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5 Top Trends from IRCE 2017

Steve Tutelman

IRCE 2017 is in the books. With thousands of e-commerce pros under one roof in Chicago, this conference always offers a whirlwind of insights to bring home. This year was no exception, and I left the event feeling pumped about the next big things to come in e-commerce retail and technology.

If you didn’t make it to IRCE this year, or you were there and you’re wondering what you might have missed, here’s a recap of the top trends.

Next Place to Compete: Facebook

Since Amazon made its foray into Google Shopping earlier this year, retailers have been eager to find new ways to compete.

One avenue retailers are taking a second glance at is Facebook. Our team fielded more questions than ever on the floor at IRCE about ways to leverage Facebook’s ad formats.

We had a hunch that Facebook would be the channel to watch this year. Seeing Facebook’s online ad revenue grow at a clip of 62% YoY, it’s clear that more advertisers see the opportunity, too.

Looking at Facebook’s dynamic ads, it’s easy to see why. 

Dynamic ads offer the personalization and scale e-commerce marketers need in any channel. The ads’ retargeting capability can be applied across a retailer’s entire product catalog. And reach? Facebook hosts over 1 billion mobile daily active users, making it an ideal place to connect with potential customers on mobile.

Seeing Facebook’s online ad revenue grow at a clip of 62% YoY, it’s clear that more advertisers see opportunity.

Retailers up who have dipped their toe in the water with Facebook want to know how they can take their dynamic ad campaigns to the next level, and those who have yet to dive in want to know how to get started.

If you could use a refresher on the ins and outs of Facebook dynamic ads, be sure to check out our guide, Facebook Dynamic Ads Deconstructed.

Interest in Pinterest

Another social channel of interest at IRCE was Pinterest.

Back in January 2017, Pinterest rolled out search ads to select retailers. While the ads look similar to buyable pins and promoted pins, search ads use a product feed and run on Pinterest’s proprietary search algorithms to deliver relevant ads to Pinners.

As Google Shopping has shown, the feed-based approach to ads makes them scalable for retailers with large catalogs. Pinterest has always facilitated brand and product discovery, and now with search ads, it’s poised to generate the volume of conversions e-commerce marketers are after.

Pinterest hosts 150 million active users who perform more than 2 billion searches each month. Plus, 97% of Pinterest’s top searches are for non-branded items. For retailers looking for new places to compete, those non-branded searches could mean serious opportunity for lesser-known brands.

Pinterest has the makings of the next big e-commerce marketing channel: an inherently visual platform, users who look to the channel for inspiration and product discovery, and a feed-based ad format running on search algorithms to target users.

The high volume of non-branded searches on Pinterest could mean big opportunity for lesser-known brands looking for an edge.

Retailers will be watching Pinterest’s developments closely, and so will we.

Video Storytelling

Going hand-in-hand with the heightened interest in social commerce, we heard from plenty of retailers using video to make their ads stand out from the crowd.

Product videos bring your products to life, and they hook shoppers with a bit of story about your product or brand. Telling that story can help increase ROI of your ads on channels like Facebook and Pinterest.

According to Kissmetrics, shoppers are up to 85% more likely to buy after watching a product video. Incorporating 360-degree product videos or video reviews boosts buyer confidence by bringing your products closer to your customers.

In fact, 57% of shoppers are less surprised by products they’ve bought online after they’ve watched a product video. That means happier customers who get what they expect, and fewer returns.

All Eyes on AI

IRCE is the largest e-commerce retail event of the year, and retailers in attendance are always keen to find the next technology to improve operations and enhance their customer experience.

This year, artificial intelligence took center stage at IRCE.

Artificial intelligence is making the search for consumer insight faster.

Search history, purchase history, social profiles and interactions, and geolocation are goldmines of consumer data. Marketers know that finding and targeting the right consumers is within reach, provided that they have the right tools to extract insight from this sea of data.

Artificial intelligence is making that search for consumer insight faster.

Machine learning algorithms find patterns in both online and offline data to piece together customer journeys, predict future purchases, and ultimately make websites tailored to consumer preferences.

For the retailers we caught up with, applications of AI that have the power to personalize were top of mind.

Tech Stacks of the Future

One more subtle trend I noticed this year at IRCE was an evolution in how marketers approach building their technology stacks. In previous years, marketers searched for the holy grail of marketing technology — one vendor or one platform that could manage it all, from to search and social advertising to personalization.

This year, the search for that singular platform is off. I spoke with top retailers who want to use best-in-class technologies for every touch point. There’s no one-stop shop for marketing tech, but there’s a technology available to meet each need of the most sophisticated marketers.

There’s no one-stop shop for marketing tech, but there’s a technology available to meet each need of the most sophisticated marketers.

Marketers who embrace the variety and breadth of solutions out there are in the best position to succeed in today’s e-commerce environment.

Renewed focus on social commerce and video, as well as the growing demand for technologies for every touch point reflect the ever-evolving e-commerce marketing landscape. Exploring these trends with attendees made IRCE one of the most interesting e-commerce retail events I’ve been to this year. I’m happy I was a part of it. See you next year, Chicago.

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