Each week, Padilla’s Insights + Strategy team stands at the intersection of people, culture and brands to bring you five stories that you can read in five minutes.

1. Apple’s AirPods Breakout Year

Apple’s AirPods were released in 2016, yet the AirPods’ best year, in terms of units sold, was 2019. Why should you care? This represents a shift in consumer purchases. For years, Apple has been struggling to maintain iPhone sales. This year, Apple launched a new version of the original AirPods and the AirPods Pro, which are noise cancelling. Additionally, AirPods offer convenience; flip the lid open, put them in your ear and then you don’t have to think about getting caught in a wire or holding your phone. The International Data Corporation found that wireless earbuds are the fastest growing category of wearable tech, like smartwatches. Apple declared that in the fourth quarter of 2019, their wearables, home and accessories division grew by 54 percent. Analysts are saying that wearable tech, like the AirPods, are the future of smartphones. The success of AirPods is an example of how consumers are willing to pay for convenience and ease, giving us a glimpse into the future of technology. [Business Insider]

2. Volkswagen Robots

Volkswagen has been working on creating a robot that can charge your electric vehicle. Why should you care? A common concern for electric vehicle owners or those considering purchasing one, is not knowing where or if charging will be available. In Volkswagen’s ideal world, robots will roam around parking garages and be able to charge cars autonomously. While Volkswagen has not created this robot yet, they released the idea to tell their story of how they envision the future of charging. Tesla, which only creates electric vehicles, has a similar image of the future, where drivers will not have to lift a finger to charge their car. To convince the mainstream consumer to try something new, companies must be acutely aware of their concerns. By demonstrating their understanding and commitment to alleviating the biggest fear surrounding electric cars, Volkswagen is painting itself as a visionary worth following. [USA Today]

3. The Continuing Trend of Internet Deception

Fake followers, fake news, and bots are words that are very commonly thrown around in conversations about social media today. Why should you care? In 2010, Pew Research asked leading technologists about what the internet-connected world will look like in 2020 to which 85% of respondents said, “social benefits of internet use will far outweigh the negatives over the next decade.” This is a far cry from today’s debate over the unexpected “infopocalypse.” Over the past decade, so much information has been released, but not all of it from real people or about actual events. In 2012, a startup revealed that only one in every five clicks on Facebook came from real people. YouTube faced a similar issue with viewers. Peddling polarizing content and disinformation only grew easier and more lucrative as the decade progressed. Consumers are more aware of internet deception, which reinforces the need for companies to be transparent. [Wired]

4. Smart Shopping Carts

Companies in Silicon Valley are trying to improve upon our grocery shopping experience by creating smart shopping carts. Why should you care? Everyone hates waiting in line at the supermarket. Amazon has already put in place a system to help with this issue: the Amazon Go stores use cameras and artificial intelligence to determine what you have removed from shelves and charge you as you walk out. With the new shopping carts, created by companies such as Caper and Veeve, cameras and sensors in the cart transmit data and use AI to create your bill. Customers pay by entering a credit card or using Apple Pay. This idea is easier and less expensive to implement in larger supermarkets than Amazon Go’s sensors around the store. These companies identified the pain point of waiting in lines and are delivering an improved customer experience. [CNN]

5. Profits over Discounts

Companies like Uber, DoorDash and GrubHub are being urged to focus on profits rather than bringing in customers by offering discounts. Why should you care? Free lunch delivery, lower priced beauty products and cheaper taxi rides are offered commonly to customers. Some of us now consistently search online for discount codes before ordering a ride or a food delivery limiting the benefit of the discount. As their venture capital partners urge them to decrease (if not stop) discounts, prices will increase as companies will be pressed to find new ways to acquire and keep customers. While it will require a more immediate and innovative response from tech companies, there is an important lesson for all brands: gaining new customers by offering discounts does not always result in a positive balance. [Wall Street Journal]

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