IRCE 2011: Notes from the show

Patti RennerThe Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (aka IRCE 2011) was fantastic. Thousands of participants, hundreds of vendors, dozens of educational opportunities – it was a massive event, attracting all levels of online ecommerce participants. First, I’ll share my initial impressions below. In future posts I’ll dig into lessons learned at the sessions and on the show floor.
“If you’re not first, you’re last.”– Several experts touched on the fact that the Internet is a crowded space with advantage going to those retailers already established. As Ricky Bobby’s dad told him in Talledaga Nights, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” There is no longer a level playing field, but don’t lose heart if you’re working on a fresh launch. With the constant disruption in the Internet retail industry, those changes create “loopholes” or opportunities for those agile enough to move quickly into the newly created space. Consider mobile. A year ago people admittedly were unsure if the mobile trend would stick — today the trend continues to soar. New rules, technology, legislation, algorithms, etc. can all impact (in both good ways and bad) existing players, allowing space for new opportunities. Agility matters. But don’t be a copycat. The wannabes will soon wither. Stake out your own space, even as you may have to elbow your way through to find a spot.

“Not noble when it comes to mobile.” – It seems that retailers are still behind when it comes to email best practices regarding mobile. And while some are catching up quickly, many seem to have a ways to go. There was excellent information on the importance of reaching consumers via multiple channels. But unfortunately, some of the “solutions” offered up at might actually do more harm than good. I’ll save my vent for a future post about the importance of device detection when it comes to email design. Hint: Designing around a one-look-fits-all look for your emails may no longer cut it. (Of course, the right digital marketing platform makes optimizing email to it looks great on mobile all the easier.)

“Good may not be good enough.” – It’s tempting to temper your approach to online retail based on the false hope that if you’re a good retailer, people will find you. Unfortunately, the rules are being redefined. Mobile web, social community opinion and information available 24/7 is causing the traditional sales cycle to shorten and, in some cases, the sales funnel seems to collapse altogether. So just being “good” could actually stifle your brands’ growth. Multiple speakers touched on the importance of standing out in some way. They also emphasized the value of a multi-channel approach to bring that distinction to light. So, how can you stand out? Price, service, shipping costs, user community, reviews, advice, a special touch included with each purchase, speed, ease of use, etc. With people having more options and more access to information at their fingertips, good might be the new bad.

“Chicks rule.” – Women are the dominant force when it comes to online commerce. They surf, they shop, they buy. They also talk – women are more likely to share likes (and dislikes) on Facebook, blogs, and other online communities. Sure, you already know that… but keep it in mind. Give the ladies what they want.

Hold on… I’m just getting started. Stay tuned for more gems in the weeks ahead.

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