The ICBA Team recently attended the Internet Retailer Conference & Expo (IRCE) and the GlobalShop Conference which, for the first time, were presented together as part of a larger Conference called Retail X. Together, the events attracted 600+ exhibitors (including ICBA Partners NetSuite, Bronto, and SmartTraffik) and 20,000+ attendees (with 130 education sessions complementing the trade show). We attended in order to check out the latest in the world of retail technology and ecommerce tools. Our goal: to find out what can work for ICBA Member stores to help you compete more effectively and to seek vendors with exciting solutions who are interested in making a commitment to support our channel!

Global Shop at RetailX
IRCE at RetailX

Here's a mini-profile of the two events:

  • IRCE: Focus on eCommerce and Advanced Marketing
    • Featured exhibitor categories included: Planning/Sourcing, User Experience, Marketing: Acquisition/Conversion/Retention, Marketplaces, Payment Systems, Merchandising, Content Creation, Ratings & Reviews, Loyalty Programs, Data Analytics & Reporting, and Sales/Customer Service
  • GlobalShop: Focus on Design & Retail Merchandising
    • Featured exhibitor categories included: Signage, Displays, Fixtures, Branding, and Customer Experience

To make “working” the trade show floor more efficient, we divided our ICBA resources into a “Red Team” (Jon, Emily, Marc, and Marcy) focusing on the IRCE part of the show floor, while the “Blue Team” (Paula and Sonda) took on the booths that were part of the Global Shop portion of the exhibit hall. By the end of the day, we ended up meeting in the middle, having walked every aisle and having scanned each and every booth, while engaging multiple exhibitors in deeper conversations about the college store market and the opportunities that exist within the ICBA Community of stores.

Sonda Reinartz & Paula Haerr

Here are some key takeaways and themes that we felt were most relevant for ICBA Members (many touch on similar concepts to those we cited after the 2018 IRCE, but their importance was even more pronounced this year):

  • User-generated ratings and reviews.
    • There were at least 10 exhibitors offering services and tools to help retailers populate their eCommerce sites with consumer ratings and reviews.
    • Today’s consumers are very savvy and often skeptical of marketing messages coming from retailers and manufacturers. Peer ratings and reviews are an essential component to building trust between consumers and retailers.
  • Collecting and analyzing data to better understand each of your consumers as an individual.
    • Whether it is an email marketing platform or a loyalty program or a re-targeting campaign…if you aren’t collecting “clean” data regarding your customers and the products you sell, you will not be able to take advantage of sophisticated tools that can help you maximize sales from new and returning customers.
Differentiated Experiences & Personalization
Ultimate Marketing Optimization Tool
  • Sophisticated tools are becoming more affordable.
    • Almost all providers offer their tools via SaaS (software as a service) monthly subscriptions, with prices ranging from a few hundred dollars per month to a few thousands of dollars per month (and up from there).
    • The Return-on-Investment from these sorts of tools is fairly easy to model based on the number of transactions you process, the average size of your “shopping baskets,” and how much the tools you are considering can improve those metrics.
  • Successful loyalty programs go far beyond simply “points per dollars spent.”
    • How can you measure “engagement?” Are you willing to incent “engagement?” When one really considers developing a mutually beneficial relationship with a customer, it must go beyond just providing rewards for dollars spent.
    • There are plenty of consumer behaviors that are beneficial to retailers that can and should be incorporated into loyalty programs. Consider: Social media posts? Ratings and reviews? Frequency of visits? High average order size? Lack of returns? Responding to surveys?
  • Storytell – Optimize – Engage – Promote – Excite
    • Marrying the physical to the digital was a hot topic at the show. From the product to the packaging, from the display to social engagement, the retail sales floor extends beyond four walls. A cohesive deployment across all aspects is the key to success.
  • Setting the store stage
    • How agile is your physical space? Pop-up fitting rooms provide flexibility for your sales floor or temporary venues.
    • Mannequins, custom clothes hangers, and even your choice of shopping totes or baskets send subtle messages to your customers about the quality of the products in your store, as well as not-so-subtle messages about your expertise as a trusted seller. Find the options that tell your story.
Mannequin Shoes
Pop-up Dressing Room

Should ICBA Members consider attending IRCE/GlobalShop?

We think so…if you have plans to make investments in retail technology. Between IRCE/GlobalShop and the National Retail Federation’s “Big Show” (January), it is important that college stores see what is new and hot in retail technology, store design, branding, marketing, etc.

We were also pleased to spend some time with ICBA Members Eric and Melanie from Oregon State University and Liza from Grand Valley State University. We are always ready and willing to sponsor a get-together among ICBA Members—it’s one of our favorite things to do!