Mobile All the Talk at 'Catalog' Conference
As I sat at Logan International Airport in Boston waiting for my flight home to Philadelphia, I decided to put together a quick recap of my impressions of the recently concluded NEMOA directXchange Spring 2011 Conference. Now I've been to NEMOA conferences in years past, but this was my first time back in a couple of years. Not surprising to me, however, was the sight of familiar faces from past NEMOA conferences.
This smaller, but growing (attendance was up more than 20 percent this year vs. last year) show has a warm, welcoming feel to it. Attendees welcome each other like they're catching up with old friends — which happens to be the case in most instances.
It's that family-type environment that had more than one attendee tell me that NEMOA is their favorite of all the cross-channel retail trade shows. A mix of educational content along with a heavy dose of fun — Thursday's bowling night at Lucky Strike Lanes was a hit — is NEMOA's recipe for success. But again, that's what I expected.
What I didn't expect was the buzz I heard throughout the three-day event on some of the "newer" technologies taking the cross-channel retail world by storm. In particular, mobile seemed to be at the top of everyone's list of things to learn more about.
In a testament to the evolution of the catalog industry, this year NEMOA introduced a new name for its conference. directXchange speaks to the multiple ways merchants can engage with consumers (not unlike the reasoning behind the renaming of this very publication a couple years back from Catalog Success to Retail Online Integration). It's not just about mailing catalogs anymore — and hasn't been for a while. If I've heard it once, I've heard it a million times: Consumers decide how, when, and in what channel they want to engage with brands.
In more than a couple of conversations I had with attendees at directXchange, the following question was posed to me: What are you hearing about what other retailers are doing in mobile? My answer: Most don't know yet … but they know it's important. Such was the case at NEMOA, where catalogers were discussing the merits of sacrificing creative design and valuable page real estate for the functionality of QR codes. They didn't have the answers as of yet, but the encouraging sign was that the conversation was taking place.
Other discussions I engaged in surrounding mobile included examining the value of a mobile app to a brand vs. a mobile site (or maybe having both); how mobile ties into retailers’ other marketing channels — e.g., catalog, e-commerce, social, brick-and-mortar; what role the iPad will occupy in cross-channel marketers’ plans and budgets this year and going forward; location-based marketing tactics for brick-and-mortar retailers; and the list goes on.
I can't say I have a definitive answer to any of these questions at the moment. But what I can tell you is that mobile is definitely on Retail Online Integration's radar. In fact, I'm hosting two sessions on the topic at our upcoming virtual trade show. What is encouraging is that the direct marketing industry is taking the initiative to educate itself so that it can hit the ground running when it comes it mobile. From all the talk at NEMOA, it seems like it's an opportunity you can't afford to ignore.