Familiar Themes Resonate at IRCE 2013
Having had a couple of days to regroup and recover from last week's Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago, I wanted to take the opportunity this space provides me to offer my thoughts on the event. So, in no particular order, here they are:
- "Omnichannel" has officially replaced "cross-channel" and "multichannel" as the industry buzzword for marketing and/or selling to consumers in more than one channel (e.g., in-store, online, mobile, catalog). This trend, by the way, is more prevalent than ever. Retailers at the show were all talking about how they're working to seamlessly manage their operations, from order fulfillment to data storage, in today's omnichannel environment. And there were more than a few vendors in the exhibit hall who were willing to help the retailers in attendance make that goal a reality.
- Remember when the mere mention of the term "showrooming" sent shivers down the spines of brick-and-mortar retailers? It appears those days are over. In fact, retailers are coming to view mobile phone-carrying in-store shoppers as a sales opportunity, not a threat. Strategies for capitalizing on showrooming consumers, including developing in-store apps, was a source of discussion at the event.
- If you're not already selling your products and/or services internationally, you're missing an opportunity. Former Vice President Al Gore, who was a special guest speaker at IRCE, emphatically made this point. We live in a global economy, Gore noted, which has been brought about by the rapid adoption of the internet across the world. Take advantage of the global reach that the internet affords you, Gore advised.
- Maybe it's just me, but there appeared to be less big-box retail brands in attendance at this year's show compared to years past. The majority of retailers I spoke with were online-only brands that were smaller in scope.
- Social media is most effective as a customer service channel, not a sales channel. Brands should be focusing their social efforts on engaging customers and prospects rather than trying to sell to them. Show that you're listening to your customers and that you care.
- Personalization will be critical to retailers’ future marketing success. In the era of "Big Data," where brands have a seemingly endless amount of information on their customers, irrelevant messaging will no longer be tolerated. From email marketing campaigns to retargeted display ads to website product pages, retailers must leverage the data they have to create personalized shopping experiences in all channels.
- Trying to get a cab to O'Hare out of McCormick Place during rush hour ranks up there with the more frustrating experiences you'll ever have.
- The impact of mobile has only scratched the surface. I couldn't write a recap about IRCE without talking about mobile, could I? Frankly, there's not much more that needs to be said on the topic. Consumer adoption of smartphones and tablets continues to rise, and brands have been tasked with developing optimized shopping experiences for the smaller screens. What will be interesting to track is if consumers use their smartphones to make purchases or if the devices continue to be primarily a research tool for in-store shoppers.