Earlier this week I had the great opportunity to attend the eTail East conference in Baltimore, Maryland. I first have to say that it was a fantastic conference. The organizers of the event, Worldwide Business Research (WBR), did a fantastic job putting together the conference. Everyone I spoke to had a great time and the sessions were informative and well attended. It was not like some other shows out there who have an agenda that consists of a morning with 2 or 3 hour long sessions and then adjourn to go water skiing or play golf somewhere. Of course I like playing golf as much as the next guy…but if I am going to be spending money for a conference…I want content. eTail East, from a vendor perspective, provided that content. With speakers like Andrew Kordek from Groupon, David Siegel from 1-800-Flowers, and Kathy Hecht from American greetings the show brought a wealth of knowledge to the table and allowed the retailers in attendance to gain some great insight from those presenting.
As a vendor at the show I was relegated to the exhibition hall. One room for two full days. As a result of the content being so informative during the speaker sessions the hall was dead. Neighboring booths mentioned that the show was “slow” and that there were not enough people at the event. I didn’t see it. Sure…during the periods of time where the attendees were at session the exhibit hall was empty. During the breaks…our booth was a buzz of activity. The retailers we spoke with were incredibly engaged and open to listening to what Zeta Interactive had to offer at the show. We had our email platform up and running to show our competitive differentiators, we had our digital publishing product Zeta Next Page up on screen showing “What’s Next” in digital publishing. The folks coming to the booth ate it up.
It was clear from speaking with the attendees that email and social media were very top of mind. I was amazed in speaking with some of the smaller retailers at the show at the struggles they are having with their email programs. They all know that email programs are key to both acquisition and retention programs but struggle to get them started. “Where do I begin?” and “How do I start my program?” were questions I heard numerous times from retailers while on the floor. It showed me that while we all get starry-eyed when someone mentions social media that we have to remember to handle the basic blocking and tackling as well. A solid email program helps stabilize and drive programs in other channels. Email, social, search, they all work together in an integrated manner to help drive acquisition and retention. They are the tools used to drive conversion. It is important not to sacrifice one for the other.
Social Media was definitely the new kid on the block in terms of discussion had during the conference and a lot of the questions we were asked while at the booth centered around social initiatives. A lot of businesses out there are still trying to get a handle on what “social media” means to them and their brand. They all realize that they need to have more of a presence in the channel but either do not know where to start or are intimidated about the exposure the brand will receive in the channel. All questions that are good questions to ask…it was just interesting to see that so many…large or small…had the same issues.
Looking back on the experience it was clear that what made this show a good show for us as a vendor was the preparation. Our Marketing and Strategic Services team did a fantastic job preparing for the event. The Sales team put in the effort before the show started to make connections with attendees and setup meetings with key prospect targets while at the event. Nine meetings with potential accounts were setup for the two full days we were at the show before the show even began. The show was a great show because Zeta Interactive did not just show up. We showed up with a plan and showed up to work. Some may have treated the trip as a boondoggle…and believe me…the party crowd was there…but what benefit does that hold for your company? Anyone can go out for drinks.
A slow show? Maybe after the Monday night bar crawl…but from where I was standing…eTail East was a great show.