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Products, Prototypes and Tech, Oh My! Innovation and the Robust Year Ahead

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Every January, the New Year typically gets off to a strong start with major conferences and meetings. Let’s look at two that will impact small businesses.


The Consumer Electronics show featured, as usual, the latest tech for home and business. PCMag wrote about the “Best in Show 2024” and called the 57-year-old show still “a hotbed of innovation.” The post highlights “21 standout products, prototypes, and technologies.” Here are a few:

PCMag calls the Dell XPS 14 “the best ultraportable laptop.” The original 13-inch model has been joined by 14- and 16-inch computers and sports an “entirely refreshed design.”

The  Lenovo ThinkBook Gen 5 Hybrid, named the “best 2-in-1 laptop,” can function as a Windows 11 laptop and an Android tablet. PCMag says, “The two can then be used in conjunction with each other, sharing files and even apps when used separately. It’s one of the most interesting takes on the dual-device concept we’ve encountered.”

The “lighter and thinner” Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro Edition was named the best phone, boasting a better camera and “tricked-out specs for gaming, including a super-fast processor, a massive 24GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and an included attachable fan accessory to dissipate heat during long gaming sessions.”

The article also features the best new household devices like vacuum robots, an all-in-one washer/dryer/vacuum robot, and more. And if you have the space, they noted the “most eye-blasting” [TV] is the 110-inch 110UX from Hisense.


Over 40,000 people attended the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual Big Show last week. WWD (Women’s Wear Daily) reports the mood was celebratory, especially with the announcement of an increase in holiday sales of 3%, and total spending for 2023 reached more than $8.3 trillion, a 3.2% increase from 2022.

The NRF’s chief economist was “guardedly optimistic.” A panel of experts concluded the U.S. economy avoided the recession many had predicted was imminent due to consumer spending, a very robust job market, and decreasing inflation. They expect the Fed to cut rates. All of which will likely lead to a positive retail showing this year.

Other discussions centered on:

  • Using the always-evolving AI for personalization, targeted marketing, and more.
  • The disconnect between customer attitudes and actions.
  • Creating new revenue channels and “doubling down on loyal customers.”

You can learn more about the individual sessions and more on the NRF site.

One note of caution for retailers: an SAP Emarsys Customer Engagement report revealed 72% of shoppers “show greater loyalty to retailers that provide free returns, and 88% of consumers “have stopped shopping with a retailer because of a paid returns policy being introduced.”

Photo courtesy: Consumer Technology Association

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