A few moments before I was to kick-off the ICX Symposium Atlanta, last week, my assistant Diana approached me with two uniformed gentlemen from the hotel’s banquet staff. None of them were smiling.
“We’ve got a situation,” she said. Those were the last words I wanted to hear.
“What’s going on?” I asked, bracing for the bad news.
“They’d like to know if it’s okay to move the dinner setting for this evening inside the ballroom, rather than leaving it out in the foyer.”
I was confused. I was expecting a SITUATION – an E. coli outbreak, a waiter’s strike, a bomb threat. Something…significant.
“Uh. Okay,” I said. “But why do you want to do that?”
One of the two gentlemen spoke up. “Sir, we’ve got 200 Delta flight attendants having a party in the ballroom next door, and we’re afraid that things could get a little noisy in the foyer. We don’t want you to be disturbed.”
And just like that, a “situation” turned into one of many feel-good moments at the inaugural ICX Symposium, which took place at the Westin Atlanta Airport hotel on October 27th and 28th. An on-the-fly change in the game plan resulted in a better experience for our attendees and set the tone for a wonderful overall experience.
About the ICX Symposium
The ICX Symposium is a series of regional events designed to equip B2C brands with actionable insights that will help them create better customer experiences. Each event focuses on a single topic and delivers content in the form of interactive sessions that leave plenty of time for Q&A with speakers and fellow attendees.
In addition to the learning, the ICX Symposium series is also an incubator of relationships, which is why we structure them from 2:00 pm on day 1 until 11:45 am the following morning. This leaves time for an evening cocktail/dinner reception where attendees, speakers and sponsors can break bread together and dig in to the problems around the topic of the event.
We like to say, “Give us 22 hours, and we’ll give you a detailed roadmap for CX success.”
Day 1: Back to the future
The ICX Symposium Atlanta, titled Inflection Point: the Future Tech of Customer Experience, was meant to serve as an alert to brands of what’s coming. With the pace of technological evolution and innovation moving faster and faster, keeping up with the chaos of change will be difficult but necessary.
This point was illustrated in the keynote session of the event, titled “The future is here (it’s just unevenly distributed)”, delivered by a trio of Atlanta-based professionals who are dealing with the future tech of customer experience in their day-to-day lives – Daniel Steere, a consultant with years of experience in the retail financial sector; Jonathan Crabb, manager of order capabilities at Home Depot; Scott Wozniak, who works in manager leadership development at Chick-fil-A.
In this session, a compelling picture was painted of the power of tech innovation to disrupt once sleepy markets with a case study contrasting Kodak with Instagram, as well as a cautionary tale in the form of the rapid rise…and fall of Fab.
The session sparked an intense burst of Q&A that would still be going on if we could have let it. Attendees asked insightful questions, and the panelists were intelligent and generous with their responses.
Next, Ravi Sirigineedi, with the Internet of Things Division at Intel, delivered a talk – “Transforming Retail with Responsive Store” – that built on the keynote session by putting legs on the notion of innovation by showing attendees how a concept he called The Responsive Store will transform brick-and-mortar experience through collection, dissemination and acting upon of Fast Data.
“It used to be that the big fish swallowed the little fish,” Sirgineedi said. “Now, it’s the fast fish will swallow the slow fish.” With technology becoming more powerful, as well as more affordable, the winners in customer engagement won’t necessarily be the big, monolithic brands. Rather, it will be the ones who are able to translate data into relevant action that personalizes the customer experience and deepens emotional bonds.
Sirigineedi paused the session a few times to allow for Q&A in which he responded to detailed questions about how the Internet of Things (IoT) works in real-time, with interesting examples from real-world applications.
Day 1 of the ICX Symposium ended with our evening cocktail/dinner reception, and the thing that struck me and gave me the most pleasure was seeing pockets of intense conversation, with business cards exchanged, head nodding and smiles. In short, what was happening was connection as pockets formed, concluded then re-formed elsewhere.
To me, the real value of an event like the ICX Symposium are the relationships. The content is great, for sure. But what can’t be duplicated on the internet is face-to-face interactions, and seeing our group connecting around this topic of innovation gave me a strong indication of the event’s success.
Day 2: Application
If Day 1 of the ICX Symposium Atlanta was more conceptual, then Day 2 was focused on the practical, with three sessions geared towards things brands can do now to prepare for tomorrow.
Lyle Bunn, Strategy Architect with BUNN Co., and Richard Dirstein, Executive Vice President of Design and Innovation at Shikatani Lacroix, delivered the morning’s first session, “What’s Guiding Your Digital Media Value?”
Bunn started the session by walking attendees through an in-depth look at the thinking, strategy and tactics that must go into a successful tech deployment, and then moved to innovations on the horizon that could be big game-changers.
Dirstein followed-up with a series of case studies that demonstrated how proper strategy, mixed with flawless execution creates better customer engagement and generates greater revenue.
Feedback on the session was very positive. One attendee said that the session was “insightful and forward-looking. I’ll definitely look into some of the emerging tech applications discussed!”
Another attendee said that the session delivered “a perfect combination of examples [from the] real-world, as well as a glimpse into the innovations coming down the road.”
Our second morning session featured Jeremy Sublett, Managing Partner of Composable Systems, a developer of custom software solutions. Sublett’s session, “Data Analysis Trends and Techniques”, took attendees on a deep dive of do-it-yourself data analytics and visualization that can be done with tools that most brands already use on a daily basis.
Sublett’s session kicked off with an apt quote from Arthur Conan Doyle – “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” In every session of the ICX Symposium Atlanta, the presenters touched, in one form or another, on the significance of gathering relevant data – of avoiding blind guesses in the development of customer engagement strategies.
For most folks I talk to, it’s not so much the gathering of data that causes headaches, but the interpretation of it – especially when there’s an overwhelming mountain of it to sift through.
Sublett showed attendees how to “wrangle” data with relative ease and present it in such a way that smart conclusions can be drawn and acted upon. Attendees were surprised and grateful to see that visualization and analysis doesn’t have to be such a daunting task.
The ICX Symposium Atlanta concluded with a session given by Laura Davis-Taylor and Ed King, with MaxMedia, an Atlanta-based digital retail experience agency devoted to making shoppers fall in love with shopping, again.
Their session, “Welcome to Retail’s Emotional Economy”, was a perfect closing topic for the event because of its going back to core principals and truths about human connection. After all, what good is it if we spend millions of dollars on a CX deployment only to forget the person it was intended to impact.
The session was a delightful survey of the five senses and how various retailers get it right (and wrong) when it comes to engaging the emotions of shoppers. This is another huge opportunity for the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, which can fully engage each of the five senses and deliver a singular shopping experience that can’t be touched by e-commerce.
During the Q&A, Davis-Taylor and King had example-after-example of retail experiences that get it right. It was too bad we didn’t have time for a field trip after their talk. Many of the featured retailers were within a short drive of our hotel.
Based on the feedback we’ve received, we feel confident that we are on the right track in delivering solid content and good networking opportunities for building relationships. If you were unable to attend the ICX Symposium Atlanta, you missed a brief, but rich learning and networking experience that we look forward to duplicating in the months to come.
Our next event will be held in Phoenix on February 15th and 16th at the Phoenix Marriott Tempe at the Buttes. The event, titled The ROI of Immersive Experiences, will deliver a lineup of sessions that will leave attendees with a deep understanding of how to plan and measure their own immersive experiences with sessions from brands like P.F. Chang’s that will help attendees map out their own journey toward deeper customer engagement.ICX Symposium Intel Shikatani Lacroix