Friday COACHWORX Business Tip: The lessons of CES

The annual Consumers Electronics Shows is wrapping up and tech writers will have weeks and months of new gadgets and technology to talk about. For car audio retailers that means new speaker and amp lines, updates to existing products, and more – a lot of information to process.

CES news is best taken with a grain of salt. The reality is that a lot of the technologies showcased at CES never really see the light of day, or take years to reach the market. Some of these innovations can also be step backwards, or not quite as good as the technology they’re supposed to be updating – we’ve all been around long enough to know that newer doesn’t always equal better. Serious audiophiles cling to their dated receivers and speakers, their vinyl and CDs, and serious photographers still use SLRs because those things are better in some ways than what came next.

Companies are under constant pressure to continually release new and better things – partly because of annual events like CES – with the result that retailers are constantly under pressure to stock the new model even when their storerooms are jammed with the previous model.

The best advice when it comes to events like CES is to be a little bit skeptical of novelty for novelty’s sake, and to advocate for your customers first – if last year’s speakers are better than this year’s updated version, then that’s what you need to tell your customers. The value you provide as a retailer is wade through all of that information out there to provide honest advice, up-to-date knowledge, and the best products available for every application price range.

That said, there were some cool things to come out of CES. Here are a few developments 12-volt retailers need to be aware of:

Fenix AR – Money seems to be no object to a lot of motorcycle riders, and if cycles are in your wheelhouse then you can expect to see a lot of interest in the Fenix AR – an expensive but incredible cool helmet with a heads-up display, 360-degree cameras to spot dangers to the side and behind, voice control, hands-free calling, navigation support, and a even a speedometer. It’s like having a dashboard around your head.

Ford Eating our Lunch – Ford seems to be directly in competition with aftermarket retailers in some ways. They recently started offering remote starters as a factory upgrade, for example, and at CES this year they announced that their dashboard would now include WAZE navigation. High-resolution audio is also available on some models. The good news is that anything Ford can do, we can still do better, and Ford is helping out the industry by educating millions of people on the advantages of the technologies that you can sell for less than a package upgrade. Make sure your customers know that as well!

The Garmin Speak Plus – This windshield-mounted gadget includes a wide angle dashcam with collision detection, compatibility with Amazon Alexa, Garmin’s line guidance technology so you’re always in the right lane to get on and off the highway, voice control for a variety of features include your music, news and sports.

Alexa in Cars – The Garmin Speak Plus isn’t the only Alexa announcement to come out of the automotive world at CES. A lot of vehicles (e.g. Toyota and Volkswagen) and various decks and devices are now offering Alexa support – something you’re going to need to get acquainted with like Apple Carplay and Android Auto from a few years ago. Spend some time figuring out how your customers can use the technology, and be sure to highlight which products offer it. Google Assistant will also be available in Android Auto this year.

Biometric car keys – One of the new technologies you’ll be seeing in showrooms soon are devices that scan fingerprints and irises to let you into your car and to start it. Once they identify you, systems can then adjust your seats and mirros, go to your selection of radio statiosn and more.

These are just a few of the wider innovations. Almost every company in the car audio and aftermarket electronics industry also announced new products and upgrades to existing lines which you’ll be hearing about soon from your vendors and distributors!

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