After a whirlwind three days in the Windy City, the 2023 Retail Innovation Conference & Expo has come to a close. Two expo halls, 100+ sessions and one Baby Yoda later, and we’re still buzzing from the experience!
This year, we set out to uncover what’s next in connected commerce, and with help from speakers from brands like Liquid Death, PayPal, Walmart, PepsiCo and more, we were able to shed light on the trends retailers should look to in 2023 and beyond — and even determine what should be left behind.
Read on for a recap of the #RICE23 experience.
Johnny Cupcakes Brings His “Fakery” to Chicago
Johnny Cupcakes, which has a brick-and-mortar store on Boston’s Newbury Street as well as an ecommerce site, primarily sells colorfully wacky T-shirts. But it’s less about the products and more about the whole Johnny Cupcakes experience.
The company’s founder, Johnny Earle, took to the #RICE23 stage to discuss not just his successes but his shortcomings, blind spots and missed opportunities during his keynote “Building Brand Hysteria, Customer Loyalty and Memorable Experiences.”
Key quote: “I’m addicted to this weird pain we call retail. Why do we keep coming back to it? I want to get it right the next time, and I love the unpredictability. I don’t sell merchandise; I sell memories. Merchandise is a byproduct.”
Not only did Johnny share his wisdom on the stage, but he also joined us in the Expo Hall for The Official Johnny Cupcakes Pop-Up, powered by Shopify. Attendees were able to buy exclusive shirts and merchandise, including a custom #RICE23 x Johnny Cupcakes tee!
Netflix’s Nikkia Reveillac: The Heart of Innovation is Understanding Humans
Nikkia Reveillac has led consumer insights at some of the biggest companies in the world, first for 14 years at Colgate-Palmolive. In 2019 she moved to Twitter and became the Global Head of Research in 2020, which she described as one of “the most tumultuous times in our history.” But that tumult was a great opportunity for her to explore her idea that “people obsession” is what truly drives innovation, not data. Now, at Netflix, she is continuing to pressure test this hypothesis.
Key quote: “At the heart of innovation is a deep understanding of humans and people. Companies that have insights and analytics functions, companies that understand how to leverage this humanity and to build from that, are more likely to exceed their business goals.”
Title Sponsor Adobe Exemplifies True Collaboration with PayPal and Whisker
Having innovatiave ideas is great, but if you don’t have the partners and systems in place to support your ideas, your work may be all for naught. That’s why it’s critical that all players in the retail ecosystem — brands, tech companies and even advisory and services firms — should come together to drive positive change. During their morning keynote, executives from Whisker, a fast-growing pet brand, Adobe and PayPal, had an honest and deep-dive conversation about what drove the acceleration of the Whisker business and how true partnership and collaboration is key.
The #RICE23 agenda was overflowing with 100+ sessions spread across our three microconferences: IRCE, Design:Retail and Retail Innovation Summit. Sessions covered everything from omnichannel innovation and the experience economy to generative AI and augmented social commerce. Sessions were led by experts from iconic brands like Walgreens, Walmart/Store No.8, Coach, Lowe’s and Reebok, as well as disruptors like Liquid Death, Bubble, Purple and Adore Me.
First-Ever Conference Co-Chairs
We were pleased to welcome globally recognized executives Cathy Hackl, Founder & Chief Metaverse Officer at Journey, and Ari Peralta, CEO of Arigami, as co-chairs for the event!
As notable experts in brand experience, Hackl and Peralta brought a wealth of knowledge and insights to #RICE23. Hackl served as the conference’s Metaverse and Next-Gen Fashion & Retail Chair, and Peralta as the official Sensory Design Innovation Chair.
Expo Hall & Immersive Activations
What has 30,000 square feet, 200+ exhibitors and two distinct expos united by innovation? The #RICE23 Expo Hall, of course! We created the Expo Hall to be a vibrant, community-driven space filled with the latest and greatest tech, engaging activations, and opportunities for attendees to connect and collaborate.
Attendees were able to test-drive the tech fueling connected commerce, listen to a live jazz band, have a photo op with Grogu and so much more.
Social Buzz from Attendees
#RICE23 attendees took to social media to share some of their favorite experiences from the event.