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  • CETW: A Bright Present and Promising Future

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Once again, the promise of bringing the "best and the brightest" of the Digital Self-Service Industry together, was fulfilled Nov. 10-11 at the Customer Engagement Technology World (CETW) Conference in New York. An enlightening and entertaining keynote address by Chris Borek of Target and a host of spot-on information sessions added to the environment beyond the show floor.

It has been my pleasure to have attended 11 of these conferences and view firsthand, the dramatic transition our industry has gone through.

Starting as KioskCom, our industry conclave was born as a tightly focused technology conference for kiosk software developers, kiosk designers and manufacturers. A few early adopters from the services and government sectors understood the promise of self-service solutions and signed on.

Today, we are destined to become the embodiment of Consumer Engagement across an array of customer-facing sectors that include retail, hospitality, health care, education, services and government. CETW, like our industry, has evolved to keep pace with the changing needs of our industry's clients -- the deployers of digital self-service consumer experience solutions. The promise that has taken us so long to realize has been the ability to utilize all digital technologies to satisfy our clients' needs, coupled with strong marketing and merchandising strategies.

This transformation was no small feat. In the beginning, the majority of exhibiters at the first shows were hardware and technology manufacturers trying to find new market sectors for their hardware. Time and the evolution of consumer-friendly hardware and software have allowed the digital landscape to open new channels.

Retail has embraced our industry because of the enhanced consumer experiences and true self-service capability of the consumer application interface. Various service sectors have also embraced an array of technology for reasons that include added value, customer convenience and efficiency as evidenced in the session I moderated, "Emerging Trends in Digital Self-Service: Executive Visionaries Speak Out."

Alex Doumani, vice president of Engineering Technology at Coinstar, Bart Foster, CEO and founder of SoloHealth, Mark DiFraia, director of Business Development for L-1 Identity Solutions and Tom Tullie, chairman and CEO of ecoATM, highlighted projects that fulfilled those objectives.

At this show, it was also announced that the conference for our entire industry, (CETW), was partnering with The Digital ScreenMedia Association (DSA). This alliance was the final component necessary to have our industry trade associations focus their resources on the importance of unifying the development of solutions for all sectors of retail, hospitality, health care, education, services and government. We understand the importance and interdependence of cross- channel digital solutions in delivering the right customer experience.

Now, we must concentrate on delivering what the ultimate beneficiaries of our industry, our clients' customers, demand. The pace of adoption of online and mobile behaviors by consumers have challenged our clients to respond with the speed and insight necessary to satisfy their customers. Many of our projects encompass two-way interactions and loyalty relationships that go far beyond the one-way communications or product demonstrations that characterized our earlier days.

Forrester Research tells us we are dealing with a public that now spends as much time on the Internet as watching television. This behavior is facilitated, in part, by the use of mobile phones. Adults are as likely to have a mobile phone as a computer. (Of course, usage varies across different groups of consumers.)

Our challenge is to expand upon our past successes and build forward-looking solutions that fully synchronize with the cross-channel expectations technology has enabled. We can't lag behind or let technology get out in front of customer experience but need to concentrate on creating an intuitive consumer experience through the convergence of technology and consumer marketing strategy.

We mobilize (no pun intended) for the effort by continuing to allow our industry events like CETW to advance with our customers' needs and place a premium on industry education that genuinely keeps us "the best and the brightest."

Those of you who know me know my FMA colleagues and I are a glass-half-full bunch. We are approaching our many projects and a New Year informed and optimistic. See you along the way...

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Ron Bowers and Frank Mayer & Associates are recognized for their expertise of the in-store merchandising marketplace. Their creative insight has developed leading edge point of purchase displays, digital signage, kiosks, mobile, and self-service retail customer experiences.
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