From smart device to smart life

Brandon Ward

In electronics, it’s no longer about smart devices, it’s about a smart life. The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) has challenged electronics brands to embrace fragmentation in order to stay relevant and unlock business growth. As we observe leading electronics brands this year, we see the most successful brands addressing key questions to clarify their paths ahead: How do we remain relevant across peoples’ lives? How can we diversify and strengthen core relationships? Does our internal mind-set support evolution? 

Fostering real-world connectivity

As technology becomes further defined by software, electronics brands are becoming the physical manifestations of the digital world, which define how and where we should be interacting with it. This reality demands brands find ways to activate our physical environments to smooth the tension between, and essentially merge, our physical and digital worlds. To do this, electronics brands are partnering with major software players to create truly integrated experiences. Consider the introduction of the Xperia Touch, created by Sony in partnership with Android, a slick projector that turns any physical surface into a touch- and voice-controlled digital media hub—the kitchen counter becomes an interactive cookbook, or the wall an auto-dictated message board. Additionally, this year’s CES saw Panasonic showing off its in-development VR headset with a groundbreaking 220-degree field of view—which not only merges our physical and digital worlds, but drastically enhances it with fused lenses and four screens that enable a field of view almost double that of human nature’s 120 degrees.

Reaching across industries

Leading electronics brands are reinforcing their relevance far beyond the home. By challenging tradition and diversifying partnership strategies, top brands have flexed into adjacent and all-new industries, seamlessly meeting people wherever they may be. Partnering with Range Rover, Panasonic has reimagined the in-car experience by creating a connected dashboard with voice- and touch-controlled displays that operate maps, music, and even massages.

But growth isn’t only derived from consumer-serving partnerships. In fact, leading electronics companies are beginning to scale back their consumer businesses in order to invest more heavily in their enterprise relationships and supply-chain solutions. Sony, for example, has reported its best first-quarter profits ever, USD $1.43 billion, 32% of which is attributed to its photographic image sensor business—a market in which Sony now owns roughly 50%, up about 40% since 2015. In addition, Panasonic has reported a 17% increase in 2017 first-quarter profits, which analysts have attributed to its reinvention as a leading automotive parts supplier—reflected in its increasingly rewarding partnership with Tesla, with which it has joint plans to produce nearly six times more Model 3s in 2017 as were made in 2016.

Changing from within

 In an industry in which where the pace of change is among the highest, electronics brands must become comfortable with constantly evolving in order to maintain relevance and prevent commoditization. Business growth needs to start from within—with a brand that can attract and retain people, foster an adaptive mind-set that marries humanity and technology, and break down internal silos to ultimately deliver seamless user experiences and secure nontraditional partnerships. Electronics businesses that successfully hardwire a growth mind-set into the organization will continually adapt, diversify, and cultivate a brand that strengthens business growth in an ever-evolving, ever-more connected world.

Senior Strategist