Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Retail experts ponder digital media for in-store experience

Today AdAge had a conference in New York titled "Retail in Detail: Where the Digital World Meets the Physical World." Focusing on the use of digital media to bridge the gap between current-day bricks-and-mortar retailing and the Internet, provide new messaging outlets, and improve the customer experience (you know, stuff we've been talking about here for years now), they invited several retailers and marketing experts to talk about their understanding of the present state-of-the-art, as well as their vision for the future. I particularly liked Trevor Kaufman's (CEO of WPP's Schematic) take on the direction "digital media" is taking:

"We're very focused on the three categories of media: proprietary media, things they own like website customer lists; earned media, things in market where people are talking and acting as influencers, like blogs and message boards; and paid media. ... But the metrics are difficult and internal structure of client and agency haven't lent themselves to that...."

...Which pretty much sums up the opportunity and one of the primary challenges that many of us see today. On the subject of measurement, Jerry Courtney, Group Manager of Corporate Multimedia at Target, reiterated the challenge of getting some use out of the myriad of metrics available to us now. He noted that, "Technology enables you to measure so much that you need to start personalizing your ROI. It's hard to say, 'That was good, but was it better than X?'"

It kind of gets back to my point from a few weeks ago that measurement is simply a means, not the end, and unless you can quantify the value of the measurement information itself, it's almost not worth doing any kind of measuring at all.

Still, the level at which many retailers are beginning to embrace digital media is a bit parochial. I've seen more and more companies start up legitimate and budgeted digital signage pilots or projects, but few are attempting anything beyond the current humdrum "hang a screen and sling some content onto it" procedure common throughout the industry.

Granted, enough folks still seem to have a problem with that, so maybe I should bite my tongue and wait for the current generation of problems to get solved before wishing for a whole new set :)

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