Last week, I attended one of the major conferences in the digital signage circuit, Customer Engagement Technology World (CETW). I have been to the conference over the span of 3 years and have seen its evolution into what I would deem, “the best conference that no one knows about.” I think one of the problems with any conference centered around technology (like digital signage) is that it can easily become a conference about the technology vs. what the technology can do. That’s what I’ve seen over and over with these particular conferences and unless it’s CES, I don’t think many people care all that much about the technology. Even then, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. People want to see all the cool things the technology can do, but that’s a much different proposition that setting technologies out on display.
So, this particular conference has really put a lot of time and attention into shifting the focus to the actual engagement that all these technologies can enable. And they’re finally starting to gain some traction, in terms of attracting the right speakers, exhibitors and attendees. It’s really great to see and it was equally great to be a part of. So, this week’s Friday 4-1-1 is going pay homage to the show and the insight/perspective that I gained there. Here’s what I brought back:
1. Lots of good thinking, but in reality, no one has figured this out– what I mean by this is that regardless what business you’re in – be it selling digital signage, selling ad space, creating content, or even putting together large campaigns that span across all sorts of technology – this is a complicated space, communicating to consumers. And despite your particular vertical or area of expertise, people are having to think about how to connect with consumers and what that means in ways that they have never had to before. There’s no one-stop-shop who can do all of this like ad agencies of old, and even more, there’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach that we can take when addressing this challenge of connecting with consumers. It’s just hard. There are many things to think about, not the least of which is the power that consumers have today. More than ever, consumers expect to be a part of the entire thing, they want a say in everything, from the creation to the activation and beyond. And that’s just challenging. One part of that proposition is challenging, much less all of it. So, beyond the fact that non one has this figured out, my takeaway is to put solid thinking around what it means to connect and engage with consumers in this technology-rich, two-way expected world that we live in. Think of yourself as a consumer and not as an advertiser. Think about what motivates you to engage with something when you’re living your life. And that’s only a start because that’s only you. We, as consumers, are fickle and particular and you are not exactly like me. And I want everyone to know that.
2. There’s a technology out there that can do whatever you want– whatever you want to dream up, there’s a technology out there that can do that. Gesture and touch, holograms, bendable displays. Technology is not the barrier and we’re getting to the point to where cost of technology is not the barrier, either.
3. Social should be a given, yet mobile was a key focus – I heard so many discussions that centered around mobile over the few days. There were numerous sessions built strictly around mobile. But nothing on social. That said, everyone talked about “engagement” as being an inherently social activity that it seemed to be inferred that social was just a baseline. I think for those outside the digital signage industry it is a baseline. For those within the industry, I feel like social is hardly thought about. Just from what I saw from the exhibitors alone, all playing some part in the digital signage ecosystem (hardware, software, networks, content), they aren’t focusing on social content or connections. I could be wrong, but I didn’t hear much talk about social in the customer’s journey, certainly not from the exhibitors. I would be interested to know what sort of social learning this group needs.
4. Everyone needs a life-long mentor – I love when I get a chance to go to New York because that means I get to see my very first boss in the business who is also my mentor. It is incredibly refreshing to catch up and get advice and a different perspective. He has made an indelible impact on me, in both my personal and professional life, and I’m blessed to have a mentor like that. We don’t keep in touch as much as I’d like to, but I hear his voice often, especially in situations where I need a little guidance. If you don’t have a mentor, seek one out. If you do have one, don’t ever lose them.
“Uh-huh” – I sat in one session where the makeup of the panel was so un-digital-signage. Chaired by Paul Price, the CEO of Creative Realties, the panel consisted Jeremy Lockhorn, VP of Emerging Media at Razorfish, Carrie Chitsey, CEO of 3Seventy (a mobile shop), and Michael Tobin of Macy’s. All on the forefront of creating engaging experiences with emerging technologies. It was a standing room only session. It was really great to see because what it showed me was that there was interest in hearing from this type of speaker, which is a direct reflection of the different type of audience that this show is attracting. More people from digital shops and ad agencies (not media agencies). This was huge.
“Duh” – There are still too many digital signage providers. And by providers, I mean companies who have some hand in everything that digital signage encompasses. I had the privilege of leading a couple of tours for attendees on the showroom floor. The tours were intended to expose the attendees to individual providers of services in that ecosystem (hardware, software, network, and content). Every single one of the attendees that I gave tours to said the same thing to me, “does everyone do everything?” Ha. Because that sure is what it seems like, if you listen to most of the exhibitors on the showroom floor. This is something that makes my head want to explode. The fact that there are so many different providers makes it confusing. Confusion for something like digital signage tends to cause paralysis. Paralysis causes no implementation. We don’t want that.
As always, thank you so much for reading. I hope you have a great weekend!