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IRCE 2016 Mid-Conference Round-up (In Case You Missed It…)

Steve Tutelman

It’s been a whirlwind of a week. Since Monday, I’ve been in Chicago for this year’s Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (IRCE)

And is there a better place to check the pulse of e-commerce than a convention center packed with thousands of attendees working in online retail at firms all over the world? I think not.

For those who couldn’t make the trip, or who are out here but maybe feeling like they’ve missed something (don’t worry, it’s impossible to experience it all), here’s a quick round-up of what I’ve seen and heard after two days:

1. New momentum is fueling the merge of online and offline worlds.

There’s been plenty of buzz about seamlessly connecting the dots from desktop and mobile clicks to in-store visits and checkouts. This sounds like a dream scenario for nearly every e-commerce marketer with brick and mortar locations, and it’s always in the air at events like IRCE.

But what’s different at IRCE 2016 versus past years is the conviction with which people talk about connecting online and offline — it no longer sounds like science fiction. A few weeks ago, Google announced that it would expand its Store Visits feature in AdWords to more advertisers, so marketers are encouraged and hungry for more in this arena.

2. Everyone is REALLY excited about tablet bidding in AdWords.

We’ve consistently lamented the inability to bid on tablet traffic in AdWords (specifically in Google Shopping). At its May Global Performance Summit, Google finally answered our prayers by announcing that advertisers could soon segment tablet bidding in their campaigns and peg bid modifiers to any device type, not just desktops.

At IRCE 2016, I’ve heard a lot more about managing online marketing campaigns with an eye towards profitability than I have in years past.

Details have been scarce in the weeks following Google’s announcement, but if the conversations I’ve had out here are any indication of the overall level of excitement for this capability, it will be red hot. Stay tuned to our blog for deeper analysis when the feature is released …

3. Profitability is the new ROAS.

One of online marketing’s biggest promises has always been measurability. Compared to mass media, digital avenues reach more, highly targeted eyeballs for a better return on investment. It’s no surprise, then, that the metrics and goals e-commerce marketers use to track success and manage budgets in paid channels revolve around efficiency, such as ROAS, cost/sale, etc.

But at IRCE 2016, I’ve heard a lot more about managing online marketing campaigns with an eye towards profitability than I have in years past. Just like the rush to unite in-store and online sales, this shift probably speaks to the increasing sophistication of marketers and the technologies they have at their disposal — it’s a step up from seeking efficiency above all else.

4. Everyone (still) wants to engage on social.

More than a decade since Facebook launched and social media took over the world, much of the chatter around retail marketing continues to stress social engagement, i.e. which audiences to engage, how to engage them, and how to ensure they’ll want to engage with you.

Engagement (likes, clicks, shares) has long been the social currency of brands, and it is certainly important. However, I can’t help but think that as marketers evolve, matching user purchase intent will become the new goal for smart brands using social networks to actually sell products.

I usually return from these events with no voice and desperately needing a nap, but full of new ideas and insights. I can confidently say that it’s been an informative few days and Lou Malnati’s pizza is still really, really good. 

IRCE wraps up today, and if the last 48 hours are any indication, there’s still plenty more to learn. Check back on our blog soon for more news and learnings to make sure you’ve gotten the full scoop from the event.


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