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IRX 2012: The event report

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More than 3,000 visitors attended the second annual Internet Retailing Expo (IRX), held at Birmingham’s NEC this week.

Some 3,112 retailers, suppliers, consultants and others working in the online and multichannel retail industry attended IRX 2012 to catch up with the latest developments in the industry showcased by suppliers and to share the experiences of respected retailers, commentators and other experts in the field in the Expo learning zone. That was about 11% more than the approximately 2,790 who attended last year’s event, and accounted for 63% of the 4,928 who pre-registered for this year’s event.

Among the exhibitors was, recruiting staff to its IT team, Intershop, SagePay, Shutl, Collect+, PayPal, Amazon Services and Adobe. Innovations showcased both at the event’s Innovations Pavilion and across the exhibition ranged from virtual fitting rooms from both and Kishino Virtual Solutions, to the ParcelMotel locker banks from Irish carrier Nightline, Mainline Flatpacks’ slimfit packaging, Verifone’s use of iPads as both customer service and point of sale devices and VendorShop’s Facebook-based ecommerce solutions.

There was standing room only for many of the presentations in the four conferences, while some of the series of workshops from eight suppliers were many times oversubscribed.

Speakers in the four conferences hailed from retailers of all sizes, from John Lewis, Asda, and Carphone Warehouse to and My1stwish.

Among them was Simon Russell, head of multichannel at John Lewis, who told the audience in the Customer Experience Conference why connecting sales channels was so important to the retailer. “Convenience is becoming more and more important for people to buy from us,” he said.

“People are more and more coming into the shop, spending time with our staff, and not just taking something away from the shop there then but buying it online in the shop. For us that’s the very best way to recruit somebody who’s always been a loyal shopper to buy online with us as well. Why’s that important? The commercials behind this are really important to retailers. Multichannel customers are the fastest growing group of customers we have.

“They spend 3.5 times as much as someone who just shops in shops or just shops online. If you can convert someone whose behaviour has been there, they spend significantly more. They shop more categories and they shop more frequently. The really interesting thing is if you take a shop-only customer and introduce them to online they continue to spend as much if not slightly more in shops as well. They don’t just suddenly migrate all your sales online, which from a profits point of view is very important to us.”

Mark Brant of PayPal told audiences in both the Fast Track Conference and the Innovation Pavilion how shopping on the high street without a wallet would soon be a daily reality for many consumers, thanks to innovations that already make shopping by phone possible. Retailers must therefore respond, he said. “Think about how you can enable customers to pay in-store with their smartphones,” he said. “The lesson from the original e-commerce revolution is that smart retailers test and learn early, rather than putting off a move until they absolutely have to respond.

“Make the customer experience as seamless as possible across online and in-store channels. And think about how in-store mobile payments can bring real benefits to your customers and your brand. You should be doing much more for the customer than simply letting them replace their wallet with their phone.”

Ian Jindal, editor-in-chief said: “Last year we really set our expectations sky high for our launch event. We had a great calibre turn out, dedicated a lot of time to spend with us. This year we increased the size of the show by 50% – we went from just under 100 exhibitors to 150, we went from two conferences to four, we definitely invested in making sure there was even more for people to do.

“It was gratifying then to get not only the increase in pre-registrations but a very healthy increase in visitor numbers. Very highly engaged committed audience, spending a lot of time on the show floor, really engaging with exhibitors, and I think different from the splash and dash that you might get from other venues. Next year we’ll have built further on that so that visitors will get even more from their visit.”

The Expo came at a time when retailers are investing heavily in their multichannel services. John Lewis announced yesterday that it was currently recruiting up to 30 new IT staff to support its multichannel operations (see here for more details), part of a move to add more than 50 people to its team during 2012. John Lewis recruitment manager Owen Roberts said: “Technology has been identified as one of the most important drivers of our business growth. We are now looking for talented IT professionals to join our team and help us take multi-channel retail to the next level, cementing our reputation as an industry leader.”

Meanwhile also had a stand at IRX 2012 as it looked to identify potential new hires for its online operations.

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