Blog: Ron Bowers 

Ron Bowers (bio)
SVP, Business Development
Frank Mayer & Associates

Tuesday, 13 November 2012
Despite superstorm Sandy’s best efforts to make it a wash-out, attendees of Customer Engagement Technology World carried on with a show-must-go-on attitude appropriate for New York on November 7th and 8th. CETW is a bi-annual industry event focused on leveraging the integration of emerging media technology across multiple channels to activate customer engagement.

I was privileged to be asked by the Digital Screenmedia Association to chair a discussion titled "Social Media, Kiosks and Mobile: Omni-channel Convergence to Maximize Customer Engagement." Our panel consisted of Greg Clore, Vice President of Information Technology at restaurant and entertainment company Dave and Buster’s, Inc.; Cory Keen, Retail Programs, Kiosk & Mobility Technology Manager, at retailer Cabela’s Inc.; and Ray Rotolo, Chief Operating Officer at out-of-home advertising company Posterscope.

The overriding theme of our discussion was that businesses skillfully embracing mobile, kiosks, and social media are the ones focused not on stand-alone engagement but cohesive customer experience. To the extent that we can deliver as a point of purchase industry not only to brand and retailer objectives but to the positive experience of the consumer we can be partners in building loyalty.

The omni-channel strategy tracks customers across all channels. All shopping channels work from the same retailer database of products, pricing, promotions, and engagements. As Wikipedia says best, “Instead of perceiving a variety of touch-points as part of the same brand, omni-channel retailers let consumers experience the brand, not a channel within a brand. Merchandise and promotions are not channel specific, but rather consistent across all retail channels.”

Greg Clore’s presentation illustrated how Dave and Buster’s uses guest-facing technologies that not only communicate their product and services but deliver on the excitement of the Dave and Buster’s brand. Their multiple channels include a website, kiosks, digital signage, self-service POS, an online digital guide, and numerous ways to engage via mobile and social media.

The central theme that Greg has integrated into Dave & Buster’s guest experience is the use of technology-enhanced engagement - not just multi-channel touch points.  D&B has focused on the omni-channel engagement of the guest’s personal experience integrated through D&B’s Loyalty Program, Power Cards, and Experience Redemptions in the restaurant and entertainment venue. The experience is enabled by the customer when they want it, where they want it, and the way they want it! Launching this week will be the New Mobile Wallet: Register Powercards, Register Credit Cards, D&B Location Services, and Guest-selected Promotions.

Cory Keen addressed Cabela’s strategy of becoming “channel-less.” Cabela’s brand experience has one face - because customers expect one look and feel - but access across multiple channels. The retailer has empowered customers to do channel-less shopping with mobile apps that include bar code scanning and enable pricing transparency, online ordering through in-store kiosks and an order online/pick-up in store service.

Cabela’s is a leader in instituting corporate commitment to the omni-channel message of consistency across all channels and finding ways to remove the “silos mentality” through inter- department communication and collaboration! This orientation begins at the core engagement point; the in-store outfitters are empowered to match prices and create an omni-channel consistency to meet the demands of the Cabela’s customer. Their strategy encompasses empowered outfitters, price transparency between channels, and corporate training for omni-channel development.

Keen acknowledged that customer expectations are “growing extremely fast.” It is essential to keep taking a pulse through their Voice of the Customer survey. Cabela’s has implemented mobility feedback and studies for multiple mobile platforms that will allow their loyal customers a readily available forum.

Ray Rotolo of Posterscope noted that people are connected to their devices, but they are also members of “dynamic connected cultures” through their social interactions. Thus, the drivers of the out-of-home business are both supply side innovation through mobile and digital technologies and demand side adoption by consumers.

