StepOne at NRF09

NRF 2009

NRF 2009

For the NRF show our focus was on our suite of snapRETAIL products, SNAP Store Performance and Shopping Experience Apps.  Most of the application we have shown before, but this year we added Stock Room Management and an MK500 Item Checker.  Both of which we think have great potential and were both well received by those customers we talked with.

Despite the financial collapse and the reduced traffic at NRF09, it was still one of our better shows.  Each year we get better at setting up our trade show booth and in continue to improve our entire company.  However, despite having a good show, the show was somewhat disappointing since everything we are doing is so much better than ever before.  It’s just all that more difficult due to the economy.

The StepOne Booth

For the second year, we decided to have our own booth.  In June when we made the decision, it was a no-brainer, but with the economic collapse leading up to the show, it was looking like a less good idea and we scaled back some of our plans.  Although we decided to cut back on some expenses, we did continue to improve our presence at the show and despite a generally poor attendance and floor traffic, we still had a good show.

While having our own booth is a huge amount of effort and expense for a small software company, we continue to see it as an important part of our overall marketing strategy.

This year, we had Sharp Creative design the graphics and layout of the booth.  It really makes a big difference having a real marketing company develop our booth and have some real graphics.  We had originally planned on replacing our booth this year, but ending up “re-skinning” the old one with a bunch of vinyl graphics.

In general that new graphics worked out great, but due to some scheduling challenges we weren’t able to set up the booth ahead of time to test everything out.  When Todd and I started setting it up everything was going great until we went to set up the corner pieces, the mobility boulevard street signs.  Originally the two mobility boulevard signs were to be attached on the rounded corners of the booth, but the vinyl that they were printed on were too stiff to attach to the curved partitions.  After an hour of panic and reusing some of the graphics from last year, we ended up with something that looked pretty good.  With a couple of more tweaks we should be in good shape for the rest of the year.

The Motorola Booth

Since we are one of Motorola’s top ISV’s we also had a pod in Motorola’s area, one of the busiest parts of the entire show.  This has proven to be a great source of leads for us at the show since nearly every retailer visits this area.

This year we had a great location, right in the front corner of the booth, which gave us great visibility at the show.  We definitely had better traffic in the Moto booth than our own.  They had a steady stream of customer tours through the booth and it also gave us a great opportunity to network with the other vendors and Motorola team.

In addition, Motorola had their traditional networking event at the Rainbow Room on Monday night which for us is a huge networking event since we have such a long history with Motorola (Symbol).  This year was no different.   After a slow first day of traffic on the floor, we were able to more than make up for it with this event.  It will be strange when NRF moves to Washington DC in 2011 and all the traditions will change.

Spreading the News

This year we limited the handouts to the StepOne News and a snapRETAIL handout.  This ended up working out very well, though we do need to find a more cost effective way to print our collateral.

StepOne News – NRF 2009 Edition

The StepOne News gives us the ability to highlight many of the great things that are happening at StepOne.  This year we featured the new Stock Room Management application, our MK500 Item Checker and the Mobility Boulevard concept.

snapRETAIL Handout

In contrast, the snapRETAIL is a much more traditional product handout that gives a nice overview of our snapRETAIL set of products.  It provides a standard feature summary of snapRETAIL and the features that is available.   It gives a nice summary of the products and provides a good complement to the newspaper.

Wrapping It Up

So despite one of the worst economy in recorded history and a somber NRF, it was still a good tradeshow for us at StepOne.  Now that we are back home we’ll follow up on the opportunities and see if it was truly a worthwhile event.

Microsoft Tags Brings Barcodes to the Phone

StepOne Blog (www.StepOneSystems.com/blog/)

StepOne Systems Blog

One of the big things that cell phones really need is a way to scan barcodes.  Ideally it would be nice to scan in standard barcodes such as UPCs.  But in other cases it would be nice to just enter a single piece of information in to the phone quickely such as URLs, email addresses, etc.  This is where the Microsoft Tag will provide a good solution.

For instance, here is a Microsoft Tag for the StepOne Blog.  I can just print this barcode on my business card, or marketing collateral and a mobile user can just “snap” the image with my mobile camera and it will launch Internet Explorer and display our blog.  Very cool, and great for our marketing.

The other thing that’s very cool is that I don’t even have to print the Microsoft Tag on paper.  It will work on anything with reasonable resolution that works with a mobile camera.  The one I really like is scanning the image off of the computer monitor, but it can also scan off of the TV, movie screen, side of a bus, whatever.  This is great for getting long URLs in to the phone quickly.

Microsoft Tag Reader

To try it out, download the application from http://gettag.mobi/.  If you do this from your mobile device it will identify the correct download for your phone and provide it to you.  Alternately, you can download the application on your desktop and then transfer it to the phone yourself.

It’s also nice that Microsoft has realized that not everyone is running Windows Mobile and are providing download for a large number of phones.  The current list is: Android, Blackberry, iPhone, Java 2 Micro Edition, PalmOS, Symbian S60, Symbian S60 1st Edit, Symbian S60 2nd Edit, Symbian S60 3rd Edit, Windows Mobile.  A pretty good list.

Microsoft Tag Limitations

However the only way to “snap” a Microsoft Tag is to use the Microsoft Tag Reader.  Just looking at it I can already see potential applications that might take advantage of Microsoft Tags, but since there isn’t an SDK to work with them.  However, at NRF I spoke with some of the Microsoft Reps and they said it was under consideration.

The other limitation that I see is how the tags are processed.  What happens is Tag Reader “snaps” the tag and the data is then sent to the Microsoft Tag site which then decodes the tag and provides the information required.  This means a couple of things.  First of all, you must be connected to the Internet in order to “snap” a Microsoft Tag.  So disconnected use is out.

The other part of that restriction is that I can not dynamically generate tags on the fly.  For instance, I’d like to generate a unique tag that contains the user ID, and provide a custom tag to direct them to their web account.  However, since each tag must be created at the Microsoft Tag site this isn’t practical.

However it is very cool technology and only in Beta.  I’m looking forward to see how it will be used.

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