Let me take you back to early September. I’ve just spent several hours touring the Berlin Messe exhibition grounds, wowed by the innovations unveiled at IFA, rightly regarded as Europe’s biggest and buzziest tech show. But as I sit on the packed transit rattling its way back towards the airport, I can’t help but feel frustrated. Why? Because many consumer brands are missing a trick.  

What might we see at this year's IFA?

There’s a massive and largely untapped opportunity to turn the promise of technology into maximized market sales. To truly harness it, we need to think beyond consumer needs and put the spotlight on consumer behavior. For me, behavioral insight is the key ingredient in making sure new product development and pilot initiatives land with maximum impact. 

It's not as if we don’t have plenty of substantial innovation opportunities to inspire us. Tech with the potential to disrupt markets is top of the agenda. Some of the biggest hitters at IFA were bold in their ambition to push the boundaries of AI (LG), robotics (Samsung Bot Chef), IoT (BSH Home Connect) and wellness tech (Panasonic Balance of Being). More broadly, some of the innovations on show were ready for market, but others were simply demos and seeded ideas looking to create new propositions. 

Why do I put such emphasis on the way consumers behave rather that what consumers need? Here’s an example. Most days I come into work on the bus. And every day without fail, I’m surrounded by people scrolling through Instagram. If I asked them why, they’d simply reply, “what do you mean?”. For them, having a purpose for what they are doing isn’t a consideration, even though the activity engages them for the whole of the journey. 

Encouraging consumer behavior 

The same is true of Facebook. It was the timeline that hooked people from the get-go. The simple dynamic of typing in what you were up to – then seeing what others were thinking, feeling and doing – was the feature that drove adoption, evolution and proliferation of the platform. Massive global growth wasn’t fueled by necessity. The Facebook timeline didn’t fulfil a consumer need; it facilitated and encouraged consumer behavior. 

This behavior-driven engagement is just as powerful in a home context. Consumers still have practical needs; they want to clean their floor and cook their meals. What’s changing is their desire and expectation for an engaging experience linked to but not restricted by the necessity. This is where the big opportunity sits for brands to create added value offerings. Understanding the behavioral context here is key to delivering new propositions that capture the full potential of technology, set the market alight, and become powerful engines for profitable growth. 

If behavioral insight is the key ingredient of new consumer market value, here are my three key areas of opportunity:  

Micro-moments 

To think big, we must think small. Digital experiences by their nature tend to be shaped by multiple micro-moments. As humans, we’re increasingly expecting this dynamic to apply to our physical experiences. The key to future success is creating digital/physical integration that delivers valuable, engaging and memorable micro-moments.  

We don’t tend to devote ourselves single-mindedly to tasks anymore. We’re used to layered pockets of experience… checking the sports news while going upstairs or watching a promo video on Amazon while making coffee. If we look at IoT solution development for the home from this perspective, we will have great platform from which to discover the experiential value that consumers will invest in.  

Attention cockpit 

In the context of these micro-moments, it’s typical for people to divide their attention across layers of experience. Imagine me reading the news on my smartphone while skipping through music tracks and filling my sink with dishes. With so much going on, it can be a case of cognitive overload when something goes wrong – there’s just too much to deal with.  

The opportunity, then, is for product solutions with a greater awareness of context. This could involve delivering information in the appropriate context – clothes-related messaging at the wardrobe, for instance. Or it might be looking for appropriate signals at the right time – such as gesture control only when relevant. Seeing things from this “attention cockpit” viewpoint is advantageous when developing sensing solutions and AI data strategies. It helps refine the purpose behind a solution and – possibly more importantly – the UX positioning.  

Goal reaching 

Let’s start here with a real truism: it’s difficult for people to change their behavior even if they want to. Yet as part of a behavioral experience model we have a chance to use positive reinforcement to help drive a behavior nudge solution. This approach could embrace novel experiences, or even ultra-relevant service models. What do I mean by this? It could be helping someone develop more sustainable environmental behavior, shift to a healthier lifestyle, or even clean their home more regularly for a smoother-running lifestyle.  

The key to success here is integrating a solution as a frictionless experience, with tangible alignment against KPIs. This strategy of goal reaching opens the way to business model innovation and valuable, powerful differentiation. 

I firmly believe that behavioral insight is vital if we are to fulfil the promise of new technology. Without its potency to drive NPD initiatives, we’ll struggle to propel technology from demonstrator to market value. Yes, technology is exciting in itself – but it is the contextual view that finds and defines applications. There’s so much more we can achieve with improved synthesis of physical and digital worlds, and more intelligent context awareness of integrated solutions to enable ultra-relevant service models. Please don’t hesitate to drop me an email if you’d like to discuss this topic further. And now to CES… 

Author
Robin Ferraby
Business Manager - Consumer Products & Services

Helping brands create new markets and high value business.