This industry dynamic is creating new demands and opportunities for brands and media owners in four key dimensions:
  • Content - Understanding what people want and how they want it.
  • Space - Understanding how best to create experiences that capitalize on the increasing “location neutral fluidity” of people’s lives.
  • Community – Understanding how to leverage social media to help people connect and share.
  • Commerce – Understanding how to move consumers closer to purchase especially using search.
Consumers are forming relationships with those retailers who not only understand the technology but are using it to meet their rapidly evolving consumer expectations in a consistent and satisfying way.  There is room for a finite number of close relationships with brands and retailers in our fluid lives and those who embrace convergence have a better chance of being on the winning end. Kudos to CETW and DSA for facilitating this movement!
Posted by: Ron Bowers AT 04:11 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 31 May 2011
It has been my pleasure over the past 28 years to be an active participant in the interactive marketplace for retail, education, services and the government sectors. Prior to the CETW show, in San Francisco last month, I was honored at the Board of Directors meeting for the (DSA) Digital Screenmedia Association to be among a group of industry leaders and friends elected to the posts of ambassadors for our industries. Brian Ardinger of Nanonation was named DSA President; Jared Miller, managing director of self-service & emerging technology for United Airlines was named executive vice president of mobile; Lou Giacalone, the founder CoolSign, Haivision, was named executive vice president of digital signage, and I'm honored to represent the kiosk industry as executive vice president.

The Digital Screenmedia Association is the trade association and educational advocate for the digital merchandising industry, kiosks, digital signage and mobile. Our partnership is timely and valuable because of the significant changes our economy, industry and major channels of consumer interaction, have gone through over the past three years. All four officers of our industry trade association agree that there has been a major paradigm shift in the marketplace.

The top-down brand model is dead! Brands that will survive and be successful in the new marketplace are focused on bottom-up customer engagement. The new customer wants to engage, not just buy. This new model forces brands to move from managing perceptions and controlling the message, to inventing new ways to get customers to engage with their brands.

Welcome to the digital interactive experience at retail. Consumers through ever-changing improvements in technology can evaluate the value of products and services like never before through kiosks, digital media signage and mobile. These changes have created a brave new world where mass collaboration and open innovation have turned old marketing and retail models upside down. The precondition for the new customer, more than ever in the past, is trust in brand integrity. The brand must provide value and exhibit integrity and transparency as part of its corporate DNA! The brand has evolved from being an image to becoming a relationship.

We've had a whole generation growing up digital and now we have a new formula for radical change in marketing and merchandising. Given this generation's propensity to ignore advertisements in traditional media, their growing ability to scrutinize companies, and their surging power in the marketplace, they are driving the change to customer engagement, brand collaboration, and in some cases shared brand ownership! They interact through multi-directional, one-to-one, and highly tailored digital communications media. They choose the medium and the message.

What is the resulting impact of this shift in consumer power? Better value for the customer and higher customer loyalty through the participation and engagement of the customer.
What is the resolute brand effect? In "Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies," Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff make the math pretty simple: engaged brands are growing their value by 18 percent; those that don't engage are declining by 6 percent. From a brand marketing strategy the future is obvious, engage or parish by a slow and costly death tied to old legacy attitudes of brand development. It's time to understand and embrace that the customer of today and of tomorrow is trending to engagement, not just buying!

We as an industry have a great opportunity to participate in the expansion of this consumer trend toward retail engagement, but with that comes a substantial responsibility for establishing industry standards and best practices that will benefit the consumer, brand marketer and the retailer equally for the benefit of all and the good of the marketplace. Our new economy is expanding at a slower pace than in the past and with that comes more questions and second-guessing, but there is no second guessing the consumer's attitude going forward.

Consumers are embracing the marketplace that will afford them the opportunity to influence and participate in how they will be marketed to. Consumers still want to shop; this has not changed. However, consumers understand the significance of their ability to have, through new technology, more choices, more convenience, and more say in how they are marketed to, where that is, and when that is. The brand has the ability more than at any time in history to create success and growth in the marketplace as long as the brand maximizes its true destiny, consumer engagement through customer experience!
Posted by: Ron Bowers AT 07:30 am   |  Permalink   |  
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