

For the fourth year in a row, I asked the so-called Average Joe and Joanne whether they have interest in a “smart” refrigerator that could tell them when they are low on milk or beer, and even save a return trip to the market for an otherwise forgotten item.

The answer is always “no” with privacy being the main inhibitor.

So, I guess the urine-screening toilet isn’t making it into their houses – or yours or mine – anytime soon.

Just what was shown at CES that could have mass appeal?

Those products that had a personal touch.

For instance, the smartest watch is the one that is intelligent about you, not everyone else. Casio brought a meaningful group of apps to a previously released watch that now caters to individual taste.

For instance, Fishbrain is supposedly the world’s largest community-based fishing app, producing local fishing forecasts and the best spots to catch that big one. However, I haven’t fished since I caught a muskie 27 years ago (luck, not app), so the Pro Trek Android Wear model had to offer me something else. Choices are now in the categories of skiing, surfing, golfing, swimming, and hiking. That works for me.

And all the apps are included with purchase of the watch.

Elsewhere, there were apps that solved some of life’s challenges – cooling a house in summer before you arrive home, for example. New? Not so much. Appealing to folks like my cab driver? Definitely. Those apps have become more intuitive and valuable.

But for all of the products that sought to address a need, there were thousands of others that left me scratching my head.

Atop that list were the self-driving concept cars from Ford and Toyota that touted pizza delivery as an effective use case. Will the cost go down for the consumer? Will the human-less car put more pepperoni on the pie? Is there a cost-savings for the pizza companies?

If the answers to all of those questions are no, please tell me why someone would be willing to go outside in the snow and darkness, in pajamas and slippers, to use an unfamiliar keypad to unlock a pizza that costs the same or more and makes the consumer work more for it.

Customers won't pay more for a pizza just because it comes in an innovative way. If a carrier pigeon could get it there hot and quickly and cheaper, they’d happily say, “the heck with self-driving cars.”

And about those robots everywhere? For what?

My wife doesn’t want a lawn mowing robot. She’ll quickly tell you that she married one.

The lesson of it all?

Beware of shiny objects. Know that the 180,000 who attended CES almost surely misrepresent your customers and prospects.

Build upon what you know. Definitely make bets on innovation or you will be left behind. But don’t wager the house.

Much of what we saw were early-adopter models at best, ones that caused a ripple on Twitter but are not destined to do the same on Main Street. Or in taxis where the real deciders of product success or not make their livings and spend their money judiciously.

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Havas breaks silence on Bolloré corruption probe as employee is formally investigated

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Havas has said it will fully cooperate with authorities after confirming that an employee of a French subsidiary is being formally investigated. It comes after Vincent Bolloré was charged by French police as part of an investigation into corrupt practices in Africa.

Vincent Bolloré is chief executive of the Bolloré Groupe the former chairman of Havas-owner Vivendi, and father of Havas chief executive Yannick Bolloré. It is alleged that he used Havas to finance the electoral campaigns of politicians, who once in office granted port contracts to the Bolloré' Groupe.

Havas’ global director of public affairs, Jean-Philippe Dorent, was questioned by police earlier this week. Havas declined to comment at the time, however, the agency group has today (26 April) said it is cooperating with investigators after he was put under formal investigation.

“Havas Group acknowledges that an employee of one of its subsidiaries in France has been put under formal investigation on Wednesday 25 April,” it said.

“Havas Group stresses that this employee benefits from the fundamental principle of presumed innocence guaranteed by criminal procedure. The Group will of course fully cooperate with the judicial authorities.”

It is alleged that managers at the Bolloré Groupe offered the services of Havas at a massively discounted price to help with the 2010 presidential campaigns of the Guinean President Alpha Condé and Faure Gnassingbé of Togo.

The agency’s involvement in the campaign is being linked to how the Bolloré Groupe then gained control of two container terminals in the ports of Lomé, the capital of Togo, and Conakry, the capital of Guinea, in the same year.

The Bolloré Groupe has denied that the agency did anything irregular.

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The changing face of retail: top trends and challenges

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If you were to believe the headlines, the death of the high street is imminent. Since the collapse of Woolworths in 2009 the UK retail scene has seen a wave of high profile administrations. For example, those Friday evening trips to the local Blockbuster are a thing of the past!

However, in reality, retailers are learning to innovate – looking at new ways to engage with audiences and understand the changing consumer dynamics that are determining the way they shop.

So here we have a look at some of the key consumer trends that have already impacted the way brands and retailers approach product positioning and marketing, as well as some of the new retail challenges and (and opportunities) you should be aware of now – before it’s too late!

