#RICE22 Recap: Highlights from IRCE - Retail Innovation Conference & Expo

#RICE22 Recap: Highlights from IRCE

The ecommerce event retail knows and loves kicked off in Chicago last week! After a brief hiatus, our team was ecstatic for the big return of IRCE. If you attended the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo, we hope you’re still buzzing from the energy onsite. There were a variety of timely and innovative topics discussed such as: livestream shopping, marketplaces, social commerce, metaverse capabilities, NFT powered communities, BNPL and embedded payment experiences, influencer marketing, creator economy, DTC innovation, CPG strategies and more! Not to mention, we also had an immersive Expo Hall, which showcased the latest tech across marketing, personalization, fulfillment and even a Live Shopping Studio (courtesy of Coresight Research and Firework). Our goal was to tie the session content as best as possible to the expo hall activations, so attendees had a seamless experience. If you didn’t attend, no worries, we’re breaking down some of the top session highlights and key themes for you. Oh, and be sure to mark the 2023 dates in your calendar now so you can start planning for next year’s show, June 13-15, 2023, in Chicago! 

Let’s reflect on a few of the session highlights throughout our 8 tracks: 

Growth Strategies

What are the keys to standing out and acquiring new customers in an increasingly crowded world? How can you master your nurture strategy and long-term engagement to always keep your brand top of mind? We had 5 sessions featuring growth marketers, analysts and strategists from various brand categories who offered their lessons learned and trends they’re watching as the commerce landscape continues to expand. One panel session in particular, “New Priorities and Investments for Acquisition and Retention,focused on how marketing teams are proving the value of their activities across all channels. Moderated by Brendan Witcher, VP, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research featuring panelists Erika Strum Silberstein, President of Commerce at Wine Enthusiast Companies, Jann Parish, CMO at francesca’s and Lyn Kenady, Head of Marketing & Creative at mDesign, the panelists shared their unique perspectives on how they’re keeping pace with consumer needs. Each panelist did an amazing job of focusing on the customer, not necessarily the channel you’re trying to reach the customer on. It’s all about actively listening to your customers so you can successfully inform product innovation and adapt marketing strategies for the future.  

Data-Driven Experiences

If you haven’t heard, data drives everything in the new world of retail. It helps brands design more relevant products, craft more relevant campaigns, and ensure they’re engaging with their brands in all the right ways. Throughout this track, retail leaders and experts discussed new approaches to data collection, aggregation and analysis, and how they’re bringing their data-driven strategies to the next level. During the session titled, “The New Normal: Top Tips on Using Data to Fuel Personalized Experiences,” eBay’s VP of Buyer Experience, Bradford Shellhammer, shared key insights on how brands and retailers need to be relevant for shoppers via all touchpoints – in-store, online, in marketing channels, customer service experiences etc. Another key insight that Bradford shared was the growing need to curate individual experiences for individual consumers. Customers crave and expect curated feeds that align with near-term needs and long-term interests. And when it comes to delivering on personalization tactics, collecting the right data is of utmost importance. 

Marketplace Movement

Everyone is getting in on the marketplace game, so the real question is, what approach is right for you? With this track, we offered diverse views of the marketplace movement: Those who have started marketplaces, those who have sold on marketplaces, and those who have advertised on marketplaces. During the session titled, “The New State of Marketplaces and Their Opportunity for Growth,” AlbertsonsSenior Director of Marketplaces, Jasmin Krdzalic, shared how they’re working with Marketplacer to expand into ethnic and specialty products. As previously discussed in the above section of this blog, “Data Driven Experiences”, this is another example of how retailers/brands are focusing on curation and using consumer data to identify gaps in current inventory. Are you seeing a key theme yet? 😉 

DTC Innovation

Digitally native brands are striving to capitalize on the evolution and acceleration of the direct-to-consumer (DTC) movement. But as the cost of acquisition skyrockets, the traditional playbook for growth and scale needs to be rewritten. We were so excited to add this new track on DTC Innovation to the beloved IRCE agenda. We heard tons of unique trends, challenges and goals from DTC-focused brands like Brooklinen, Alvies Boots, Brilliant Earth, Couplet Coffee, Stix and more! During the panel session titled, “From URL to IRL: Key Considerations for Scaling Offline,” three different DTC brands shared their expertise on how physical and digital is blending. Moderated by Claire Tassin, Retail & Ecommerce Analyst at Morning Consult, featuring Rich Fulop, CEO at Brooklinen; Alvie Faulkenberry, CEO at Alvies Boots; and Lisa Perlmutter, SVP of Marketing and Ecommerce at Brilliant Earth, the panelists each offered unique perspectives on the right approach for digitally native brands to test physical stores whether it be through pop-ups, rotating concepts, etc. It’ll be interesting to see how brands operate across both spaces, seamlessly.  

