In less than a month, over 1,200 retailers from 600 companies will converge on Palm Springs, Calif. for the annual eTail West conference. Top executives from companies like Wal-Mart, Bonobos, PetSmart, Dick's Sporting Goods and many more will provide attendees with actionable takeaways to help their e-commerce businesses reach new heights.
The conference runs from Feb. 27 to March 2, but we wanted to give you sneak peak at this year's event. We asked eTail West's Divisional Director, Lori Hawthorne, for the inside scoop on the strategy, content and speakers that will be featured at eTail West.
Total Retail: What's the main focus of the show this year?
Lori Hawthorne: The conference is focused on many different themes, all impacting the industry in different ways. Our core themes center around how digital continues to revolutionize retail, profitable growth strategies for brick-and-mortar retailers, e-commerce players and emerging retailers, as well as innovation. All of these areas are covered in-depth through both strategic morning sessions and targeted deep-dive tracks in the afternoon. We present a holistic view of what’s happening in e-commerce and omnichannel, every acquisition channel, every retention strategy, and how companies can do both of these things profitably.
TR: What are some of the top industry trends driving this year’s eTail West agenda?
LH: The retail world has reached a tipping point, and there are a few trends that are driving the industry forward. The first trend we dig into is around omnichannel. We have streams and keynote sessions focusing on the customer-facing side of omnichannel, as well as back-end operations. As brick-and-mortar retailers are trying to compete with e-commerce behemoths, a huge challenge they face is the way that they can use omnichannel as a competitive advantage. In fact, order fulfillment processes can make or break a shopping experience for today’s consumer. By focusing on the back end, fulfillment capabilities specifically, they can deliver the type of easy and accessible experience that consumers demand.
The second trend is around mobile. Retailers are still challenged trying to turn mobile traffic into sales, and that’s why we cover mobile with dedicated workshop days, with different streams and within our keynote sessions. Mobile-first is critical for retailers to grow their businesses. Mobile strategies either assist the sale or serve as a bridge for omnichannel success. Therefore, we feature speakers such as Chieh Huang, CEO of Boxed, who will be discussing how integral mobile is to the success of the disruptive retail company. We also have the senior vice president of mobile at 1-800-Flowers.com and the CEO of the Mobile Marketing Association discussing mobile attribution best practices and multidevice measurement.
The third trend is around content. As retailers still struggle to not only engage their customers, but keep them coming back, they’ll see real wins if they can provide content that goes beyond just trying to sell a product. They can also make the shopping experience really personalized. There are many ways that retailers can create and manage their content to engage customers in the short and long term. We deep dive into content with dedicated streams and workshop days focused around personalization, engagement, retention and CRM tactics.
TR: What are some interesting technologies that will be on display at eTail West?
LH: Artificial intelligence (AI) is potentially one of the biggest innovations to shape the future of retail, and is becoming more and more prevalent with voice-enabling technologies. Machine learning is becoming more and more prevalent. We have the head of IBM Watson speaking and potentially doing demos of this transformative technology in the exhibit hall. Visa also has an exciting new product launch in the payments space that it will be discussing as part of our keynote speaking sessions. Additionally, we showcase technologies that cover every and any challenge area related to e-commerce and omnichannel. With over 140 exhibitors across over 30 different technology categories, there's something for every retailer that's looking to add to its technology stack. We also curate our exhibitors to provide solutions that are relevant and timely for retailers.
TR: What's your overall forecast for the retail industry in 2017?
LH: My forecast for 2017 is around the way that retailers can blend digital and physical channels, establish a mobile-first strategy, shape experiences that truly assist the sale, and push content that really engages consumers. All of these initiatives will have to be at the forefront of their campaigns for the remainder of the year, or they will not see the type of growth they need to survive in today’s retail climate. At eTail West, we tackle all of these areas in-depth — we recruit speakers from successful and profitable organizations that share hundreds of strategic takeaways. Our content is all about the growth and education of retailers, and it’s built on years of direct research with senior executives.
TR: What are you most excited about experiencing at this year’s eTail West?
LH: I’m excited most about four different things this year. First, a truly awesome event experience. We’re known in the industry for awesome experiences you can’t get anywhere else. We're at the beautiful five-star resort JW Marriott — we virtually take over the entire venue during the four conference days. We have a Summer Nights reception the evening of Feb. 28, where we will have four parties in one. You can pick and choose whatever type of experience you want — a Monte Carlo casino night or relaxing with BBQ and bourbon at the Rockwood Grill fire pits. We have California wine, specialty tequila and craft beer tastings that are led by sommeliers. Our receptions and tastings can’t be missed and they’re every day of the show. Our attendees will make memories that last a lifetime.
Second is our content and speaker faculty. We marry disruptive content with leading retailers, and won’t have any “talking head” type of commercials. So no matter if you’re in the industry for 15 years or 15 minutes, the content is all about growth, education and, most importantly, actionable takeaways from every single speaker.
Third, we design the show so that our retailers and exhibitors will actually meet each other. We've dedicated networking sessions that allow retailers to meet in many different ways, including our Women in eTail networking hour, our Retailer to Retailer small group discussions, one-to-one meetings between solution providers and retailers, and many more. And the venue is such that you’ll see people interacting in the hallways, at the bar — virtually everywhere. So you’ll come as an attendee, but leave as part of a community.
And finally, our Best-in-Class awards program. We have nine different awards that will be presented to retailers that are not only innovative, but that drive results with their programs in omnichannel, email marketing, search, social media, mobile and many more areas. We also have brand new award categories such as "Omnichannel Retailer of the Year" and "Emerging eTailer of the Year." We honor the award-winning retailers the evening of March 1 at a poolside reception.