January 21, 2014
Kicking off the new year with the annual CES is always a lot of fun.
This year, similar to 2013, technologies for the ‘connected home’ stood out against the crowd, suggesting that we’ll start to see mobile tools to control and monitor household systems become mainstream in the near future. Samsung demonstrated how lighting, temperature, washing machines, refrigerators, vacuums, security cameras, and the TV could be controlled at the touch of an app, accessible via tablet, phone, or smart watch. Other products, like ivee from Interactive Voice, act as “Siri for the smart home,” connecting to wifi, listening to voice commands, and integrating with your thermostat, security system, and lighting panel.
Like homes, cars are also getting connected. The automotive industry played a bigger part in this year’s CES than ever before, so we can expect to see changes in in-car displays, likely moving from analog to digital dashes.
There’s been a lot of buzz about drones in the media lately, so it was fitting that various models were shown off at CES. The utility of drone technology is uncapped, and whether they be used for recreational photo and video, land mapping, crop monitoring, surveillance, disaster management, or conservation efforts, it will be interesting to see how they evolve and integrate into daily life. For more on drones, senseFly offers useful information.
As expected, wearables were a popular feature, with nearly all the major players showing off their own version of a smartband to monitor fitness and sleep, etc. But wearables aren’t all about tracking calories, exercise, and sleeping habits — they’re also being developed to monitor health, with brands like iHealth releasing products to track blood pressure and Netatmo due to release a wristband that monitors UV exposure. Mindreading headbands are also advancing in development and we’ll stay tuned to see what such technologies are used for in the future.
Of course, the list of innovative gadgets goes on and on. We’ll just have to wait and see what sticks with consumers.
Offering an amazing product is important, but the ability to get it to buyers is what determines success. For added sustainability, reaching an international market is critical..
Our shipping tips
Each year we provide a few tips for successfully navigating the world of ecommerce shipping. These are tips that we are consistently asked for, so here they are just in case you didn’t hear it from the horse’s mouth on the trade show floor:
1. Locate inventory closer to end buyers. In this case it means making sure that your products are located near your customers, whether they’re in New York or in London. Nate just wrote about this year’s GRI (General Rate Increase), and it’s no different than last year. Earlier in 2012 we also wrote about the rate increases for Royal Mail shippers, which doubled prices in some cases. What does this mean for smart companies? Learning to mitigate risk in innovative ways. If shipping rates increase because of fuel or other factors, storing inventory closer to your customer means being able to offer free shipping and fast delivery all without cutting into your margins.
2. Sell across channels. If you’re only selling to retailers, then you’re not getting all the margin you can get, especially with customers that already know your brand. And if you’re only selling on your own online store, then you’re not getting the advantage of a retail partner’s (or a marketplace like Amazon) vast distribution network. Smart brands diversify. Sell online, sell through partners, sell on Amazon. Flash sales? You use those too. What’s important here is that you hedge your bets by diversifying, and partnering with distributors internationally can even help you with tip 1 above.
3. Specialize. If you’ve got an innovative, disruptive product that’s unlike anything else that’s on the market, then that’s great. But someone needs to make products that are used every day by millions of people – like iPhone cases. In that case, you’ve got a lot of competition and need to focus on the things you do best – like running manufacturing, or design, or whatever edge you have on the other makers in your field. This means that every penny – and more importantly, every minute – spent not doing something you specialize in, is spent inefficiently. You’re not building your own e‑commerce shipping integration – you’re using something that’s been built already. You should do the same with shipping. Outsourcing the hassles of storage, inbound shipping, outbound shipping, and everything in between, means that you can focus on what you do best.