Are You a Smart Lifer? 5 Takeaways on the Evolution of the Consumer from CES 2019

It is that time of year again. People worldwide are rubbing their eyes and staggering back to the office wondering how their vacation could be over so fast. Gym memberships are being signed up for (and soon to be forgotten). And in Las Vegas, over 180,000 folks are attending CES, the world’s leading consumer technology conference.

All kinds of weird and wonderful devices have been on display – from a machine that folds your clothes for you to an autonomous lawnmower. I haven’t been this excited since the launch of the internet-enabled toaster! There have also been some seriously cool things too, like flexible displays, massive TVs and even a quantum computer.

But CES is about more than just products, as it also has speakers delivering insights into the latest consumer trends.

On Monday (7 January 2019), GfK’s EVP of Consumer Life Kathy Sheehan and MRI’s SVP, Innovation & Insights Karen Ramspacher co-presented a session called Living the Smart Life: The Evolution of Today’s Consumer. Here are some key takeaways from their talk.

#1 Voice goes mainstream

Voice has gone beyond the early adopters and is mainstreaming. About a third of all Americans say they spoke to a virtual assistant in the past month, according to GfK. That number is higher for millennials, urbanites and high-income earners. Although the US is leading, the shift to voice is a global trend – Sheehan notes that India over-indexes, for example. Through its natural attributes, voice is not just limited to one place – it is all over the house and moving into the car.

#2 Simplicity is key

“One of the trends we have been tracking in our study, both in the US and globally, is the drive on the part of consumers towards simplicity,” Sheehan says. Unsurprisingly, it turns out people don’t like things that are difficult to use. In 2018, 36 per cent of people surveyed said that if technology isn’t simple to use, they lose interest in it. That’s a 16-percentage point increase on the 20 per cent in 2009. Voice fits with this trend of simplicity – what could be easier than saying your command? (as long as the damn thing understands you).

#3 Detection is an opportunity

GfK sees detection as a key opportunity going forward. For example, about 6 out of 10 Americans say that they would like products that detect and reduce allergens in the home. Globally, around 40% would like a car that protects from environmental health threats and 60% are concerned about getting sick from contaminated food or drink.

“It’s been increasing pretty dramatically over the last six or seven years,” Sheehan says. “So tapping into this idea of detection I think will be important.”

#4 Health is becoming about prevention

Another trend seen both in the US and worldwide is the rising focus on preventative healthcare measures. More than ever, people today are using wearables or some other kind of technology to improve their health. These devices are helping people to do things like exercise more, lose weight, eat better or improve sleep.

Looking ahead, Sheehan says that hyper-personalised DNA-based healthcare is the logical evolution of this, but there are privacy concerns to consider. If sending a swab of your DNA off to a corporation fills you with a nameless dread, you are not alone. While 62% of Americans surveyed said they think DNA-driven healthcare would be dandy, 65% said they would be concerned about the process. To illustrate some of these concerns, Sheehan turned to the following clip from comedian Bill Burr:





#5 Mobile payments rise

The adoption of mobile wallets is one area in which the US lags globally. Ramspacher says there are a number of reasons for this including availability and reluctance on the part of some retailers. “But we believe the adoption of mobile wallets for sure is something that we see increasing in the US, because it is already happening around the world.”

In the case of Australia, there is certainly a sense that cash and the use of ATMs is dwindling. Try paying for something in cash and look at the startled reaction you receive. People look as if they are going to call the cops when you pull out a 50 these days.

Sheehan says mobile payments could also to move to the car as around 40% of consumers say they would like to be able to do voice activated in-vehicle purchases. Long road trips could get way more expensive.

So what’s a Smart Lifer?

I know, it sounds like what you would call someone who is trying to better themselves while serving a jail term. But MRI and GfK came up with the term Smart Lifer to describe someone that is embracing all these technologies and trends.

Ramspacher says that by using data that goes back 40 years, MRI created a Smart Lifer profile.

“What we’re able to see in this dataset is all the media behaviours, all the attitudes, the leisure activities, the things they do online and offline and how we reach them,” Ramspacher says.

According to MRI, Smart Lifer’s have the following attributes:

  • They have three or more of the following: a smart TV, a fitness tracker or smartwatch, a virtual assistant, smart home devices, or a VR headset
  • With a median age of 40, they skew younger. 60% are married and 51% have children. The female to male split is almost exactly 50:50.
  • They have higher household income, are professionals and are highly educated
  • When it comes to media, they are heavy on magazines and internet, medium on radio and light on newspapers and TV, the latter of which they prefer to stream
  • Within personal attributes, they like to give tech advice. They are also intellectual, artsy, social, active, civically engaged, and like to collect things
  • For lifestyle and shopping, they are influencers. They are loyal to brands and advocate for them but at the same time they are ad skeptical. They are also experimental and will be among the first to try a new product. They love to shop and even though they do more online shopping than other demographics, still like to go to stores. They travel.

Ramspacher says that although Smart Lifer’s are just 6% of the total US population right now, they are great targets for producers and retailers of consumer electronics.

If you are a retailer trying to reach Smart Lifer’s contact Fifth Quadrant today to find out more about how we can help you improve customer experience (CX) to future proof your business and drive growth, sales and revenue.

For more info on GfK and MRI’s research click here. The full presentation is available via this link.


Ready to talk CX?

Stefan Kostarelis

Written by Stefan Kostarelis

Stefan is the Content Manager at a Sydney-based investor relations firm, and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Techly, Paste Magazine, Lost at E Minor and Tech Invest.

Topics: CX Articles & Insights

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