June 17, 2010, 5:15 PM

IRCE's wealth of content

Any retailers who wanted to get better at what they do were in the right place at IRCE last week.

E-retailers who attended last week’s 2010 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago came away with a ton of good information about all aspects of online selling.  As conference chair, I attended sessions all day during all four days of the conference, and I was struck—and gratified—by both the high quality and the amount of the content.

Any retailers who wanted to get better at what they do were in the right place.

When my colleagues on our editorial staff and I conceived the conference agenda late last summer, our intent was to provide insight into how the economic recovery would increase the importance of online retailing and the major areas where e-retailers would need to invest today to be tomorrow’s leaders.

I’m grateful to all 175 of our speakers for helping us fulfill that mission.

From Keynote Speaker Imran Jooma, head of Sears’ e-commerce program, through every breakout track and workshop speaker, the e-commerce experts on the stage provided valuable insights into the current and future requirements for e-commerce success. Jooma’s Keynote Address provided an interesting look into Sears’ online initiatives today and tomorrow and, by implication, into how Sears and other large, committed retailers will raise the stakes for all online competitors. It laid the foundation for the rest of the conference—which was all about how to step up to meet that competition.

Other Featured Speakers—Geoff Robertson of Whitney Automotive Group, Dennis McEniry of Estee Lauder, Stephanie Tilenius of Google and Tony Ellison of Shoplet.com—demonstrated not only the range of retailers represented on the stage but also the variety of initiatives that those retailers are taking in order to be competitive. Whitney Automotive’s Robertson talked about how the Internet rescued a fading, 100-year-old catalog brand. At the other end of the spectrum, Shoplet’s Ellison detailed how the web allows a scrappy start-up to grab market share from multi-billion-dollar, well-established retail chains. Estee Lauder’s McEniry provided excellent detail into how, with the right approach, the web creates a worldwide market for a brand. And Tilenius’s comments underscored the importance of Google to e-retailing success.

All had a common message—you must be ready to move your e-commerce initiatives to the next level. In the hyper-competitive market that e-retailing has become, that means masterful implementation of the basics and a focus on the customer  experience. Craig Johnson, CEO of Musician’s Friend, nicely summed up today’s and tomorrow’s market in his remarks that opened the breakout track for CEOs and other top e-retail executives, which he chaired. “We are in a highly promotional market,” he said. “There’s been a big increase in the cadence of marketing. Price, timely delivery, etc., are all the price of admission these days. Retailers now must spend a lot of time trying to gain customers’ loyalty.”

Online is the future of retail and my hope was that IRCE would help all of our customers succeed in tomorrow’s market. Thanks to the efforts that our speakers put into their content, I’m sure many of the conference attendees went home with blueprints for that success.

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