Let’s get physical with the digital


Knowledgeable brand ambassadors and in-store activations offering hands-on experiences are key to driving consumer interest in new tech launches, says Zoe Brown of BD Network

The CES show in Las Vegas has rapidly become an established barometer setting the tone for coming global trends in consumer technology. This year was no different – with main themes and exhibits at the show focusing mainly on the evolution of established forms of technology finding their footing in new sectors.

Take for example, wearables, the big focus of CES just five short years ago, and now finding new applications in healthcare.

This sense of the evolution of existing technology extends to the move from Virtual Reality towards Augmented Reality and now Mixed Reality; developments in Virtual Assistants and how these might fit into everyday lives; and even the next stage of home TV technology, upping the resolution from 4K to 8K.

This year’s CES was no exception, with exciting demonstrations and concepts including the integration of Amazon’s Alexa into cars, super-slim TVs, new VR headsets and robots a-plenty.

While not everything trumpeted at CES takes off, it’s established as the starting gun for the consumer tech year to follow. So, it’s important to look at what’s spurring these trends onward.

For example, the fact that all of these are developments of existing consumer technologies suggests that it’s no longer enough for a new product to wow the world. So many new products are being launched that consumers are waiting to see which find their niche and truly connect, before investing.

This is something we’ve seen before, as the predicted VR boom is yet to set the world alight, and smartwatches have also yet to reach the predicted tipping point of making it to everyone’s wrists.

With a backdrop, at least in the UK, of Brexit uncertainty making people consider major purchases very carefully, it has become more imperative that technology launches manage to connect with those all-important early adopters. They can have tremendous influence over the early stages of a product launch as well as building confidence among those consumers who may need more reassurance that a particular product has reached enough scale to be purchase-worthy.

When it comes to planning marketing activity around launches of new gaming consoles, we have to realise that new machines have to compete with the established consoles, while also offering new features, new controllers and game options. In the past, console manufacturers and their marketing agencies have approached this need to educate consumers about the advantages of new consoles by simultaneously running events where all-important early adopters and influencers could get their hands on the tech, try it out and so build interest through their social networks.

But it should never be just about the early adopters – any in-store launch for new consumer tech has to catch the eye and give other potential buyers the chance to see and experience a new proposition.

Trial is absolutely key when launching a new or different consumer tech product, and it is imperative that the instore experience is properly thought through, even down to briefing the retail staff and brand ambassadors thoroughly, so that they can answer any questions that potential buyers may have.

Remember, tech launches are not about discounting or incentives. Instead, successful promotional campaigns, whether in-store or experiential, hinge on encouraging trial and driving word of mouth through positive, hands-on exposure to the new technology.

Truly great standout is all about creating product ambassadors for the new tech, a new slate of games, or the fresh-to-market gadget. These ambassadors can often do more to lend a genuine voice to grassroots advocacy through their influence than the most expensive above-the-line campaign.

Above all, the experience of buying new technology should be one of excitement, anticipation, and yes, of joy.

Microsoft research into the path to purchase for technology buyers has highlighted that it’s critical for the actual purchase itself to be a happy one, rather than a simple transaction based on logical analysis of research into the product and comparison to others on the market.

Consumers told Microsoft that their ‘points of delight’ include interactions with knowledgeable and enthusiastic sales people, as well as choosing a retailer who is ‘right for them and their shopping style’ and all the supporting information (reviews, product information, tech support) which can make a major purchase of a new piece of technology seamless.

So, whatever new technology comes our way and ignites the fancy of consumers in 2018, it will be absolutely critical to the success of any new launches to make sure the buying process is well communicated, and that buyers are clear about the product’s short and longer-term benefits.

Zoe Brown is Head of Account Management at integrated agency BD Network.

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