Internet Retailer Conference & Expo ’13 Recap

I recently had the opportunity to attend the world’s largest e-commerce event in Chicago June 4-7. In its ninth year, the annual Internet Retailer Conference & Expo welcomes geeks, marketers, and e-commerce CEOs alike for 4 days filled with learning, fun, and tons of free vendor swag.

Common Themes of the Conference


Mobile : It’s not something you can ignore.

It’s no surprise that a major topic of discussion at the IRCE was around mobile. With 41% of people saying they have used a mobile device to browse for a product after seeing it in a show or advertisement (Source: eDigitalResearch) and 78% of retailers planning to invest in mobile commerce this year (Source: Onbile), it seems like a no-brainer.

There was no general consensus on what type of mobile experience to invest in (application, mobile site, or responsive design); the advice really varied by what needs the company had and what they were looking to accomplish from enhancing their mobile experience. But there was no doubt that mobile is only going up and is already influencing every portion of the purchasing process.

(Shameless plug: If you’re interested in learning more about mobile and are located in Columbus, register for our upcoming “Why Going Mobile Matters” workshop being held at the INC@8000 on July 16).

Search : In-Site Search & Searchadising, that is.

The common theme of “take a lesson from Google” came up quite frequently in my conference notes. Several presenters touched on why suggested in-site search is beneficial and helps the user and how it also helps to drive higher conversion rates. I didn’t realize that in-site search played such a huge role in connecting consumers with products, but here are just a couple things to take into consideration:

  • Advanced Search:  Empower your customers to effectively narrow down their search results by sorting by various fields: size, color, brand, etc. Relevancy is key.
  • Suggested Search / Autocomplete: Your data drives results. Analyzing search logs for FAQ’s and being able to anticipate what the customer is looking for by displaying popular search results, saving the customer time, and avoiding errors goes a long way to improve customer satisfaction.
  • Spelling Corrections / “Did You Mean” Suggestions: Let’s face it, people can’t spell (myself included), so eliminate the possibility of a customer seeing a “products not found” page and add potential misspellings to your product catalog.
  • Landing pages: Back to relevancy and tying in my next point of personalization- if your data is tagged right, you can enable the ability to automatically populate pages based on what a user has searched for.
  • Incorporating Calls to Action: Sell directly through search results. Embed ‘Add to Cart’ functionality directly into search results to eliminate the customer having to navigate to additional pages in order to purchase.
  • Searchadising: Don’t just be a product catalog – integrate intelligence, content, and suggestions.

Personalization : Providing a more relevant and custom onsite experience for customers.

Data is still a big deal, and even with all the various CRM data you can collect across multiple channels, brands are still challenged when it comes to making logical uses of the data they collect about their customers. Personalization, when using your data correctly, integrates data captured from web analytics, social feeds, customer emails, call center detail records, customer location information, purchase history, product reviews, and the search terms used by the shopper. When you sit back and look at it – you know a lot about your customer.

The high-level benefits of personalizing an experience for your customers are:

  • Customized product recommendations
  • Increased customer loyalty
  • Higher conversion rates
  • Lower cart abandonment rates
  • Ability to predict a customer’s purchase behavior

No matter what your e-commerce plans are for the rest of 2013, always keep in mind: new features are sometimes sexy and fun, but your customers are buying your products, not your technology.