Merchant Innovation

Did Brands At CES Get Millennials Right?

Despite now covering consumers roughly between the ages of 18 and 34 years of age, many brand managers still consider millennials to be some kind of amorphous and enigmatic demographic. However, that doesn’t do much to stop dozens of retailers at CES from trying their hand at putting out products that just might turn out to be the next hoverboard of 2016.

Just because they try, though, doesn’t mean they get it right, and when it goes wrong, it says more about them than their target audience. So, what do CES’ gadgets say about what retailers think about millennials?

They’re ready to get high-tech in intimate moments.

A hundred years ago, childbirth was still a dangerous prospect for mother and infant alike, but CES 2016 brought a cornucopia of apps out of the dark in an effort to make pregnancies even safer (and more convenient) than they are now. Consumer Affairs reported on a number of these prenatal applications, namely the Univfy IVF Prediction Tests for in vitro fertilization odds estimation, the Kinsa Smart Ear Thermometer with smartphone integration and The Starling app that stimulates toddler’s minds with word-tracking activities.

Tracking and having a child through the lens of a smartphone might not become the next Uber of fertility aids, but it sure does indicate that retailers think millennials are ready to bring technology into a new level of their lives. Instead of using devices for entertainment or even casual fitness activities, they think millennials might use them as assistance throughout periods in their lives that their parents wouldn’t have dreamed.

They’re hungry for truly seamless experiences with audio.

The simple ease of carrying a supercomputer around in one’s pocket at all times has changed consumers’ expectations in subtle ways, and none more so than how millennials think about the ways their devices can work with each other. According to Motoring Research, premium audio device designer Harman took this to heart for its CES lineup.

At the heart of its offerings is the Infinity Voyager Drive, a handheld, portable Bluetooth speaker that delivers top-of-the-line audio, while also packing another feature — plug-and-play capability in sufficiently outfitted cars. John Fitzgerald, senior vice president and general manager of car audio at Harmon, told Motoring Research that equipping cars with the dashboard-based docking station and speaker system isn’t prohibitively expensive, and the quality is exactly what young car buyers are looking for.

“Automakers recognize that premium audio can be an effective way to differentiate their vehicles and appeal to new customers, and they are looking for next-generation features that go beyond traditional sound reproduction,” Fitzgerald said. “We are redefining the concept of automotive audio as adaptive and tailored to each individual in ways never before possible, and for the first time, we are extending these experiences beyond the vehicle to seamlessly connect music to more elements of consumers’ daily lives.”

The rationale from retailers is pretty straightforward on this one: Why not offer the most mobile premium audio experience to the most mobile consumer generation in history?

They’re ready to make episodic purchases.

For as much change as millennials have brought to retail, it’s more apt to say they’ve innovated old spending habits more than they’ve created new ones. Case in point: Paste reported on Samsung’s new lineup of modular TV sets that, while they don’t aim to give a traditional living room-like viewing experience, could strike a chord with a new kind of consumer.

The takeaway for brands: Millennials might be more interested in continually upgrading for the best tech instead of repurchasing new models every few years because their devices are always obsolete. While it might take the inventive TV watcher to make use of a 70-inch screen broken apart in five smaller ones, Samsung’s new-age approach to the tube could signal the dawn of a repeat customer for consumer electronics — something not often seen in the luxury TV segment.


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