CES 2021 Loves Stay-at-Home Customer Experiences

Maybe it’s time to rebrand CES as the Consumer Experience Show. Make that definitely.

CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) has always served up a smorgasbord of electronics goodies designed to enrich our lives at home and on the go. But what we’re seeing from the 2021 CES is the emergence of connected consumer experiences powering the stay-at-home economy

Social distancing has forced millions of people to manage all aspects of their lives from their homes – work, shopping, entertainment, fitness, and more. CES 2021 reflects that reality, with a proliferation of at-home products such as smarter TV screens, bathroom products, and kitchen gadgets. What stands out for us, though, are at-home fitness products.

Stay at Home? Get Fit at Home

The rise of home fitness brands in 2020 has made it clear that that “stay at home” doesn’t have to mean staying on our sofas passively buying stuff and watching TV. Peloton doubled the number of subscriptions for its connected bikes and treadmills in 2020, to 1.3 million from 563,000. Monthly workouts per subscription nearly doubled. Lululemon saw its stock value skyrocket after doubling down on its own at-home fitness with the acquisition of fitness startup Mirror. So maybe it’s no surprise that CES reflected this boom. For example:

  • Ultrahuman, a fitness video platform, debuted ahead of CES on January 6. Ultrahuman describes itself as a fitness platform that helps people meditate, workout efficiently, and optimize their sleep with the help of athletes, neuroscientists, artists, and psychologists. Ultrahuman wants to stand apart with a “masterclass like” approach of having athletes and psychologists participate, like cross-fit champion Kara Saunders and fitness celebrity Amanda Cerny. Ultrahuman syncs with Apple Watch to deliver customers real-time insights into heart rate and calories burned effectiveness of meditation, workouts, and brain music right in the app.
  • Samsung announced Smart Trainer, designed to mesh personal training with smart Samsung TVs – a nice integration with an embedded product, the TV. Smart Trainer will rely on trainers such as workout celebrity Jillian Michaels to lead exercises (and let’s just agree right here and how that workout celebrities are going to be very busy in 2021).

On top of all that, did you notice that in December Apple rolled out Fitness+, effectively making Apple a home fitness company? Fitness+ offers studio-style workouts for the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV (and, natch, Fitness+ integrates with Apple Watch). 

It would be tempting – and wrong – to consider these developments simply as integrated products. No, they’re more than that. They’re connected experiences. And the home fitness war will be won through breakthrough experiences.

The train tracks have already been placed along the home fitness landscape. Yeah, better bikes and more intelligent software are essential to capitalize on technological improvements and respond to always-evolving customer preferences. Consider the products to be the essential building blocks. At the same time, there’s a reason why Ultrahuman played up the role of the masterclass approach: people at home don’t want to feel like they are living in isolation, and a great customer experience meets that human need. It should be noted that Peloton and Lululemon have been relying on training gurus and fitness ambassadors to build loyalty through the human connection for some time. 

Experiences can connect people in many other ways, too, such as through music. Peloton has been developing partnerships with music companies to have original music created for Peloton classes. Beyoncé just signed a multi-year deal with Peloton to create a series of themed workout classes.

Devices Understand Us, Too! 

Here’s something even more powerful that emerges from connected experiences: connected devices understand us, which means the experiences become more personal and relevant to our needs in real time. The internal tech (the guts if you will) are moving our electronics towards being able to understand us in new ways. Consider: 

  • Ten years ago, devices started to get screens. We started to see digital controls instead of analog buttons.
  • Five years ago, we started to see apps enable connected experiences. With apps, more devices had connectivity, albeit limited. Now my devices could talk to one another and become part of my own IoT ecosystem.
  • Three years ago, as brands embraced AI, smarter devices hit the market. Devices could understand how people were using them, and they could automate themselves. 
  • In 2020, we saw voice really hit an inflection point at CES. Our interactions with devices really became more personal and conversational.
  • And now, we have vision along with voice. The iPhone 12 is one example of using 3D/time of flight sensors to give vision to our electronics. And check this out: at CES 2021, we saw the unveiling of Mojo Vision Lens – an augmented reality contact lens that projects text, image and video information overlays onto your field of vision.

To be sure, experimental hardware such as Microsoft’s Kinect have existed for almost a decade. But the new wave of hardware is providing new experiences that allow our electronics to see our surroundings. conform to them, and deliver more immersive, personal experiences beyond anything we are seeing in at-home connected gyms touted at CES 2021.

 Double Down on Experiences

The market is going to get increasingly crowded. To differentiate, home fitness companies will need to double down on experiences. By CES 2022, home fitness may completely dominate the show. I cannot wait to see what happens next especially through immersive experiences such as augmented reality and virtual reality. 

To learn more about how to create a memorable experience with live commerce and many other digital experiences, contact Asher Wren.