Madden returns to grow RetailVision

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When Liz Madden took the helm of RetailVision Events in July, the owners who acquired the technology retail event earlier this year billed her hiring as a homecoming.

But Madden did not join Everything Channel to bask in the comfort of a familiar environment. The managing director of RetailVision came onboard because changing market dynamics and a content-rich owner promised to transform the face-to-face event she helped launch 17 years ago.

"We're creating a new way of doing business," said Madden, who helped pioneer the now popular hosted-event model in 1986. "We're going to be the industry advocate for the retail channel and have a year-round community where we're doing business globally, online and offline. We're not just going to be an event anymore."

That does not mean she is leaving her event model behind. Last month, more than 80 vendors and 150 retailers from the information technology and consumer electronics retail community attended the fall show, signing on for the private boardroom appointments that made the show popular in 1991.

But some things will be changing. The market has diversified to include not only computers and peripherals but digital cameras, MP3 players and other devices. As the number of products has increased, retailers have transitioned from generalists to category- and product-specific buyers, Madden said.

"That's the most dramatic change since we started the event," she said. "We're looking at product categories as opposed to broad strokes. Part of my initiative is to expand RetailVision in the same direction that the retail channel is [moving]."

That means a focus on categories like home entertainment, digital media and automotive technology, she said. It also means a new platform called Fresh dedicated to delivering emerging technology to vendors looking for an edge. "The retail channel is extremely competitive," Madden said.

It is also hungry for content. Everything Channel will be bringing its editorial heft to the show, Madden said, orchestrating elements such as a daily event publication, a product-testing center, an awards program and analysis. It has begun the process of transforming the RetailVision Web site from a marketing and registration tool to a dynamic portal featuring news articles, columns, blogs, a social network and virtual trade shows. The content would help keep the event alive year-round, Madden said.

"These are all designed to supplement the face-to-face community at the event," she said.

Madden expects that face-to-face community to expand as she focuses on growing participation at RetailVision's North American, Latin American and European shows. She will also oversee the launch of RetailVision Middle East, slated for this November in Dubai.

While Everything Channel offers the content and research resources the show needs to grow, she said, its parent, United Business Media, brings experience in global markets. The combination of forces made it an ideal time for her to give up the consulting work she had been doing since she left the show, she said.

"I just saw the timing of everything coming together," Madden added.

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