Produced by the Consumer Technology Association, The Consumer Electronics Show — more commonly known as CES — bills itself as the “most influential tech event in the world.” It’s also one of the largest, rivaled only by IFA according to former CES Advisory Board member Tim Bajarin.
When it comes to trade show attendance, CES is a no-brainer for many consumer technology brands. But what about tech brands that don’t fall under the “C” in CES — or even the “E”? What does CES mean for B2B tech and SaaS?
Who exhibits at CES?
I attended CES in 2013 and 2017. Besides the event’s sheer size — it’s no hyperbole to say that CES completely takes over Las Vegas — one thing that struck me was the diversity of companies exhibiting. Yes, there were smartphone accessories and headphones, but there were also cars and medical devices. In other words, even four years ago, CES extended beyond just consumer gadgets.
The CES website promises the 2022 event will “feature companies from all corners of the tech industry.” While there isn’t a “SaaS” category for CES, a quick look at the event website shows how product categories have expanded over the years. (Additions I found most surprising? Smart cities and NFTs.) https://www.ces.tech/Show-Floor/featured-exhibitors.aspx
According to a representative from the CES media team, notable SaaS exhibitors for CES 2022 include Plume Design, RECON Labs, Pear Suite and Ooma.
What makes CES significant?
CES bills itself as the place to see the latest and greatest in technology and many view it as a consumer-focused event. But CES is, at its core, a trade show — not a festival or industry conference — where businesses can connect with industry partners, potential customers and press.
“For most people, CES is a tech show where the latest and greatest new tech is unveiled,” explains Tim in a piece for Forbes. “While that is what it is best known for, its real significance is the role it plays between vendors, distributors, and retailers and the dealmaking that is made behind the scenes. Most of these deals are done privately and have a major impact on what comes to market in the 4th quarter of any given year.”
Others familiar with the show echo Tim’s sentiment. CES is about making connections.
“CES is not about innovation. It is about networking with potential buyers,” former TechCrunch editor John Biggs shared in a 2018 article. “As a startup, you are going there to find customers or get press. If you have the hustle and the will you can easily meet hundreds of potential buyers for your technology, including some big names who usually buy massive booths to show off their ‘innovative’ systems.”
As John mentioned, buyers aren’t the only connections to be made at CES — the show typically boasts a large press presence as well. Outlets like VentureBeat, WIRED and CNET cover technology coming out of CES. TechCrunch even has a form asking companies to submit what they’ll be exhibiting during CES.
Will CES ever become the “must-attend” event for B2B SaaS like it is for consumer technology? I doubt it. Does B2B SaaS have a place at the Consumer Electronics Show? Absolutely.