Customer Loyalty Experiences

Customer loyalty is more fragile than ever. Between a volatile economy and wavering consumer sentiment, shoppers will happily switch brands if the price…or experience…are right. During a variety of sessions, experts leaned into how you can reimagine your loyalty programs and engagement strategies to bring your customers back for more. One panel session that offered interesting insights into livestreaming and social commerce to drive customer loyalty was the session titled, “The Future of Social Commerce: Embracing Content and Community to Drive Customer Loyalty.” Moderated by Deborah Weinswig, CEO of Coresight Research featuring panelists Vincent Yang, Co-Founder and CEO at Firework and Meagen Johnson, SVP of Marketing for Jane, the panelists shared how livestream shopping and social commerce strategies built around your customer are extremely important to gain loyal customers. Not to mention, Coresight Research forecasts that the US live commerce market will become a $25 billion industry by 2023. We’ll definitely keep a close eye on how this market opportunity evolves for our agenda next year!   

New Trends in Branding and Advertising

If you were interested in finding new ways to build brand awareness, equity and engagement in the fast-growing digital landscape then this was a perfect track for you. This track discussed everything from NFT-powered communities, to optimizing brand websites to promote conversions, to 3D/XR opportunities, to revamping the influencer marketing model and much more! During the panel session titled, “The State of the Creator Economy and Revamping the Influencer Marketing Model,” each panelist shared how they’re rethinking their relationships with influencers to ensure their brand is authentic and trustworthy for consumers. Moderated by Writer & Consultant, Kaleigh Moore, featuring panelists, Ranjan Roy, VP of Strategy at Adore Me, Joshua Carter, Senior Director of PR, Social and Influencer Partnerships at Shutterfly and Lindsay Jerutis, General Manager at ShopStyle Collective, the panelists gave an interesting perspective on how it can be hard to give free reign over creative flexibility to the influencer representing your brand. They focused on how relinquishing this control increases the authenticity of the relationship between your brand and the customers. Such a fantastic panel session! 

BNPL Insights

The Buy Now, Pay Later space are creating new revenue opportunities for brands and retailers, and an added level of flexibility and customization for customers. This day-long program, developed in partnership with the Canadian Lenders Association, spotlighted what makes BNPL so appealing to consumers, how it drives new revenue creation, streamlines the customer payment experience, and what the regulatory concerns are. One panel session titled, “Buy Now, Pay Later: Why Businesses and Consumers are Embracing the New Payment Evolution,” shared how BNPL puts everyday purchases into the hands of everyday consumers quickly with user-friendly apps and simple transparent terms. Expert panelists from Kount, TuaPay and Global Payments also shared how Gen Z and Millennials have accepted it as the new norm for purchases. Given the current state of our economy, this will be another big area for us to watch closely as we create next year’s program agenda! 

CPG Strategies

Digital channels and platforms have empowered CPG brands in completely new ways. They have more avenues for reaching and engaging their customers and more options for building direct revenue streams. But as CPG brands try to take control of the customer experience, they must develop rich, omnichannel strategies that don’t just acquire customers, but retain them. During this track, led by Evan Shirley and Idoia Hidalgo of Clarkston Consulting, various CPG leaders and executives shared market forces that are driving innovation in CPG. A major trend we wanted to ensure we included in this track was how sustainability is growing in CPG products. One session led by Dane Baker, Co-Founder and CEO of EcoCart and Ben Jones, CEO of Ohi, provided attendees with great insights into how to develop a cohesive sustainability and social impact strategy. Ben shared how Ohi partnered with Stanford University on an emissions study and created a hyper-local, few-hour shipping solution that helps enable ~5x less CO2 emissions than a standard five-day ship process. They also use eco-friendly packaging and transport options! And with EcoCart and Ohi’s new partnership, ecommerce brands can offer two-hour, same-day, delivery without the negative ecological impact.  

I would’ve loved to go more in-depth on each one of the excellent speakers and sessions, but if you want to hear even more details from #RICE22 you’ll have to check out the Retail Remix podcast, episode 109, where Alicia Esposito and I unpack a quick recap of the amazing keynote speakers and overall trends driving connected commerce. Reminder: We’re coming back to the Windy City, June 13-15th, 2023 to dive even deeper into the latest and greatest retail innovations driving the industry forward.   

Interested in speaking on stage in 2023 or know an industry expert that would be a perfect fit? Be sure to submit here!   

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