The VDC AutoID team was in the Big Apple on Wednesday for the 2012 edition of Customer Engagement Technology World (CETW). Despite the recent hardships caused by Hurricane Sandy last week, this year’s show went on as scheduled and drew the usual, diverse crowd of vendors and end-users that attend CETW. Although the show floor was somewhat dominated by vendors of kiosk and digital signage hardware, software and solutions, other areas of the CET spectrum—including POS/mPOS terminals, consumer-facing mobile apps and customer analytics—were also well represented. Our observations at CETW 2012 left us with a several takeaways:
- Self-service solutions are alive and well. As we discussed in a recent post, during the past 12-18 months we have observed a certain level of anti-self-service sentiment among some end-user verticals, including restaurants/dining and retail. While there are definitely examples of enterprises that are moving away from self-service solutions, including self-checkout, kiosks and some forms of interactive displays, these particular instances are not indicative of any mass migration away from these technologies. In fact, these self-service solutions continue to evolve and progress in regards to their functionality and ease-of-deployment. Companies such as NCR are developing more capable and more easily-integrated self-service technologies, such as their NetKey offering.
- Merchant/retailer interest in mobility solutions continues to build. The concept of mobility—whether in the context of m.POS, m.payment or any other enterprise application—continues to build momentum. In regards to m.POS and m.payment especially, it seems these concepts have become so trendy as of late that some end-users are evaluating investment in them simply due to the buzz surrounding them. Several mobility vendors we spoke with at the event noted they are hearing from an increasing number of merchants who want to invest in m.POS/m.payment solutions—but have not defined the objectives for their deployment of the same. While these cases may be more of an indictment of the technology strategy—or lack thereof—at the merchants in question, we also see it as a strong indicator that retailers have generally acknowledged the value mobility provides in many applications.
- Personalized communications/offers that cater to individual preferences are a good start, but there is still a long way to go. For example, to engage a customer and maintain his/her loyalty it is equally important—if not more so—to avoid suggesting things that a customer may dislike or find offensive. Similarly, context and timeliness of communications are also important dimensions to consider—as events such as birthdays, anniversaries, or (to cite a timely example) storms and other natural events may have important implications for what a consumer wants—or does not want—to hear from a merchant. Clearly, tailoring communications to this level of precision is far more complex and challenging than simply making add-on sale suggestions or deal offers based on past purchase history—but with the increasingly advanced capabilities of analytics and other data-management tools, it is not an impossible task.