The Millennial Market

The story of the millennial is only too familiar to readers of The Drum. Born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, these guys are digital natives who have grown up and matured with mobile technology and as such expect to be able to use it in every aspect of their life. Constantly on a variety of social media platforms to document their every move, and updating their profiles to project how they’d like to be seen by the world, the convenience of the mobile device is paramount to this group. And unsurprisingly the UK’s 14 million strong millennial population are more likely to start and end their journey on their smartphones than any other age group, who have started turning their mobile device into a handheld wallet.

Improving the payment experience through self-checkout kiosks and advanced digital payment technologies is essential to keeping the millennial shopper. The relentless focus on perfecting technology has set a new standard across the industry that millennials now accept as the norm. Retailers must be able to provide streamlined, user-friendly systems and processes in order to retain the millennial.

However, the challenge doesn’t end there for retailers, as a personalised retail experience is equally key. Whether this is online or in-store, millennials seek customer service professionals who understand their preferences and make recommendations tailored to their specific needs. Millennials want a customer-centric experience in which they feel wanted and valued. In order to do this, retailers need to closely examine what they’re currently doing with customer data, and ensure this information is being utilised to deliver a more personalised in-store experience.

The Conscious Consumer

Over the years, as manufacturers have looked towards cheaper and quicker ways of getting their products to customers, retail manufacturing practises have taken a serious toll on the environment. Second only to oil, the retail manufacturing industry is the most polluting industry on the planet. However, increasing awareness around these issues – thanks largely to the growing influence of the millennial audience (yes, those guys again) – has given rise to the conscious consumer.

Loosely speaking, being a conscious consumer means shopping and consuming with greater thought given to aspects of the product and business you’re buying from. For example, are they Fairtrade? Are their products responsibly sourced? And are they environmentally friendly? Ultimately this group aim to seek out ways to make positive decisions about what to buy and look for a solution to the negative impact consumerism is having on the world.

Another key concern for the conscious consumer is the way in which brands target audiences, both through advertising and the positioning of their products. As products and services expand to reflect the rich cultural makeup of the population, advertising efforts can be observed leading with non-centred perspectives that fall in line with a view to omni-culturalism, whereby effectively celebrating difference as the only norm. This progression demonstrates the need for brands to engage consumers around values less tied to traditional markers of identity such as race, geographic location and gender.

The Power of Omni-Channel

The omni-channel approach defines the new way in which consumers shop: by using all the options available to them. It could be suing a desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, smart TV; they might go direct to a website to research a specific product or arrive through affiliate channels or email; engage through review platforms, apps, etc.

In the UK shoppers say that social media has an influence over what they buy – under 25’s – 60% and 25-34 – 50%, while conducting prior online research on the retailer’s own site or sites of other retailers led to 13% greater in-store spending among omni-channel shoppers.

Although not a retail strategy, it’s still essential to understand the multiple methods people use in their path to purchase as, ultimately, the more channels customers use the more valuable they are! A recent Google study found that omni-channel shoppers are three times more valuable to a brand, with Macy’s stating it is in fact as high as six times.

Geo-Targeting

With the rise of geo-tagging and GPS-connected applications, location-aware marketing becomes increasingly targeted. Engaging consumers by creating a more personalised form of brand interaction, location-based sharing taps into the tech-savvy demographics' desire to connect with their surroundings digitally. This omni-channel approach to consumer engagement denotes an evolution in how brands are targeting younger demographics.

Conversational Commerce

Gartner predicts that by the year 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human and that 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen by 2020. ComScore thinks 50% of all searches will be voice searches by that point. Voice user interfaces (VUI) provide consumers with a more natural and intuitive way of engaging with digital technology. This combined, with the growing popularity of connected devices in the home and car, will have a profound impact on how we shop.

Apostolos Lambrianides is group marketing and PR manager at Lick Creative

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Indian government issues deadline to Facebook and Cambridge Analytics for misuse of data of Indians

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The Indian government has issued notices to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica to probe on the misuse of data, following Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data protection scandal .

The Indian government has given the two companies a deadline of 10 May to respond to questions related to Indian citizens’ data. This is the second notice in this regard, as the first notice was issued to Cambridge Analytica on 23 March and to Facebook on 28 March according to Livemint.

In a letter to Facebook, the Indian government wrote: “What security architecture is proposed to be created by Facebook, on an urgent basis, so that the data concerning Indians is not pilfered or manipulated again for extraneous purposes including to influence the elections."

The government has also sent five questions to Cambridge Analytics for responses on the data breach.

Despite any reputational damage incurred in the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the reemergence of the #DeleteFacebook campaign, Facebook is expected to capture around 18% of worldwide digital ad spend in 2018.

Meanwhile, Facebook's largest brand campaign vows 'to do more to protect privacy' as it posts 50% Q1 revenue surge.

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