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CES 2022 should be a fascinating event this year, and the team at Cambridge Consultants can’t wait to see what’s new in the consumer product space. As we know, COVID-19 has upended all our earlier predictions and how we think about the world.  

My colleagues and I have spent the past year speaking with CPG and consumer product companies about their digital and physical product strategies, encouraging them to think a little differently about how to approach consumers in this new paradigm of working from home and reevaluating what’s important.  

This paradigm has forced a shift in consumers’ expectations for products and services. It begs the question: how will it then affect technology and innovation in 2022? We predict the following trends at CES 2022. 

  • Logistics – you can’t sell what you don’t have. Consider the pandemic and its impact on supply chain and delivery. While this isn’t specifically about consumer products, it’s now the tail wagging the dog. Supply chain is the hottest area of development for automation, AI, and addressing the labor shortage. Expect heavy investments in this space. Walmart is trialing drone delivery, Tortoise is developing a guided last-mile robot, and Ocado has developed technology to make two-hour grocery delivery possible. 
  • AI – has it delivered on the hype? Despite the billions of dollars going into AI development and benefits to the consumer, we’ve just scratched the surface. Products are still contextually immature, chatbots and personal digital assistants still aren’t without their frustrations. In general, the industry is facing the need to balance privacy with functionality and policy. Sally Epstein, our Head of Strategic Technology, is looking at more emotionally aware products and interfaces that should be a part of the product landscape sooner rather than later. 
  • 5G – welcome to the revolution. This technology is delivering greater data speeds, bandwidth and the opportunity for devices (IOT) to be always connected and transmitting data from anything to anywhere. As Jacob Reeb, our VP of Telecoms and Mobile in North America explains here, private 5G networks in the industrial and logistics sectors are the hottest new use cases and will be a critical technology to achieve automation processes never before possible.  

In the consumer sectors, because 5G is not yet ubiquitous, don’t expect any big use cases like AR and VR applications – but advancements where it will make a big difference include autonomous vehicles and guidance systems. Look out for Apple’s next gen iPhone, and for Samsung and other larger brands to promote 5G as a selling point and platform that enables advanced mobile technologies. 

Beyond these core technology trends, there are some key consumer-centric megatrends at play that will be shaping how brands go to market with new products and services – and we expect to see them alive and well at CES 2022.  

Central to these megatrends will be how brands stay relevant to consumers’ new and changing feelings of what’s meaningful and important to their social and emotional wellbeing. 

  • Digital meets physical – Digital transformation is proliferating with so much of what we do happening online. Smarter and more connected products can make consumers feel more empowered and confident. Expect more product companies to figure out the digital thing, and more digital companies to develop physical products. Peloton is a great example. You ride a physical bike but are connected to a digital service that provides online classes and social connection. It’s not just the new entrants, companies like Nike are giants in this space too, many people associate Nike with digital, but a recent check showed they now derive 50% of their revenue from digital. We’ll be looking for many more of these examples where a joint physical product and digital service supplies a richer user experience and ongoing revenue stream for brands. My colleague Jen Gomez, our Consumer Digital Transformation Lead, has written a brilliant eBook on this Product+ trend
  • Sustainability – Companies like Unilever, Coke, and Pepsi are now focusing huge spend on sustainable practices, water reduction and net zero goals. Beyond the hype of previous years, this trend is seeing more genuine action from consumer companies who are looking at every part of their business. We expect sustainability to permeate many of the messages we hear from consumer companies at CES 2022. Consumers from all parts of the world really care and want to hear that their favorite brands care too. 

We will be watching CES 2022 closely and can’t help but wonder if our predictions on technology trends will ring true. One thing is for certain – we are in for an explosion of new, game-changing innovations. It’s an exciting time to be a consumer brand. Drop us a line if you're interested in learning more about Cambridge Consultants and how we can help your brand realize its next consumer innovation.  

Author
Ruth Thomson
SVP, Global Consumer Business

Ruth works with consumer brands across multiple market sectors including beverages, beauty, consumer healthcare and entertainment. Her focus is creating consumer delight and engagement through the integration of innovative technology, bringing significant business transformation for her clients.