CETW in San Fran: Not there, but if I was …

April 26, 2011 by Dave Haynes

The tail-end of one big RFP and the front-end of another one I am starting to pull together for a client means there’s no way I can take a few days off to get all the way west to San Francisco for Customer Engagement Technology World, which starts today or tomorrow, depending on what you are up to.

Lawrence Dvorchik and his boss, Joel Davis, put on a really solid, very guest-friendly event that puts a big focus and marketing emphasis on filling the floor with end-users. I know some people in this space who go back year after year and are not the herded sheep sort who would do so just because everybody else does. They weigh the cost against the ROI, and then re-up for the the next one because the business calculations work.

For me, it’s a tougher sell because there is a little bit of a circuit-like feel to the event. Same people. Same stuff. When I see the conference agenda I see a lot of the regulars speaking at this show as at earlier shows, as well as at DSE and other events. Been there. Heard that. BUT … I am not the bum (in every sense) Dvorchik wants in seats in the lecture areas.  He wants end-users. So I get what CETW is doing.

Had I the time, here’s what would catch my attention at the show:

I’d go to the 2nd day morning keynote by Garry McGuire, who runs Reach Media Group. He’s a smart cat and RMG will probably be one of those few companies standing when all the mergers and acqusition activity slows down and there are 40 Digital OOH media companies in the U.S., and not 400. He’s talking about reaching people with Digital OOH screens along the path to purchase, aka when they are off their couches, outside the home.

I’d find time to hit the mobile and social sessions that are more about how things will fit in than about how this vendor already did this or that.

Using Smart Devices to Effectively Interact with Customers has speakers from Thumbspeak, Swirl and Isobar (UK) talking about mobile integration.

Social CRM: Driving Business Value from Customer Engagement on the Social Web has Insteo and Chess Media Group talking about long-term, scalable business strategies for social streams, moving beyond the often dubious merits of slapping various streams up on screens because it’s possible.

Symon’s Steve Gurley – among the most relentless advocates for digital signage and mobile integration – is leading a session called The Holistic Customer Experience, about grabbing and holding consumer attention. He will be joined by people from SapientNitro and Obscura Digital, who do some really interesting and different customer engagement work.

There’s lot of other good sessions, but as noted, I’ve been there, heard that, or the things are sponsor-driven. Sanctioned pitches send me in the opposite direction pretty much every time.

On the vendor side, this show tilts more to gear and interactive solutions than to software and big displays, as DSE does. There are lots of self-service firms who do kiosk and interactive screen work.

What would interest me are the vendors who are making commercial-grade versions of tablet devices that could actually survive at the retail shelf-edge (consumer tabs are awesome but they aren’t built for 100-hours of abuse week after week). They tend to be more at this show than DSE because of the ePOS and Kiosk history.

I’d spend some time looking at what Insteo is doing with auto-moderated social streams (removing the human factor and cost).

These guys – http://www.intouchinteractive.com – look interesting, in terms of truly polished interactive work for self-service screens.

This iSnap photo kiosk thing looks interesting because (if I am guessing correctly at what’s not on the terse website) it’s like an instant photo booth that a brand could sponsor at a club or event. Yes, anyone with a smartphone can snap themselves, but I could see how this would have an attraction to self-infatuated younger crowds.

And there are lots of payment firms on the floor – meaning people who understand Near Field Communications and 2D bar codes and can get to the real story about what this stuff does and where it is at, versus the hype.

For those who are going, safe travels.

For those already there, don’t fall off the dinner cruise boat tonight. And if someone does, get help, and then take pictures.


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