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IRCE 2015 Recap: The Future of Online Retail

Maggie Nichols

Internet Retailer hosted its 11th annual IRCE event last week at McCormick Place in Chicago.  We spent a few days at the show chatting with the exhibiting retailers and attending some great sessions on everything from shipping to personalization.

IRCE 2015

Wednesday, the first full day of the conference, kicked off with a keynote speech from President Jason Goldberger. He began his presentation by referencing a Newsweek article from 1995, which claimed that the Internet was nothing more than a fad.

The article also questions the potential of online business, stating:

“We're promised instant catalog shopping—just point and click for great deals. We'll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obsolete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet—which there isn't—the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople. “

This is a great reminder of how much the Internet, and e-commerce in particular, has changed in 20 years. Now, buying airplane tickets and making dinner reservations are some of the most basic things we can do online. We can video chat with someone who’s halfway across the world, earn a college degree and buy everything from furniture to cars on any device with an Internet connection.

Computer ImagesGoldberger confidently proclaimed that the next 20 years will bring as much change to online retail as the past 20. He also stated that no one, from analysts to retailers, knows what that future holds for e-commerce.

So how can retailers prepare for the next generation of online shopping if no one knows what that entails? According to Goldberger, they should brace for inevitable change and put the customer journey first.

Many of the speakers, who represented some of the industry’s leading retailers, expressed similar thoughts about how to succeed in the coming years. There were two other topics that came up in almost every session we attended:

  • Millennials – It seems like every brand under the sun is trying to figure out how to market to millennials. Why? Millennials are expected to start spending more than $200 billion annually in 2017, which would account for a large percentage of consumer buying spend. The generation presents many new challenges for retailers, from using more devices to conduct product research and make online purchases to demanding more personalized engagement from their favorite brands.
  • Mobile – Mobile commerce sales are expected to rise more than 30 percent this year, and retailers are pulling out all the stops to make sure they offer a premium mobile experience. Convenience and simplicity are key for mobile adoption, as are detailed product content and high-quality images and videos.

After spending several days with some of the brightest minds in e-commerce, one thing is clear: the future of online retail is promising. There’s never been a more exciting time to be part of this dynamic industry, and we’re eager to continue helping our clients navigate this complex landscape.

Have any thoughts about the future of e-commerce and online shopping? Tweet us @WalkerSands.