At CES, there were autonomous vehicles, connected medical devices, and AI-powered everything. But really, it was CONTEXT that was on display. It's cool to have flash, but it's cooler to have a clue, and that seems to be what is now being sold. Absolutely everything that was featured felt like it had a singular mission…to serve a single person; by knowing that single person better than they even know themselves. All the best tech, like all of the best marketing, puts a single person at the center of the experience.

Tech used to be focused on all of humanity. What can be brought to everyone? What can move us all forward? Now, it seems, everything is in service of one’s self. Cars require a log in so that it knows your seat settings AND your schedule. Shopping tech has made it so that you can get detailed info for the product you’re interested, and only the product you’re interested in, by simply pointing at it on the shelf. Gaming peripherals exist for all setups, levels of experience, and abilities.

Speaking of Gaming, there's a shift there too, especially in our industry. For years we've talked about gamification. We lend game mechanics to our Shopper Experiences to keep people engaged. But gamification is being replaced by actual games. Shoppers are gaming in record numbers. What’s the draw? You guessed it. Games let gamers put themselves at the center. It’s their entertainment AND their most trusted social network. So much of social media has just become another Display avenue. Mostly one way conversations between brands and people. When people do engage with each other, it’s usually just someone voicing their opinion along with many in a comment thread. That’s not social. Gaming, on the other hand, is very social. Gamers log on to play, hang out, catch up, and shop. We all need to get in the game if we expect to win the future of commerce. And just being there is only scratching the surface.

We need to be selling virtual goods and services, selling virtual goods that can be redeemed for physical goods, finding ways to trial our physical goods in a virtual world. We need to show up for shoppers in the spaces and on the terms they actually value; not just in the places and on the terms that we’ve historically said are the places we want our content and messages consumed. (see: Display)

This move toward more “self-centered” experience and more focus on the Shopper reminds me of when the iPhone hit shelves. The Marketing world quickly decided that “mobile” was a new kind of marketing. We all considered the device to be mobile and we catered experiences to the phone. That was “mobile”. But we lost sight of the fact that it was actually the person, not just the device, that was mobile. The best experiences were built for the person who was on-the-go or away from their desktop. The most powerful stuff was aiding people in their specific endeavor.

As Shopper Marketers, we have so much media and so much technology at our fingertips. But are we all using it to make Shopper Marketing or are we using it to aid THE SHOPPER? My prediction (and my hope) for 2024, is that we put people back in the center of all we do. Not Moms…THE mom that we want to enable. Not Gamers…THE gamer that we want to help. Not EVERYONE… each individual, on their own terms. Themself and themselves alone.

Let’s be self-centered.

yellow circle