Scala: ‘We’re not cheap, and we won’t change’

Scala's partner event took place in a refurbished Amsterdam church

Scala’s partner event took place in a refurbished Amsterdam church

Digital communications software developer Scala gathered its international partners in Amsterdam for its annual two-day meeting this September. The conference welcomed around 250 people between partners, employees and clients. In the mezzanine area a mini-exhibition was held, where companies such as AOpen, Avnet, Christie, IAdea, iBase, Matrox, Samsung and other Scala-certified partners were able to showcase their wares.

The event was held at a refurbished church in the old town and all present had a firm wake-up call when three gospel singers arrived on stage and made everybody stand up, clap and yell ‘Scalalujah’. After a few songs, we were all relieved to see Scala’s chief executive, Tom Nix, take to the stage.

In previous years, Scala would open the conference by looking at the state of the company; this year, the focus leaned more towards trends, investments and its plans for the future. “We want to meet the needs of different vertical markets,” says Nix, highlighting the importance of understanding the customer journey and, therefore, incorporating predictive analytics to provide a better ROI for customers.

The company has added 1,400 new customers world-wide in the past year and seen a nine per cent increase in adoption and growth. “We are capable of delivering software solutions at a level nobody can,” claims Nix. He recognises, however, that companies with a vertical focus and lower-priced products are a threat: “We are not competing against software providers. Our competitors are companies that offer complete solutions. The other competitor threat is price. We are committed to be competitive, but we won’t be low cost. We offer high value.”

Since Nix took the Scala reins two years ago, there have been a few changes, including a management shake up. “I initially wanted to come to Scala to work with its inspiring chief executive George Bucas. When he stepped down, I was not expecting to take his place, but I’m very happy with the way things panned out.

“It took me a good nine months to get used to my new position but now I’m enjoying it. I have a great team,” Nix continues. “We had a great opportunity to introduce new ideas, which came with new challenges, and we realised that we had a shortfall of skills. Luckily we have been able to bring in the skills we were lacking in order to help the company grow.”

Nix predicts that ‘small’ is the next big thing. This is not just because of ROI, which are truly changing the way brands communicate with customers and they way we shop; he also sees the introduction of electronic shelf labels (ESL) as a disruptive technology, especially if it is combined with Scala’s predictive analytics. “Retail is the key area of growth for us,” Nix confirms. “Integrating mobile devices – whether big or small, in the shape of ESL – and making sense of the data that is available from [these] interactions is the way forward.”

Stefan Menger, Scala’s vice-president for advanced analytics, explains how the company’s ‘big data’ collection can optimise retailers business decisions: “By looking to historic market data and combining [them] with live third-party data streams, businesses can create marketing messages that positively impact buying behaviour. We also use predictive methods to determine the probability of what is likely to happen next according to the businesses’ goals and objectives.”

Guillaume Proux, Scala’s senior vice-president for Asia, believes that “there has never been a digital signage market. Digital signage is part of the marketing toolbox. We need a leap of faith, to stop being just an information channel and become omni-channel, so that the right content is delivered in the right location at the right time. Digital signage 2.0 has to be connected, social, intelligent and integrated with CMS systems.”

Scala is realistic about its strengths and the areas it needs to improve upon. One of them, Nix admits, is its communication with partners and the market, which is why its annual conference is so important for the company. As a result, its aim to further the customer experience will be crucial for the coming year, as will its new pricing system, which as yet remains unannounced. Customers, meanwhile, can look forward to its new software suite Scala Enterprise, which along with Web 2.0 APIs, HTML5 support and Android player options, uses big data and predictive analytics for personalised customer engagement.

First published 25 October 2013 – Output