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Mobile Phone as Key to Digital Retail

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The Digital Retailing Expo changed its name this year to the Digital Signage Expo, to take advantage of the growing concern for anything digital signage in retail, transportation, education, and corporate environments. But in Chicago this week, the city that arguably gave rise to the modern retail industry, the Digital Signage Expo kicked off under its new moniker with perhaps more buzz about things retail than any other vertical market.
The DSE, only in its fourth year, has grown significantly year-over-year. The show opened Wednesday with over 100 exhibitors displaying digital signage networking, display, and content management tools. But like many shows, the DSE started with emphasis on its strong conference component, and that strength continued this week, with the hot topics in retail especially garnering the most attention in the full conference rooms.
On Wednesday, one of the most compelling panels was "Going Mobile". Moderator/Presenter Stephen Randall, CEO of LocaModa, led a discussion with Matt Lindley, SVP and executive creative director at Arnold One (an ad agency); Brian Ardinger, SVP and marketing officer at Nanonation; and Mike Brown of Artisan Live to explore how mobile phone technologies are enabling "the next wave" in digital signage interactivity and place-based communications at retail particularly.
Randall (whose white paper on the topic was recently featured in the pages of Marketing At Retail) started the panel with a firm admonition that mobile as a robust, at-retail advertising vehicle on par with the other three screens, is not here yet. He cited the double-opt in limitations to mobile–under the "Can-spam" act: any mobile phone user must opt-in, and re-confirm the opt-in, before they can be targeted with mobile coupons, SMS messages etc. And Randall emphasized that with mobile, "seven guys control it." In other words, the major mobile carriers (Cingular, Sprint, etc) have what Randall called "monopolistic DNA" that is limiting the market from developing freely.
But Randall, after throwing out a variety of caveats, did acknowledge "the mobile phone is a link to digital signage". He cited several case studies where the mobile phone was used as a "remote control" for interactive signage systems in retail. And he observed that the key to the success of mobile as a catalyst for digital signage would be a tie to the web–interactive signage systems, linked to mobile phone users, that extend the interactive features of the web to at-retail.
Agency veteran Matt Lindley, SVP and executive creative director at Arnold One, shared his many experiences where his clients are requesting a mobile component to ad campaigns. Lindley also drew parallels to the web, saying that mobile campaigns can mimic web campaigns, but acknowledged that the money is not coming as rapidly into this channel as many agencies (with fond memories of the dotcom train) expected.
All the panelists agreed that the adoption of mobile phone as a key component to interactive digital signage was inevitable, that it was happening now, and that the initial successes are more "on-demand" than push as all the players including consumers tip-toe around privacy and legal issues surrounding the most personal of electronic devices on which marketers have now set their sites.

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