As some people out there know, I attended the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in Chicago with my colleague, Mike Ferrara. Our presence at IRCE lasted from Monday, June 9 through Wednesday, June 11th. Since our focus as first-time exhibitors was the exhibit hall (go figure, right), my summary is nothing more than a series of observations from the exhibit hall. This may help others who are considering attending the IRCE next year.
1. In walking the show floor during the set-up stage, I noticed there are a lot of great innovators and companies focused on fraud protection, as well as managing retail supply chains and the transactions process. There also were companies that specialized in developing RSS feeds for retailers and blogging platforms (I thought this was interesting b/c I wonder about how many online retailers and their customers use RSS), content aggregators, international shipping companies, distribution warehouses and more. On the whole, an impressive array of companies that fit both the virtual and tangible worlds of online retailing. At this point, I have a long list of companies I want to meet with during the show.
2. Day 1 is short (only about 3 hours), but not without a lot of buzz at our booth. Mike Ferrara and I rolled in early to get set up, and by 4:00 pm (Central) the exhibit hall is filled with people getting ready for the kick-off. The demo application we have runs perfectly (kudos to Tommy Buono @ ActiveAccess for getting it built). I’ve download a flash demo, but people are more interested in seeing the live product – that really draws them in. Our initial conversations go very well, and we alternate walking the show a little bit to see other companies. Ferrara has some meetings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, and after Day 1, we’ve got even more.
3. Now, into Day 2 (Tuesday, June 10, 2008), I’ve had a chance to talk with a few people on my list, and was surprised to discover how many other companies were first-time exhibitors, like ourselves. The impression of these companies, as well as our own thus far, has been fairly positive. Traffic to everyone’s booth has been steady and the overall number of business contacts high. But, one person I spoke with perhaps said it best, “We’ll know more in two weeks when the free trials of our software end.”
4. One quick thing I will note – as with all shows, only those with the right access can enter break-out sessions. This is a common practice. But with that said, I think that security for these sessions, on average, has not been oppressive – allowing a few people to come in and out to hear different speakers regardless of their badge. I don’t think this is bad thing – though the folks at IRCE might disagree. However, while session security was mild, security around the cookie and brownie trays throughout the exhibit hall was tighter than that found at most US nuclear weapons facilities. When they say, “The cookies will be available at 1:30” they really mean 1:30… Those of us itching to grab a quick, early snack, were forced to wait.
5. After 4 pm on Day 2 and I must compliment the staff with the IRCE. They have done an excellent job organizing events, managing break-out sessions and how people filter in and out of the exhibition hall. Strategic placements of food stations and other services has helped with the traffic flow. We know based on the schedule when there may be a slight let-off in floor traffic, which gives Mike and I a chance to meet with folks and explore the hall. Our opportunities do not last terribly long, but then again, today is a long day. We start at 9 am and run until almost 7 pm.
6. Closing thoughts on Day 2 – integration is major conversation piece with the people who stop by. We’ve had quite a few prospects who want to integrate a database with the ActiveAccess desktop system, so that end-users receive very targeted, account-specific information, instead of just our usual content and video. Other conversations hinted that multiple language offerings may be necessary as well. Certainly, we can see this coming. Technology is evolving, and widgets and desktop applications need to become more robust if they are to continue to survive. Of course, ActiveAccess has done some level of integration with other clients in the past, so we’re well-positioned. These new cases are very exciting though…
7. Day 3 (Wednesday, June 11th, 2008), and Mike and I are prepared for another long day (9 am to 4 pm). We had a disappointing evening (the Celtics lost to the Lakers), but our activity at IRCE has not slowed. Another steady flow of major corporations, including traditional discount stores / retailers come by and some large online retailers. I wish I could drop some names, but we all know that would not be right! Other companies we spoke with yesterday also have more questions, so they bring their teams with them. Interest is very high. Towards the end of the show I met with a company that specializes in helping spread products and data via word of mouth. The company representative I spoke with mentions they have a free API that can work within the ActiveAccess solution and really enhance the “share with a friend” feature. Very cool…
8. Closing out Day 3, Mike and I are headed out, as the show has just closed. High-fives are exchanged… On the whole, speaking from my personal perspective and the notes I took, the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition was a excellent success for ActiveAccess. Obviously, we need to wait several weeks to see exactly how much of a success, but I think the meetings Mike and I had, both at the booth and throughout the exhibit hall, were very positive.