The Top Gifting Trends for 2019 at CES, PPAI

At Wellington, we work hard to ensure we’re not just keeping pace with industry trends—we also want to help lead the way. That’s why members of our full-service gifts division spend time each year at two key industry shows — the Consumer Electronics Show and the Promotional Products Association International Expo — to see what products and trends are making waves. We recently caught up with David Frazier, Wellington’s Director of Gifts, to share more about what he saw at each show.

 

Consumer Electronics Show: Affordable AI

CES draws nearly 200,000 attendees each year to Las Vegas to see the latest and greatest in technology and tech-related products. David says artificial intelligence (AI) was among the top trends for two key reasons.

“One of the big things at CES was 5G, which is really 8K technology — it’s lightning fast and allows AI to be embedded in products,” he says. “And now that AI is more prevalent in the marketplace, it’s affordable.”

Consider one of David’s favorite items from CES: a smart suitcase. Thanks to embedded AI technology, the suitcase is equipped with a handle that recognizes the owner’s handprint. Once activated by touch, the suitcase wheels next to you, hands-free! And if someone tries to swipe it or the suitcase falls over, it sounds an alarm and also updates your phone with its location.

“The suitcase rolls itself at up to 5 miles per hour, so if you’re running to catch that last-minute flight, it comes with you,” David says. “I can’t wait to get one and walk through the airport while people watch it!”

To David’s earlier point, AI’s prevalence in the market has helped dropped the price for many AI-enhanced items. The traveling suitcase retails for $499, which makes it more attainable for more people. And for companies considering high-end gifts that leave a lasting impression, something like the traveling suitcase could be a big hit.

Health and wellness continue to dominate both conversation and consumption, so it’s probably not a surprise that AI’s having a big impact there, too. David saw products like a smart mirror, an AI-equipped mirror that scans your face, tells you how you’re aging compared to your peers, points out areas of your skin to pay attention to and also shares cosmetic and skincare tips.

“You can also program it to share positive affirmations like ‘You’re an amazing person!’” David says.

Other attention-drawing AI applications include AI-equipped drones that are controlled by hand motions, plus bike helmets that compile and deliver data including maps, speeds, heart rate and calories burned. David even spotted a smart toothbrush at CES!

 

Promotional Products Association International: Travel, home are tops

 If you work in the promotional products industry, there’s a good chance you’ve been to the PPAI Expo. The annual event showcases everything happening with promotional products, and David says he spotted several key trends.

First up? Travel, including accessories like bags, cases and portfolios. What’s more: many of the travel items are stylish yet affordable. And customization is becoming a must-have.

“The ordering processes are built around lots of variations,” David says. “You can customize colors, engraving and branding directly at the vendor level. Not too long ago, you’d have to find a third party to provide that customization. Now, many companies offer it in-house.”

Another popular category is home, including décor and accessories like pillows, throws and candles.

“Oh my gosh—candles were everywhere,” David says. “They’re available in great scents and high quality.”

Just as a demand for experiences is driving pivotal changes in the events and meeting industry, those in the gifts industry are also looking for ways to deliver not just a gift, but a gifting experience. David saw a number of vendors at PPAI that will set up on-site at an event or business to create experiential gifts.

“I saw a company out of Redwood, Calif., that takes slices of redwood trees and a carving machine on-site to create caricatures, signatures or images directly on the wood,” he says. “They also laminate and cover it, all within a 20-30 minute period.”

And if you thought AI was only big at CES, think again! Remember those digital photo frames that would connect to your digital photo library or social media profile and scroll a variety of pictures? David spotted AI-equipped artwork that you hang on the wall and, at the touch of a button, can change the art that’s displayed. You can also connect the display to WiFi, so you can share your favorite art with your network.

Consider the information and insight that David collected and consider how you might refine your own gifting strategy. You don’t necessarily need to go AI or go home, but if a technology-enhanced experience fits your attendees and your brand, this is an ideal time to explore options that will deliver a big impact without derailing your budget.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to our gifts division if you need ideas or are looking for ways to take your gifting strategy to the next level. David and our team have no shortage of ideas and creativity that will delight your recipients and help deliver on your business goals, too. Maybe David will bring his self-rolling suitcase!

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