Remember how for so long it seemed that the annual IRCE trade show was months and months away?
Yeah, well, now it’s here for all practical purposes. Despite our gauzy memories of stress-free summers, maybe it was never true that summer was a sleepy time for e-commerce. I mean, is any time a sleepy time for e-commerce?
The summer brings seasonal promotions, new merchandising strategies, holiday-season planning and a continuing stream of conferences and trade shows, including IRCE, which is among the biggest of the year.
This year organizers are expecting at least 10,000 attendees to show up June 5 through 8 for more than 130 presentations, including a day of full-day workshops, such as “Amazon & Me,” that gives retailers a chance to immerse themselves in presentations tackling some of their biggest challenges.
The problem with these big shows — days of sessions, 200-plus speakers, 600 exhibitors, nights and mornings of networking — is figuring out what you can afford to miss. It takes a little work, but it is possible to at least come up with a plan. For starters, our strategic partner BigCommerce has produced a comprehensive blog post offering recommendations on the top sessions scheduled for IRCE’s Chicago show.
The list includes BigCommerce’s own half-day Ecommerce Growth Summit, at which representatives of Rent the Runway, the Natori Company and Skullcandy will share their perspectives and advice on the rapidly evolving retail industry.
IRCE can provide answers to ecommerce challenges
And while recommendations, like the ones from BigCommerce, are extremely helpful, the only way to get the most out of one of these big shows is to partake in some introspection. Get a list of the key challenges that you face and those you plan to tackle in the next year. I’m going to guess you already have those lists handy.
Now, sift through the IRCE agenda and see which sessions line up with the issue you are, or soon will be, working on. IRCE has split the conference into tracks. The categories, such as “Managing Technology,” “Fulfillment, Operations & Customer Service” and “Marketing: New Tactics,” are helpful, but don’t let them confine you.
Depending on the size of your retail business and your role in it, you’re probably going to want to jump from track to track depending on the topic.
Go ahead and move among tracks, taking the opportunity to hear what others are saying about some of the biggest trends in ecommerce and omnichannel retail.
Have you considered all the ways that automation, including machine learning and artificial intelligence, can help you give your customers a better experience when shopping with you? Maybe somebody’s got something new. Have you gone beyond focusing on the customer experience on the front end — the marketing and merchandising — and extending that customer obsession to the back-end experience — order management, fraud prevention, picking and packing, delivery, customer support? No doubt you can find people who have.
What about globalization? Are you planning to expand your sales internationally? Should you be expanding internationally? What would it take? What are the key considerations? Chances are you can find someone who’s thought it through before you.
List the big questions you want answered
Think about what key questions you want answered when it comes to ecommerce. Write them down. Then dive in.
As helpful as formal presentations can be, the networking opportunities that big shows provide can be even more valuable. How many times have you heard a story about a chance encounter at a show or some other event, leading to a breakthrough or a deal or a new hire?
And that’s great. In fact you should leave time and create opportunities for serendipity. But if at all possible, try to script some of your networking by setting up meetings before you travel to Chicago. It’s a way to increase your chances when it comes to meeting with the people who can help move you forward.
And be generous with your time and knowledge. Help those who you can help. Not just because it’s the nice and right thing to do, but because in ecommerce, you just never know where that person you helped is going to end up or how the two of you might find ways to work together in the future.
Photo courtesy of Wittefini Photography and IRCE 2017
Contact Mike Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.