Since 1967, the Consumer Electronics Show has been the launching place for innovative new products and technology. CES 2021, the show’s 54th anniversary, was no different in that regard – but the impact of our rapidly changing world was evident across the board. From the all-virtual event – the first time in the history of CES – to the prevalence of new products and services designed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and changing consumer habits, the impact of 2020 on our “new normal” was on full display.

We now have a doorbell that can take a visitor’s temperature, a robot that uses ultraviolet light to disinfect surfaces, and a number of high-tech face masks that have built-in air purifiers and make it easier for wearers to communicate. We have new smart home and home security devices – and, of course, new TV’s, speakers, drones, gaming chairs, digital cameras and other entertainment options – that will appeal to a wider audience now that more people are spending more time at home. We have, or will soon have, blazing-fast 5G connectivity that will enable huge strides in remote working, distance learning, and staying in touch with loved ones virtually.

2020 is the year the future became the present, with digital expansion and transformation driven five years into the future overnight.

Hans Vestberg, CEO, Verizon

These are the obvious – and needed – responses to our changed reality. Less obvious, perhaps, but just as important are that changes in consumer behavior that 2020 ushered in post haste. As Verizon Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg reiterated in his keynote, 2020 is the year that the future became the present, with digital expansion and transformation driven five years into the future overnight.

As a result of the pandemic, many consumer product categories thrived as consumers became reacquainted with their homes, working remotely and spending their leisure time  at home. These same consumers adopted online shopping habits , which many hadn’t shown an affinity for previously. The result was an accelerated adoption of digital sales channels and associated technology for consumers of all ages.

A number of retailers at CES 2021 shared how they adapted to this changing consumer behavior, from expanding curbside pickup and contactless in-store options to scaling up their digital channels. For both retailers and brands, loyalty programs came back to the forefront as a strategy to drive repeat business and retain mindshare without brick-and-mortar interactions. Several spoke of how their companies became more aware of their role in society and felt a responsibility to speak out on certain issues and practice more sustainable business practices – all which lends authenticity to a brand’s interactions and helps gain customer trust.

Put it all together and the common refrain heard from many sides becomes personalized, authentic experiences are the key to capturing customer trust and sustainable revenue.

The future for brands has arrived

What we heard over and over again at #CES2021 is that the new commerce marketplace requires mastering personalization at scale and leveraging the network effect of large platforms and new technologies. For consumer brands – our valued partners – the question is, how can they compete in this new commerce marketplace, with retailers still largely in control?

The answer: take more control over their own customers’ experience and create direct relationships with these customers that drive both loyalty and revenue.

To be sure, this isn’t new advice from Registria to our clients. It’s what we help them do every day. And if your brand hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon to create direct relationships with your customers yet, now is the perfect time to get started. Here’s why.

  • Consumers of all ages have adopted digital commerce and are more comfortable with digital channels.
  • There is a universal shift away from third-party data, which will leave first-party data the ruler of a cookie-less future. Brands that capture, centralize and nimbly act on this data to offer the right experience at the right time will have the advantage. 
  • Consumers are craving personalized, authentic interactions, which brands can deliver using first-party, real-time data.
  • Retailers are struggling to regain the “brick and mortar” advantage as in-person shopping continues to be perceived as risky and consumers adopt digital commerce.
  • The promise of 5G is becoming a reality, which will enable brands of all sizes to have access to real-time data in order to deliver better experiences.

What we heard at CES 2021 was a validation that brands need to insert themselves as a trusted partner of consumers throughout the Ownership Experience, in particular using Precision Commerce strategies to drive sustainable revenue. It’s critical that brands create direct relationships with their customers based on trust. When they do that, they can build loyalty and drive revenue by providing personalized ownership experiences, made possible by first-party data. The result when they do this is growth in LTV and sustainability in the new world.