The conference and exhibition has always foreshadowed e-commerce developments. This year is no different.
Thad Rueter , Senior Editor
The Internet Retailer 2014 Conference & Exhibition, marking its 10th year next week in Chicago, still has the energy of a toddler but has gained the maturity that comes with the start of its second decade.
Some 10,000 e-commerce pros are expected at the event, which starts Tuesday with workshop sessions, peaks Wednesday and Thursday with numerous tracks, exhibition hall enticers and after-hours networking events before gliding toward the weekend with more workshops on Friday. Along the way, more than 600 companies will display their wares and services and thousands of online retailers, marketers and B2B e-commerce executives will meet and collaborate with like-minded peers, all of whom can count on bringing new ideas back to their employers.
About 1,100 attendees came to the first show. Those early shows foreshadowed developments in e-commerce: At the 2007 conference, for instance, Netflix Inc. CEO Reed Hastings outlined how the Internet would upend DVD rentals and explained that Netflix and other retailers would need to evolve to prosper in an Internet-driven world. Now Netflix has hit $1 billion in streaming revenue, according to its first quarter 2014 financial report, and produces original content for subscribers.
This year’s event promises to provide similar hints of where e-commerce is headed. Consider these sessions and workshops:
• "Selling on Amazon's Third Party Marketplace: What All E-Retailers Need to Know,” which is scheduled for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Then, at 1:15 p.m., attendees can go to a session entitled "Fulfillment by Amazon: Making Sure It's Right for Your Operation." With the number of Amazon Marketplace sellers using Fulfillment by Amazon jumping 65% year over year in 2013, the information provided in those sessions can help retailers better plans their sales and marketing efforts for coming years.
• A Video workshop, also scheduled for Tuesday, features advice for retailers that want to get more visual, and information about the experiences of retailers active on YouTube and through other video venues.
• As more consumers go online, so to do more wholesalers and manufacturers, which is why the B2B commerce track on Thursday could prove useful for attendees hoping to make more money online with business-to-business e-commerce.
• Responsive web design is arguably the most important subject in mobile commerce today. Friday’s mobile workshop will feature advice about that design tactic—basically, designing web content so that it adapts to the screen the consumer is using. As well, mobile commerce, which continues to capture the hearts and dollars of more consumers, will certainly find a place throughout the conference, including in such session as Thursday’s “How Mobile is Reshaping B2B Process” and Wednesday’s keynote presentation by eBay CEO and president John Donahue entitled “Connected Commerce: The New Opportunity for Retailers in an Evolving Retail Environment.”
According to Craig Dooley, senior vice president, GLM and group show director, IR Events Group, which owns and operates IRCE, new features of this year's show include:
• IRCE’s Social Networking Hub featured in the center of the exhibit hall where attendees can tweet, Facebook, Instagram or post from other social media programs.
• The Golf Zone on the show floor, "giving attendees a chance to relax and unwind while perfecting their golf swing."
• An IRCE mobile app with floor plans, custom agendas, news and more.
• A "Global Theater" with "content with our international partners on the show floor [such as] eShows focusing on e-commerce issues in Latin America, and eTailing India discussing hot topics in the quickly growing Indian market."