Only Connect

An exhausting but exhilarating couple of days at RBTE, which I have to say goes from strength to strength: the expo floor was rammed and the session rooms standing-room only.

Ahead of the show I had a bet with our Head of Copy about which words or phrases would occur most on exhibitor booths;  I went for anything in the transform/transformation/digital transformation space, while the copywriter plucked for omnichannel/multichannel.  In the event, neither of us won.  This year, exhibitors were mostly about Connection, in all its forms.

Here are just some of the solution taglines and booth headlines we saw:

  • Connected Payments
  • Easy Connections
  • Champions of Connected Commerce
  • The Digital Backbone of the Connected Retailer
  • Connect Without Compromise
  • Connect Instore and Online Sales
  • Connect Associates
  • Connect Your HQ to Your Branches
  • Connected Customer Experiences
  • Connected Retail in the Cloud or on Premise

In a straightforward way there’s obviously lots to like about ‘connect’ – it’s a strong, clear and positive idea with lots of plosive verbal impact.  And in some ways it’s a no-brainer: who doesn’t want to connect?  But it got me to thinking more deeply – just what is it about ‘connect’ that makes the technology suppliers serving the retail industry see it as the magic word?

An accelerated future

All of us today are connected more than ever, with the volume, velocity and variety of connections accelerating at a dizzying speed.  The prediction is that by the end of this decade over 70% of the world’s population will have a mobile phone, and the vast majority of these will be smartphones. In this social, digital world, connecting and networking is what it’s all about.  This is nowhere better seen than at an industry event like RBTE.

It’s not just people who are connecting – it’s everythingThe Internet of Things is connecting devices, cars, cameras, shopping baskets and more.  Right now, Gartner say that no fewer than five million new things are connecting every day.

What’s the result of this hyper-connectivity?  Increased customer expectations. They expect an experience that’s smooth, personalised, and relevant; that’s connected.

There are many facets of “connectedness”: the imperative to have a single view of the customer, the expectation of personalised engagement, the spirit behind omnichannel.  But the main reason I think it’s the concept of the moment is that it’s all about being joined-up.  Breaking down silos of data and information, breaking down department boundaries, to align teams.

Which is music to our ears here at McDonald Butler Associates – we’re all about making connections.  It’s there in our DNA as business: for our twelve-year history our tagline and mission statement has been “Uniting Sales & Marketing”. Whether it’s connecting different departments, or connecting vendors and channel, or connecting retailer suppliers with strategic key accounts; our goal is the same.

“Only connect” wrote EM Forster, as the secret to an engaged, fulfilled, happy life. “Live in fragments no longer.”

The RBTE exhibitors seem to agree, and are united in their injunction: Get connected, or fall behind.

Connecting is where it’s at.