Each year, the cream of consumer technology brands, retailers and marketers flock to Berlin for IFA, one of the world’s leading trade shows for consumer electronics and home appliances. EtailDetail is no exception, and we caught up with our very own MD, Richard Coombes, to get the lowdown on the show, discover what wowed the crowds, and hear the big ideas coming out of IFA 2019.
Mike: OK, so my first question is: why did they name a German consumer technology trade show after an Irish woman?
Rich: Um… I might be showing my ignorance here, but is “Ifa” a common Irish name I have been unaware of for the first 44 years of my life?
Rich: …Once again, you demonstrate your uncanny ability to summon random trivia to suit any situation.
Mike: Thanks! Although, I would’ve just spent the entire expo wondering about stuff like this rather than actually talking to anyone.
So, for the uninitiated, how would you describe IFA? And on a scale of 1-10, how soul-crushingly / sole-destroyingly huge is it?
Rich: Oh nice, I see what you did there.
Hmm, what is IFA? Well, I could argue it’s the biggest waster of corporate cash I’ve ever seen. Or, that it is one the world’s largest consumer electronics shows, where brands you have and haven’t heard of showcase their most impressive products.
Mike: Which one do you prefer? And how long does it take to walk from one end to the other?
Rich: I wouldn’t say I find it soul-crushing, but then I have an almost pathological need to buy tech, and the consumer in me loves it. Clearly, though, the purpose for the brands is twofold:
1. To talk about commercial plans with retailers and partners
2. Create some PR and buzz around their products (often products are launched at the show)
Now the sole-destroying aspect is real. I quickly rack up 15-20k steps while I’m there. This year we discovered the delights of the shuttle buses, which cut our journey time tremendously. Surprisingly, none of them were electric or even hybrid.
There is always competition for the most engaging stand, and the title nearly always goes to LG:
Mike: Do you think there’s a marketing opportunity going amiss with the absence of corporate-branded electric scooters? Or is the likelihood of a hellish fireball of exploding batteries and burning account managers enough to put anyone off the idea?
Rich: Hmm… probably, given how often you see them everywhere in some European cities. Naturally, I would love it, although I think the danger would be more to my pride as I went cartwheeling across a road after an attempt to pull a stunt, completely disregarding my age/ability and assuming confidence alone will see me through.
Mike: Do you think there’s a real commercial benefit to having an eye-catching display at this show?
Rich: I’m not sure about the commercial benefit – but there is undoubtedly a lot of PR that comes from it. With the plethora of bloggers, vloggers and Instagrammers (is that even the term?) they certainly get a lot of exposure. Although I often find that people are just taking pictures and sharing. If you look carefully in the LG photo above, you’ll notice that it doesn’t feature the logo anywhere – which seems odd. Even just a small one would help re-enforce the brand.
Mike: On that topic, were there any clear winners at IFA? And, did anyone struggle to make the kind of impact they may have hoped for?
Rich: Hmm, well LG, Philips, Panasonic and Sony were all excellent – Panasonic had the Batmobile on display.
Mike: The actual Batmobile? …Why?
Rich: I’m sure there was a reason, but mostly I was letting my inner 8-year-old loose and thinking “awesome”.
Mike: Any missed opportunities that you spotted?
Rich: I wasn’t drawn to the underwhelming stands, although I did notice how some displays offered good participation, taking the opportunity to make a little more theatre out of the event. Bissell had a stand where they invited children up to come and make a mess of the floor (no, not like that!) and then clean it up with their cordless wet/dry vacuum.
Mike: Given that shows like this are an opportunity to catch up with colleagues and contacts, were there any rumours/big ideas/tends that caught your ear from the conversations that you had?
Rich: Well, every year, we meet more and more people who understand the importance of content and a shopper-focused approach. This hasn’t always been the case.
I have had people mention in previous years that they know content is not essential, primarily as cheap Chinese products with poor content dominated their category and the top-seller lists.
Thankfully this kind of simplistic and shallow analysis is now rarely found in a corporate environment, and I confess I struggled to remain polite about the encounter – it’s a bit like when you meet someone who thinks vaccines are a bad idea or the moon landings never happened. For years there was an undercurrent of “I know content is important, but I’m not convinced we should spend any more time and money on it.”
So, we had to spend a good portion of our time convincing people about the role of content in conversion rate optimisation. Then, if they believed the mountain of evidence, we could finally discuss how they might approach improving their PDPs – sometimes even encouraging them to engage a different company or service if it was a better fit.
Rich: This year was the first year we did not even talk about the effect of good content on conversion. It was taken for granted by all. Instead, we focussed far more on listening to what the specific challenges and specific pain points each client had.
I spoke to so many switched on, professional and forward-thinking people at this event that I came away feeling very inspired. One company we spoke with understood so much about the content creation and publishing process that we found ourselves listening far more than we were talking. They understood our proposition so easily and completely that they had already skipped past the capabilities of today and were looking at what it could do in the future, with the kind of enthusiasm I usually reserve for a new gadget purchase or a win for the England Cricket team.
They came up with a genius idea to auto-create different text versions of the same PDP for syndicating to various retailers in the same country – usually, clients are focused on getting one good version of a page into all retailers in a country. This ability to differentiate by retailer and by country has been central to our system since day one. It’s just very few people currently have the time, resource or content to make full use of it. This granular optimisation will be a more significant trend for brands in the coming years, with everyone looking at how best to adapt content by channel based on shopper profiles.
Mike: How do you recommend brands approach events like this to obtain the maximum benefit?
Rich: This kind of open-minded approach is critical to getting the most out of an event like IFA, and helping brands drive accelerated growth, rather than settling for “slow and steady”. It is such an excellent opportunity for re-visiting currently held beliefs, old processes and agreements, to shape something better.
Mike: Well, given that IFA was such a success, we should probably end by focusing on the future. Namely: when does the physical training for CES begin?
Rich: Umm…. How about 2042, when the bionic suit has been invented? Although that does conjure up an exciting juxtaposition of climbing over an assault course while a drill instructor yells out interesting facts about conversion rate optimisation.
Mike: It could be a motivational tool that is being cruelly overlooked.
Rich: “What do we want? Great content! When do we want it? As soon as we have the necessary content creation processes and staff in place to fully utilise the power of the DigiShare system!”
Mike: “This is my rifle; this is my DAM. This is for shooting; this is for the convenient storage and utilisation of all marketing assets across locales.”
…yeah, it needs work.
EtailDetail will be attending CES 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada in January! If you’re an exhibitor or attendee, and would like to hear more about Digishare or talk to us about your needs, we’d love to meet you!
Drop us a line using the contact form on our website, and we look forward to seeing you on the show floor!