May 31, 2012, 11:05 AM

Get ready to connect with today’s consumers

More than 9,200 e-commerce professionals will meet at IRCE 2012 next week.

Allison Enright

Editor

Lead Photo

Chicago will become the center of the e-commerce industry next week, as online retail professionals from 38 countries arrive to attend the world’s largest e-commerce event, the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012, to be held June 5-8 at the McCormick Place convention center.

The 9,200 total attendees expected represent retail chains, web-only merchants, catalogers and brand-name manufacturers, as well as travel, hospitality and financial services companies and the e-commerce vendors that provide services to them. That expected attendance would represent a 26% increase from the 7,300 e-commerce professionals that attended the event last year in San Diego, says Jack Love, publisher of Internet Retailer.

Approximately 175 presenters will speak on the topics most pressing to today’s web merchants, including the latest competitive marketing and technology trends. “This is the strongest and most compelling lineup we’ve ever had,” Love says.

The content theme for IRCE 2012 is “Connecting with the 21st Century Consumer,” and sessions will detail how retailers can serve consumers who want to shop anytime, anywhere and any way that is convenient and makes sense to them at that moment. “A new type of consumer is coming to the fore in retailing,” Love says. “It is a consumer who prefers to shop online than in stores. Once they make this move they will not go back.”

Special guest speaker Fareed Zakaria, a noted expert on global politics and economics and host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, will lend attendees his perspective on how the Internet and e-commerce influence global trade. He’ll also speak on how U.S. e-retailers are leading the charge in the development of global commerce. Approximately, 25% of total e-retail sales in Europe are generated by U.S.-based companies, and the same percentage holds true in Latin America, according to Internet Retailer’s Top 400 Europe and the forthcoming Internet Retailer Top 300 Latin America.

Attendees also will have the opportunity to visit with representatives of the 562 exhibiting vendors, up from 504 in 2011, in the 250,000-square foot exhibit hall. It is the largest collection of e-commerce vendors ever assembled under one roof, Love says.

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