April 30, 2009, 12:00 AM

IRCE 2009: Annual meeting of e-commerce

The real energy of the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition comes from its attendee base, which is like that of no other e-retailing conference.

Every industry has one annual event that virtually every active competitor in the business attends. While they guard competitive secrets, attendees benefit from such a meeting by discussing common challenges and current trends in the business, new technologies that can help all competitors, and opportunities they share to advance their businesses. Such meetings are essential for the long-term growth and viability of any industry.

They are usually hosted by the industry associations to which all competitors belong. In the case of e-commerce, however, there is no such association because the key players in the business come from many industries and include a diverse group, including retailers, wholesalers, catalogers, consumer goods manufacturers, travel agencies, event ticket sellers, hoteliers, financial and other consumer service companies, governments, charities, universities and many more. No existing association encompasses e-commerce specialists from this diverse array of industries.

Still, there is one annual industry event that does-the Internet Retailer 2009 Conference & Exhibition in Boston on June 15-18. Every year I hear from dozens of IRCE attendees who tell me they’ve come back from our show with renewed enthusiasm for their business and dozens of ideas about improving their retail web sites.

Why? The primary value of IRCE 2009 is the educational content it offers with a four-track, 91-session conference agenda designed to provide attendees with the latest secrets for improving online sales in a difficult economy. But the real energy of this conference comes from its attendee base, which is like that of no other e-retailing conference.

It’s a microcosm of the global e-commerce industry. IRCE is more than just the world’s largest e-retailing event. Sure, IRCE 2008 attracted 5,178 attendees, more than all other e-retailing events combined. More important, however, is that no other e-retail conference captures the incredible diversity of the e-commerce space the way IRCE does. Everyone is there: retail chains, catalogers, web-only merchants, consumer service companies, consumer goods manufacturers, wholesalers, financial firms and e-commerce solutions providers. They come from large and small companies, and 5% of attendees last year came from 27 foreign counties.

In short, IRCE 2009 will be the one time this year when the e-commerce industry comes together to hear the 178 e-commerce experts speak, to see the largest display of e-commerce technology on the planet (350 exhibiting companies are in the Exhibit Hall this year), and, most importantly, to exchange ideas for improving their retail web businesses. There’s enormous synergy in such a meeting because, despite their diversity, attendees at IRCE 2009 will have one thing in common: they are going to Boston to improve their retail web sites. There’s enormous energy too. When so many e-retailing operators from so many backgrounds come together under one roof, the mental sparks fly as they share different web retailing experiences and learn from others in different markets. E-retailing is not a provincial business; the best way to broaden your knowledge of the business is to step outside your comfort zone and enter the e-retailing universe. That universe awaits you at IRCE 2009.

This “big tent” character of IRCE 2009 reinforces its primary mission of educating e-retailers so they can prosper even in today’s tough economic climate. You’ll find invaluable information in the sessions, and there’s an added educational benefit that comes from mingling with the very people who drive this industry forward.

jack@verticalwebmedia.com

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