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Next Big Thing for 2012 and Beyond? Social Gadgets

January 13, 2012

We came across this recent post summarizing the major take-aways from  CES 2012 and it rings consistent with yet another social-oriented trend we expect to see gain momentum this year:  social gadgets.   Some key excerpts:

…All over CES 2012 I saw a shifting of focus from hyping technological achievements (Double battery life! Better color! More processing power!) to painting a picture of what those devices really offer, or more specifically, what they connect you with…

…Various companies, particularly Intel, were in a hurry to debunk the so-called myth of consumption. That is, the idea that consumers just want to, well, consume — that they’re mere cattle using today’s tech to seek out and passively “graze” on content — is a fallacy, they say. Today’s digital customers want to create, connect and interact as well…

…Consumers increasingly want their experience with tech to be social. A fitness gadget, for example, isn’t just about working out — it’s about setting goals, working toward them, sharing your progress with friends and doing it all in a way that makes you feel good about yourself.  This new way of thinking is much more than just adding Wi-Fi or integrating Twitter’s API into a product. It’s a paradigm shift for consumer electronics, and the companies that succeed are the ones who don’t focus on simply building the best TV, phone or gadget. It’s the ones who focus on the overall experience, on what they’re offering that will keep customers coming back, possibly bringing a few friends with them…

In many ways this last excerpt echo’s our ‘socialize your product’ message here.  In that context we were discussing web-based offerings.  However, we see big opportunities for New Market Entrepreneurs who sell tangible products to add social as well.  In the case of electronic gadgets, the opportunity can be hard wired.  Think fitness gadgets like this one (pictured above).  (Incidently, for a fun teaser on what’s coming in web-connected gadgets, click here.  Perhaps what we are seeing is the first manifestation of of another predicted trend, “Hypernet meeting Hyperweb”, or “the internet of things” via consumer electronics.)

In the case of non-electronic gadgets, socializing may not be as straight forward.  A simplistic execution could involve efforts to build social communities around the product offering.  This might be accomplished in a generic manner via a page on an existing social network like Facebook or Twitter.  However, the more ingenious will attempt their own social communities rich with an online product-related engagement where product devotees can invite their friends which brings to life the vision we discussed in step 5 here where  customers become part of your marketing and sales team.

The vast majority of humans are social beings who live and interact as members of groups or tribes.   In 2012 and beyond, the more you can build functionality into your product that makes it fun and easy for your users to connect and share within these tribes, the steeper your product adoption curve will be.  As a wrap-up, let’s turn back to the CES piece,

It’s not so much a trend as a reality: consumer electronics must go social to stay relevant. That reality was all over CES 2012 in many ways — the proliferation of wireless technology, the widespread integration with mobile devices, the creation of novel apps. Even the move toward more green technology and power efficiency is a kind of social trend, one where consumers seek to connect to their world by making it better in a small but measurable way.

But those trends are just step one. The companies that will be most successful capitalizing on them are the ones who merge all of them into an overall experience: one that’s social, open and empowering. I don’t know if Sony, Intel or Justin Timberlake will come out on top, but to find out who’s winning, just check Twitter.

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