The US does trade shows with a precision, efficiency, and scale that I have not seen anywhere else. Shoptalk had 10,000 attendees. In a unique innovation, they had set up almost 2,000 tables covering five football fields to host 50,000 1:1 double opt-in 15-minute meetings. Every session began and ended on time, with multiple tracks. It was amazing to see how the booths got set up literally out of thin air; on Sunday afternoon, the exhibit area resembled an empty shell, and by Monday morning, it was all ready to host attendees with everything perfectly in place. eTail was also similar, though at a smaller scale.
The conference and trade show format works very well. Buyers and sellers meet – some pre-planned, others accidentally. The conference tracks are very good for knowledge-sharing and learning, while the booths are where business opportunities get opened. The pandemic had interrupted this two-way engagement and that also hurt us because for a new company seeking to build a brand, trade shows are an important part of the mix. While Netcore and Unbxd had a booth last May at IRCE in Chicago, I had not spent much time at the booth then – choosing to be in conference sessions to learn the new marketing vocabulary. This time, I balanced conference and booth time better, and thus had a lot more conversations with potential partners and buyers.
Here are a couple pictures of the backdrop and the hanging sign we had at our Shoptalk booth:
The focus for us was on two innovations: AMP in Email (what we termed as All-in-Email) and AI-enriched catalog (which is the key to getting product discovery and personalisation right).
For both Netcore and Unbxd, both shows were good – an opportunity to connect with the right audience, and open up a strong pipeline for future conversations and conversions.
For me, the sessions gave a good overview on some of the top-of-mind themes: the state of US consumer spending (luxury doing well, some downscaling in other categories, but overall consumption still going strong), omnichannel to unified experience shift, the opportunities with Generative AI (especially as copilot and autopilot, as a speaker put it), the innovations in physical retail (unattended checkout, drones for in-store inventory checking), the rise of retail media networks, and the possibilities with video and livestreaming. Profitable growth was a consistent theme across the CEO keynotes.
For me, being at such events and the complete immersion drives new thinking. The mixing of what others say combined with my mental models helps refine ideas for the future. During the IndiaWorld years and early years of Netcore, learning came from the conferences and walking the exhibit floors. This time, it was the booth conversations which created the lasting impressions.