A Tale of Three Conferences (Part 4)


The next stop was the Internet Retailer Conference and Expo in Chicago, part of the Retail Innovation Conference and Expo (RICE). Netcore and Unbxd had adjacent booths, and I had a workshop on Email 2.0 on the opening day of the event. Since I had more time (50 minutes) for the workshop, I also had time for Q&A with the 50+ attendees. I was much more confident doing the same deck a second time. The demo shown as part of the presentation encapsulating both AMP and Atomic Rewards did bring very positive feedback. We had multiple people who attended the workshop and then came to our booth to discuss further and schedule a 1:1 future engagement.

The one thing that had changed in the past week was the increasing talk about an impending slowdown and the possibility of a recession. So, when I spoke, I brought in the message about profit-centric marketing and the need to focus on existing customers. Every business has profit killers and it is important to replace them with profit creators. As the world of free and easy capital comes to an end, brands (and startups) will need to prioritise profits. For this, the adwaste needed to end, and a hotline needed to be built with customers to drive retention, repetition and referrals. (I have explored these themes here and here.)

While I spent some time at the booth and walking around the expo, most of my time was spent in the conference sessions. I wanted to learn the new trends in marketing. The past couple of years had seen a step function increase in the use of digital, and the pace of new ideas and innovation had increased rapidly. The ones that stood out for me: live shopping, influencer marketing, social commerce, quick delivery (a number of examples from India were mentioned) and the rise of the metaverse. There was a lot of discussion around DTC (Direct-to-Consumer), marketplaces, and the looming presence of Amazon and competition with its Prime delivery.

A heartening feature of the event was the in-person attendance. There were a few thousand people – my largest post-Covid event. (This was easily outdone a week later at Permissionless where the attendance was even bigger!) We are social by nature; we like meeting people, we want to have face-to-face conversations. A screen is not a substitute for the experience of shaking hands and seeing each other in flesh and blood!

I was also amazed at the massive scale of McCormick Place. I remember attending a conference on document management 20-25 years ago, and the convention centre space seemed to have grown manifold. Many hotels are conveniently connected via bridges directly to the centre.

All in all, a nice experience. Real world, real people. Lots of them!

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.