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View from the InternetRetailing Expo (IRM52)

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The InternetRetailing Expo saw a record numbers of visitors, 20% growth and the launch of eDelivery Expo. Emma Herrod reports on the show.

From delivery drones to virtual reality and digital stores, the future of retail was on display at the fifth annual InternetRetailing Expo in March. The event saw more than 5,000 visitors through the doors of Birmingham’s NEC with 20% year-on-year growth, a wider selection of the world’s best service providers than ever and the launch of the co-located eDelivery Expo (EDX).

More than 100 retailers presented in the conferences that spanned the two-day event. Highlights included John Roberts, Founder and Chief Executive of AO.com, who shared lessons from the company’s stock market flotation and how it has enabled the company to expand into new categories as well as internationally. His advice and “top ten lessons” for others going through an IPO included really making sure you are ready since the process will identify every crack in your business. “Imagine taking the top six people out of the business for six months to a year,” he said. He also advised business owners to enjoy it, since “it’s the most intellectually challenging thing you’ve ever done”. Raising the cash “gives us the ability to expand on the right commercial basis,” he told delegates, and has enabled the company to “make more of the right decisions”.

Ali Holmes, Head of Global eCommerce, Vodafone shared insight into ‘Journey Mapping to Transform Customer Experiences’. With digital accounting for around 75% of customer interactions with Vodafone in the EU, it’s important for the company to keep customers happy with its sites and mobile apps. The 3D approach to journey mapping enables the company to gain fresh insight from seeing the world though customers’ eyes, to define and design end-to-end target journeys and create concepts and to deliver and then measure the customer experience as well as the impact internally across people, process, technology and communications.

Matt Brady, Chief Marketing Officer at Just East gave a passionate presentation on wearable technology, Augmented and Virtual Reality. Giving delegates a warning based on what happened to the music industry and how companies can quickly be superseded by others such as Blockbuster and Netflix, he reminded retailers that “we have to rethink what we’re doing all the time”. However, rather than leaving new technology in the marketing department, retailers need to think about how to make it useful. “Where’s the app store for 3D printing?” he asked.

International markets were also discussed in the conference sessions and on the exhibition floor. Alibaba shared insight into the Chinese ecommerce market. Singles Day, which takes place on 11 November every year has gone from nothing to being worth £6bn in sales in just five years. In recognition of the fact that retailers need to go where the buyers are, Ken Ardali, Director, International e-Commerce, Alibaba told delegates that Amazon China had opened a store on Tmall this year.

John Munnelly, Head of Operations at John Lewis discussed the logistical challenges of Black Friday in the simultaneously running conference sessions at the eDelivery Expo. Black Friday “was close,” admitted Munnelly. Sales of £44m in just one day led to 2.6 orders being processed by John Lewis every second. As to what the company will be doing to give more scope for Black Friday 2015, Munnelly would not be drawn. “I can't share the list of initiatives,” he said but implied that the company was looking at how to get ahead quicker and use suppliers in different ways.

Retailers from Amazon, Dixons Carphone, Groupon, Carrefour, Tesco, Deckers, Shop Direct, Mondelez and Wayfair also took to the podium in the eDelivery Conference.

In a panel discussion on fulfilling customer expectations in the final mile, speakers from Tesco, John Lewis and French association FEVAD agreed that customer experience and communication is more important than speed and convenience. “The longer the lead times, the more you have to communicate with customers,” they said.

eDelivery Expo was also where many of the launches were taking place.

WnDirect launched an international PUDO network enabling shoppers to buy from websites in other countries and pick up their order from their local locker, third party collection point or one of the retailer’s own stores. The company has partnered with the market leaders in 30 countries, such as InPost in Poland, but is initially launching the service to 11 countries. The others, including Japan, will be added in the coming months, explained Chloe Harris, Head of Innovation, WnDirect.

US company Borderfree was also exhibiting as it announced its entry into the UK market. Already well known in the US, where it works with retailers such as J. Crew and Macy’s, Borderfree offers services to retailers wanting to expand into international markets. Another company announcing expansion at IRX was Optimove, a provider of automated retention marketing solutions. The opening of a London office, headed by Richard Mitchell, is intended to expand its European footprint and enable the company to better support existing clients in the UK and surrounding areas.

InternetRetailing also launched its IREU Footprint Report at the show; highlighting the 800 leading retailers selling in Europe today. From ATU and Abercrombie & Fitch to Zlotewyprzedaze, Zoot and Zulily, the reports lists the leading traders of the 31 countries of the Economic European Area, plus Switzerland. Following further analysis, the list will be narrowed down to the 500 that will make up the IREU Top500, to be published at the InternetRetailing Conference in October.

Speaking from the show, Ian Jindal, Editor-In-Chief of InternetRetailing Magazine, said:

“IRX exemplifies the best in multichannel. Our wonderful speakers, sharing insights and inspiration in packed theatres, professional peers learning and networking and of course the largest gathering to date of the leading suppliers to the industry – partners who can deliver on the ambitions plans hatched at the show. Alongside EDX’s successful launch we saw that the event is a meeting place for the industry to be inspired and drive commercial success.”

Also announced at the show was its acquisition by Clarion Events, alongside the eDelivery Conference, the InternetRetailing Conference and the InternetRetailing Awards. This will allow the show to reach an international audience and starts an exciting chapter for the InternetRetailing Events series.

The next important date in the multichannel diary is 24 September 2015 for the InternetRetailing Awards which recognise the achievements of the leading and admired multichannel retailers. Then 13 October 2015 will see the launch of the eDelivery Conference with the tenth InternetRetailing Conference taking place on 14 October 2015.

In the meantime, to catch up on the presentations, interviews with speakers and news from IRX and EDX please visit www.internetretailingexpo.com.
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