Today’s consumer is increasingly starting—and often ending—her shopping trips on the web, often with a detour to Facebook seeking the advice of friends or to her smartphone to check prices, deals or availability. This web-focused shopper who is transforming retail will be the focus of the eighth installment of the world’s largest e-commerce show, the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012, which takes place in Chicago June 5-8.
“We have focused the entire agenda of IRCE 2012 on the frequent web shopper, because it is obvious by now that the web shopper is the 21st century consumer,” says Jack Love, publisher of Internet Retailer magazine, sponsor of IRCE. “Our message to all retailers and other consumer product and service companies is this: If you don’t understand how the web shopper thinks and behaves you will not long survive as a retail business.”
Addressing the theme of “Connecting with the 21st century consumer” will be 175 expert speakers. They represent the wide array of companies selling online: web-only retailers, retail chains, consumer goods manufacturers and retailers that sell through catalogs as well as the Internet. The attendees themselves will be an important resource for each other, as they share experiences and ideas at meals and networking events throughout the four-day event, culminating in a dinner and party at Navy Pier along Chicago’s lakefront.
“With more than 7,500 attendees, the 2012 edition of IRCE will be the e-commerce networking event of the year,” Love says. IRCE 2011 attracted 7,312 attendees, 52% more than the show just two years earlier, making it easily the largest e-commerce event ever.
Retailers and others also come to IRCE to learn about technology from hundreds of exhibiting companies. This year, the 250,000-square-foot exhibit hall is expected to feature 570 exhibitors. “IRCE is by far the world’s largest e-commerce event, roughly double the size of all other e-commerce shows in the U.S.,” Love says, “and the 2012 event, featuring the best agenda and speaker faculty we’ve ever had and the largest exhibit hall we’ve ever had, seems certain to set another attendance record.”
The conference agenda covers a wide variety of topics, aimed at providing critical information for online retailers of all sizes and descriptions. Featured speakers include William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble, the first retail chain e-commerce director to be promoted to CEO of the company; Alexis MayBank, CEO of Gilt Groupe, a leading example of the kind of flash-sale retail web sites that have captured the imagination of many of today’s bargain-hunting web shoppers; and Chris Bolte, vice president of @WalmartLabs, the unit the world’s largest retailer created this year to better engage consumers through mobile devices and via social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Speakers come from a wide variety of companies. The largest group, 34%, are web-only retailers. But 18% come from retail chains, 17% from e-commerce vendors, 11% consulting and research firms, 8% manufacturing companies, 7% from catalog and contact center retailers, 3% from the legal and financial world and 2% from travel, ticketing and other companies.
Among the speakers in the other categories are Sam Yagan, CEO of online dating service OKCupid, and this year’s special guest speaker Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s Global Public Square with Fareed Zakaria program and editor at large at Time magazine. He will speak of the role of the Internet, a technology arena where the U.S. has led the way, in restoring U.S. influence around the world.
The first day of the event, June 5, will feature three workshops that will dive into key topics: search marketing, e-commerce technology and maximizing the profits of an e-commerce business. The final day, June 8, will be taken up with workshops on two of the hottest topics in e-retailing: how to derive sales from social networks and effective mobile commerce strategies.
The main days of the event, June 6-7, will feature general sessions with keynote and featured speakers followed by session tracks focused on specific themes and aimed at particular types of e-commerce players. On June 6, following the general session presentations by Lynch, Bolte and Zakaria there will be tracks aimed at e-commerce CEOs, retail chains and smaller retailers as well as a track focused on advanced marketing techniques.
The following day, June 7, will kick off with general session presentations by Maybank, Yagan and Lauren Freedman, president of The E-tailing Group, who will report on her latest research on online retailing. Those presentations will be followed by tracks devoted to merchandising and design, fulfillment, social commerce and technology.
In short, Love says, “This year’s agenda has something for all types of e-commerce players, no matter their size or their segment of the industry.”