"Retail Geek" Goldberg leaves MTI; pondering next moves

July 30, 2010 by Dave Haynes

I have tons of respect for Jason Goldberg, who has been active on the edges of digital signage through his work with MTI and his long-running blog, Retail Geek. Somehow or other I noticed recently that he’d left his VP Marketing gig at MTI, so I sent him a note to find out what’s up.

Q – So you’ve left MTI?

A – The rumor is true… I really enjoyed my eight years at MTI, and am certainly proud of the products we invented and the clients we helped. But at the end of the day, the MTI business model is to sell the products that they manufacturer, and that meant that all the strategy and consulting we provided for clients had to result in those clients buying more physical stuff from MTI. I was having to turn down interesting projects because they didn’t fit our business model.

So now I’m able to do a much wider range of projects directly for clients and that’s really what gets me excited. The shopper marketing industry is re-inventing the field right now and I want to be a part of it!

Q – You are taking the RetailGeek blog name and running with it for consulting. What sort of consulting work are you doing?

A – Yeah, I love the fact that Geek used to be a pejorative and now it connotes authenticity and credibility. I’m working with several clients that are asking themselves what shoppers will look like in next five years, what products and services they will value, what their path to purchase will be for those products and what the strategy needs to be to profitably deliver the right customer experience to those shoppers.

I’m also helping retailers with some shorter term projects like new customer experiences for the products that are being introduced to the market right now (eBooks, 3DTV, 4G services, new videogame technologies, etc…), and I’m getting a chance to do some training for merchandising teams on topics like world-wide trends and best practices.

Q – Are you planning to sign on full-time with anyone? Stay in Portland?

A – In the long run it remains to be seen if I have the proper disposition to be an independent contractor. I’ve worked for my last two firms for over 8 years each and both felt like family to me. So I’m going to stay flexible. If I come across another full time gig that I’m excited about then I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to seek a role for myself, but it also feels like there is plenty of interesting contract work available.

I love Portland, but I’ve been traveling over 200 days a year and have a network of good friends from coast to coast, so I’m pretty geographically flexible. If I wasn’t a dumb American with no language skills, I’d probably be focusing on working abroad.

Q – You come at in-store technology from a different perspective than much of the community. What do you think is working with digital displays in store and what needs more work?

A – We need more competing trade shows and trade organizations, obviously! LOL. Seriously, I think we are going to see a lot more digital displays deployed in retail but they aren’t going to be the expensive hardware and software solutions we see much of the industry focusing on at the moment. Brands are already sold on using video at retail, but they want to do it on $50 digital photo frames, so we need to convince them to upgrade to $100 devices with more retail ready features.

The content is going to flow from the same CMS systems that are already servicing e-commerce and physical signage in the stores (not expensive stand-alone digital signage apps). Large format screens, multi-touch, etc… are going to have a role but be limited to featured displays so not particularly high volume. Most of the cool personalized experiences are going to happen on the screen the shopper brings to the store with them (i.e the mobile phone), and so retailers are going to focus on unique integrations to that device. Bear in mind that I’m a retail guy and I fully appreciate that a lot of the DOOH business is for venues other than retail, and I have no insight about what’s going to happen in those vertical markets.

Best wishes Jason!

Very minor disclosure, in that I have done some white paper work for MTI, which does some really nice secure and interactive merchandising stuff for the consumer electronics retailer sector.

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