Connected, Customized, Personalized . . . My Day At CES 2013

After spending opening day at CES, I couldn’t agree more with my colleague Sarah Rotman Epps in her blog post that CES matters more now than ever to every marketer, product strategist, and C-level executive in every industry. Across the CES floor, connected TVs, tablets of all sizes, and a new breed of “phablets,” combining the form factor of tablets and smartphones into one, confirmed the fact that we’ve left the PC-dominated world behind for a mobilized and connected home and work life where content and context will dominate.

What struck me while I walked the floor at CES was that Peppers and Rogers were actually way ahead of their time. Remember them, the ones who wrote The One to One Future way back in 1996, well before the digital age became a reality? Their vision continues to become a technology-powered reality. With CES showing an abundance of new ways to connect with mobilized customers, the ability to target, reach, and effectively communicate with customers one-to-one, customizing and personalizing messages and offers to their unique needs, is increasingly within the reach of the marketer.

Available channels to the customer exploded on the CES floor to include everything from connected TVs and other devices in the home to all types of mobile devices and ruggedly made tablets built for the enterprise and everything in between. All are connected and share content in the right context to the devices consumers or business customers want, when and where they want it — just like Peppers and Rogers dreamed would happen.

So what was it about CES 2013 that applies specifically to business-to-business (B2B) CMOs?

  • You must have a strong mobile strategy in place. Everything at CES was about mobility. With more than 1 billionsmartphones now in use and the average person in the US owning 3.3 mobile devices, B2B CMOs can no longer ignore the importance of driving their marketing plans with mobile in mind. While the devices themselves are interesting, it’s the applications that make the difference. Think about how integrated voice, text-to-speech, and gesture technology could be used to enhance your field operations; how a workplace version of Kinect, the motion-detecting input system for Xbox 360, could provide value to industries where the work performed makes it difficult to use any type of keyboard; or the implications of including Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in your advertising plans to connect with on-the-go customers.
  • Your content must be relevant, interactive, and engaging. Who would have thought that content would have taken center stage at a technology conference? With the consumer electronics industry introducing new technologies at CES for the purpose of making content accessibility easier with a richer experience, content became the star. For example, startup MindMeld can “listen” to your conversations and add streams of rich content based on what you’re talking about. In a B2B context, let’s say that you are having an interactive discussion in your online community about a certain topic. MindMeld can pull up a stream of related photos, videos, and articles related to that topic instantaneously, solving the ever-present challenge of getting the right content to the right customer at the right time.
  • Data and customer understanding will matter more than ever. Deriving value from the new mobility channels introduced at CES will require B2B CMOs to speak to customers and prospects in more personalized and customized ways than ever before. Tighter targeting with finer definitions will be necessary to deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time. One of the most interesting announcements in this area was Tibco’s event-driven platform. This new technology can analyze all electronic touchpoints across the life cycle to predict future actions. Fully automated and self-adjusting, Tibco uses data analysis and modeling to predict the right promotion or offer to send to customers at just the right time in their buying journey. Marrying predictive offer technology with marketing automation will provide B2B CMOs with the ability to engage customers appropriately across their full life cycle to drive business growth.
  • You soon will be limited only by your imagination. True, most of the demonstrations on the CES show floor were targeted to consumers. But these new concepts will find their way to the B2B environment. With a little imagination, you can see the application of MindMeld, Tibco, and Xbox to your marketing strategies. Whether it’s these examples or others, open your mind to new thinking. Define where you’d like to improve customers’ buying journey. Decide if you want to be on the edge or later to the game. Watch for creative uses and best practices for new technologies as they emerge, and evaluate their relevance to your business. In the year ahead, be ready to act and experiment when you find them.

As I said at the beginning of this blog post, we are moving ever closer to delivering on the one-to-one vision outlined by Peppers and Rogers more than 17 years ago: connected, customized, and personalized one-to-one marketing in a mobilized way. Don’t be limited in how you think about the announcements coming out of CES. Use your creativity to engage with customers in new ways anywhere they happen to be. After all, in the age of the customer, your success may depend on it.

Were you at CES? If so, tell me what you thought. If not, I’d love to hear your comments and perspectives about this topic. Please reach out to me via email, on my blog, or on my Twitter account with your thoughts.

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