Last week, we attended the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE 2013) with fellow Atlanta startups, Badgy and N4MD. It was a blur of handshakes, extravagant giveaways, and fellow entrepreneurs. I was excited to be surrounded by so many people who were as passionate about ecommerce as we are here at HubLogix, all working hard to transform the way people interact with merchants. Although I didn’t have the time to attend too many talks, here are some of the highlights from the four or five I got a chance to catch.
4 Ubiquitous Buzzwords
1. Mobile has arrived
It is incredible how quickly mobile is taking over. Mobile commerce grew to $25 billion in 2012, accounting for 11% of the total ecommerce sales. If you’re an online store, that means you should get started making your store mobile-frie with a responsive design and simplified checkout process. However being mobile-friendly doesn’t just mean you should spend thousands of dollars to contract a mobile app that simply packages your existing online store in a more narrow form. A mobile app requires much more thought. The really successful ones are rethinking the shopping experience to create a new breed of shoppers that. Examples include Fancy, a mobile centric platform for curated goods that encourages sharing, and Shopkick, who are redefining brick and mortar rewards for shoppers. Check out Google’s amazing Mobile Playbook for more insight.
2. Social beyond media
By now, everyone knows that social media can be a cheap and organic marketing strategy. Below the surface, however, you should realize that online interaction is an extension of your company. Now more than ever, customers know that the products and services they use define their personality. Remember everything you and your employees do is a reflection of your personality. One thing’s for certain though, creating and sharing truly relevant content to your customers will always result in a good response.
3. Support as a pillar of user experience
The smartest and fastest growing companies obsess over the happiness of their customers. Nowadays, customers expect near-instant support turnaround times, and they expect them through multiple channels. These include email, chat, phone, and social media platforms. These days, a bad reputation for support can kill even the most beautiful and useful application. Luckily, this also means that good support makes an equally huge impact and can set you apart from your competitors.
4. Data wins
Regardless if you are starting your third online store or a tech startup, you need to be tracking metrics. At IRCE, there was an entire section of the exhibit hall dedicated to analytics software, each with their own niche. It’s important to note, however, that although there are many tools out there to help collect data, extracting useful insights is most certainly a challenge. Each company must find the right metrics to track that truly help move their business forward. They can be different for everyone, but a good place to start is the KISSmetrics blog, which is full of awesome posts about data driven marketing. Slideshare is also a great resource – here is a great presentation by the 500 Startups founding partner and angel investor, David McClure.
The exhibit halls were definitely another goldmine of information. Admittedly, though there were a fair share of slimy salesmen (and women!), the majority of companies there genuinely wanted to help those in the ecommerce industry optimize their business. Over the course of three days, I had the chance to interact with nearly a hundred booths. Next, I’ll discuss the companies that stood out to me among the crowd.
5 Awesome Startups at IRCE
A predictive analytics platform designed specifically for online retailers. Their software analyzes data to segment customers automatically and predict how they will behave. With this added insight they also optimize email campaigns to keep customers engaged. Their whole analytics suite has too many features to list so check them out. Shout out to David Stychno for being an amazing designer; we love your work!
A subscription billing service that simplifies customer cross-sells/up-sells and automates upgrades/downgrades. Recurly also offers powerful analytics and identifies credit card declines before it results in customer churn. I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Burkhart, the founder and CEO, who was really personable and helpful. *Disclaimer: We are happy Recurly customers, so we can recommend this service personally! And no, they didn’t offer any incentives to endorse them.. but we’ll take them if you’re reading.
Fellow 500 Startups-backed Curebit is a customer referral platform that drives ecommerce growth. Their software makes it unbelievably easy for online stores to build viral referral programs, track their effectiveness and optimize them for future campaigns. I had a great time chatting with their team, which includes two fellow Georgia Tech alums: Allan Grant and Michael Noonan.
Plug and play testing framework with a WYSIWYG editor, built-in reports, and tons of other features. If you are data-driven and curious about A/B testing, Optimizely is a great place to start. Their software makes it fun and easy to do landing page testing, track revenue goals, and segment traffic. Gotta also hand it to them for having some awesome swag!
Atlanta’s very own Kevy is an API integration platform built on connectors that enable cloud apps to sync with each other. They are currently building integrations between dozens of web apps much like IFTTT and Zapier. Their focus, however, is not on events but on allowing data to be used between applications. Ed Trimble, co-founder of Kevy, really showed passion for the problem he was solving. There is definitely a lot of promise in this neglected space and we’ll be monitoring their development!
I’d also like to round up 4 quick tips I picked up from this conference experience that I will definitely keep in mind next time:
4 Quick Convention Tips
1. Have a Game Plan
Although digital marketing is an exploding trend, conventions are one of the last remnants of old-school sales channels (see section 2 of infographic.) While no one can deny the effectiveness of conferences, they are definitely a YMMV-type strategy. Conventions are expensive, and you get out of them what you put in. Make it count! Take the extra time to research the conference webpage for speakers you are interested in and the huge list of companies that will be setting up booths. There’s no doubt there will be some companies directly related to your business.
Also, try contacting them and current clients and partners to see if they will be out there for the conference and schedule a meeting. Don’t forget about social media! Scour twitter for the conference hashtags. A lot of the savvy companies will start posting ahead of time if they will be heading to the conference. If any of them interest you, get in touch with them. Make notes and put them in your calendar! Things can get messy on game day.
2. Don’t Get Distracted
Or rather… follow your game plan! You made a plan for a reason. Make sure you at least spend some time hitting the main points. There are a lot of flashy gimmicks and shiny bells and whistles at booths to distract you from your plan. There is plenty of opportunity with a perfect balance of potential clients and partners. Get out there and talk to people about your business; worst case you learn something new. Best case, you make connections that you can develop into leads, partnerships, or mentorships.
3. It don’t stop
Just because the official convention hours end around 7PM doesn’t mean it’s time to hit the sack. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open for late night shenanigans sponsored by the big boy companies. These are networking goldmines. Not only will you get some free grub and swag, but who could forget the complimentary booze? Drink responsibly and don’t be “that” guy, running around collecting business cards.
Remember that real networking is truly caring about other people and their lives. Spend your time talking to interesting people and ask genuine questions about their experiences. Although it’s both ineffective and flat-out rude to force a sell on every person you encounter; you are at an after party for a business conference… if you don’t bring it up, they sure will. You would be surprised how much easier it is to sell when they’re the ones asking what you and your company does!
4. Have fun!
I know I just spent three bullet points on being all-business but it’s good to remember that “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” You’re most likely in a city you’ve never been to before or at least don’t get a chance to go to very often. Live it up and check out some of the culture while you’re at it! Spend a couple hours (couple is key here!) gorging on local deep dish pizza, tasting local brews, and catching up with old friends that live nearby. You’ll regret it if you don’t!
That just about wraps up my IRCE summary. I want to thank my team for picking up slack back home while I was out schmoozing around Chicago. Overall, though it was exhausting, it was a fantastic opportunity to really immerse myself in the ecommerce world.
Did I miss you at IRCE? Have some more conference pro-tips or ecommerce trends? Leave comments below, we love your feedback!