IRCE 2019: What has changed, what to expect

If there’s one constant in retail, it’s change. In the 14 years Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (IRCE) has held its annual event in Chicago, for example, the industry has gone from Amazon Prime just launching to the service now boasting just about 100 million members.

While Amazon has dominated the retail conversation for some time, we wanted to see what other discussions will be top-of-mind for attendees at IRCE @RetailX. We enlisted the help of five partners to give you the rundown ahead of the show. Stop by Booth 1352 to chat all things commerce strategy.

What digital commerce trend will most influence IRCE conversations this year?

"It’s difficult to pick just one this year, so I am going to pick two trends: omnichannel excellence and the intersection of marketing and commerce technologies. I see several tracks devoted to both topics on the agenda this year. From a market demand perspective, there has been cross-industry focus on key business objectives related to consolidation and replatforming of their tech stacks while expanding omnichannel capabilities."

 ~Mike Zaruba, Business Development Director at Luminos Labs

"Personalization technologies utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning will drive conversations this year. Recent advances have made personalization accessible to all budgets allowing our customers to provide an “Amazon-like experience” at a fraction of the cost and overhead. Our customers have realized an increase in online engagement and sales as a result of delivering more individualized experiences. Personalized product recommendations are more than a trend, but a staple in digital experience and will continue to be a hot topic of discussion at this year’s conference."

 ~ Tom Ogan, Senior Digital Consultant at Adage

"We see two things as being IRCE hot topics this year.  1. Better data management and 2. AI customer service.  Customers are starting to better understand the value of good data, especially in B2B. They want to be able to quickly and more accurately manage product information and deliver it to customers in a timely manner.  We are also seeing this shift of AI coming to customer service, to personalize the customer service experience for each customer who needs help with products or returns."

 ~ Paul Matker, CEO of Thankx Media

"While it’s not a new digital trend, the future of commerce remains in personalization. Consumers expect a hyper-relevant and easy online experience, tailored to their place in the customer journey. Vanity personalization, like first name, doesn’t cut it anymore, it’s all about putting the right products, promotions, messaging, or actions in front of the right customer. For example, personalized product recommendations, like those made easy by Episerver Perform, ensure the suggested products encompass datapoints across the customer journey and display the most compelling product for every visitor. This helps a visitor discover the right items and explore deeper into product offering, making them more likely to have a happy and seamless experience and, ultimately, convert. In fact, Salesforce reported product recommendations drive an astounding 26 percent of revenue. Shoppers who click product recommendations were nearly twice as likely to return to the website and their average order value was 10 times higher. Smart personalization and a focus on ease-of-use, like a simple checkout process or a responsive web experience, is essential for earning customer loyalty and increased sales."

 ~ Joe Harris, Partner of Development at Whereoware

"Even though there are fresher and more emergent challenges, we would contend that Amazon is still a major retail disruption that brands cannot overlook anymore (and won’t be at IRCE). At the most boiled down version of it, brands need to improve their overall ecommerce operations to go up against the giant, from looking at their data cleanliness, to their shipping and pricing models, to their engagements and user experience. Unpacking that, looking at features and functions of your ecommerce store against Amazon's, where they're offering (free) same-day or 1-day shipping with 1-click checkout, they are setting the bar. You can join them, but to succeed and flourish, you need to parlay and elevate how you differentiate beyond Amazon. Otherwise, customers will default to Prime."

 ~ Carlos Manalo, Co-Founder of The Office of Experience

How/why has that changed since last year’s IRCE?

Zaruba: We can all point to the merging of Adobe and Magento as a strong case for marketing and commerce technologies consolidating, but there’s no sure bet that they’ll integrate well with each other any time soon. Keeping in mind the expansion of RetailX to include GlobalShop, RFID and IRCE in one mega-conference event, evidence points toward most attending companies already having a digital commerce presence, many of which may be on their second, third or fourth generation depending on industry. With both things in mind, businesses are searching for technology that blends marketing and commerce features while easing IT’s burden on day-to-day marketing activities.

Ogan: As consumers’ expectations for a high-quality digital experience has shifted from a luxury to an expectation, more and more companies are looking for differentiators to elevate their digital experiences. To this end, machine learning personalization continues to stand out as the latest toolset to enable these capabilities.

Matker: For years, customers wanted the latest and greatest ecommerce platforms, personalization tools, search tools, etc. What they seem to now be realizing is it doesn’t matter if they are on the next hottest software, if their data isn’t good. With bad data, they face the same issues they may have faced when seeking a new platform. Couple that with how important AI is becoming, then the shift to having better data and more personalized customer support, is paramount to success in 2019 and beyond.

Harris: I’d say the stakes are simply higher. Customers expect personalization, and the technology delivering it is smarter than ever. It’s a huge opportunity, but you must think beyond just prioritizing customer experience. Harnessing actionable data and automated tools is the key to achieving real-time personalization that resonates at every touchpoint. To do this well requires constantly refining your data strategy and unifying your technology stack, so you can try more inventive approaches, like AI-driven personalization or predictive analytics. The foundation needs to be there first, but then the sky’s the limit for exceeding customers’ expectations, offering exciting ways to better serve them, and keeping them coming back for more.

Headed to IRCE? Visit Episerver at Booth #1352.