Last week, VL made the short flight from Toronto to Chicago for the annual Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, better known as
VL has a long history of attending IRCE over the years, but this year, the show was something special. From the exhibitors, to the discussions, to what we think IRCE is turning into, our perspective on IRCE 2016 is laid out below.
IRCE: What Happened at the 2016 Show
Historically, IRCE has always been one of the biggest internet retailer-geared shows on the North American trade show circuit. With hundreds of exhibitors, multiple streams and tracks for conference sessions, and thousands of attendees, IRCE was not a show to be missed.
That being said, VL skipped the 2015 show.
For a multitude of reasons, IRCE 2014 was not the show VL had hoped it would be, so we made the decision to hold off on exhibiting in 2015. But there’s a huge intrinsic brand awareness value in just being at IRCE, so come 2016 we made a full 180-degree pivot and made the commitment to exhibit.
And our decision paid off in spades.
IRCE 2016 was a completely different IRCE than we’ve ever known. The whole atmosphere has changed between 2014 and 2016, and we’re happy to announce that VL will also be exhibiting at IRCE 2017.
So what made us change our minds? Here’s a quick synopsis of what we saw, heard, and experienced.
What We Saw
Exhibitors this year brought their A-game.
Pictured above is the Shopify Plus booth, and enigma that showed up sometime well before we at VL were able to come and set up our own booth (pictured below).
VL’s booth at IRCE. (Right) Jessica working hard, setting up VL’s iPads. (Left) VL’s booth with our Shopify Plus partner cube.
Shopify Plus definitely excelled on enticing visitors into their booth to see what was so secretive (and exclusive) about them. Even as one of their partners, the inside of their booth was a mystery to us – until, of course, we were granted entry…
It was a Shopify Plus party! Celebrating the flexibility, accessibility, and more of the Plus platform for high-volume, high-growth enterprises, the Shopify Plus booth was a great space where all kinds of Shopify fans could come and talk to a variety of Plus experts.
Aside from some fantastic booth designs and engaging exhibitors, one key difference between IRCE in previous years and IRCE 2016, for us, was the number of exhibitors that weren’t in their booth spaces!
Exhibitors and attendees were walking elbow-to-elbow on the trade show floor, visiting other exhibitor stands. Which leads into our next section…
What We Heard
If IRCE 2016 had an official logo, it was…
Both exhibitors and attendees actively walked the exhibition floor on both days the floor was open to the public. And they had a common goal: shopping for quality partners. Overwhelmingly, discussions we had and overheard at the show were of the partnership nature – and we’re talking good-will, just like the types of partnerships VL fosters year-round.
The tides seem to be officially turning, and IRCE appears to be the central hub where all sorts of retailers and suppliers in the industry come to talk partnerships above all else. From parties hosted by top exhibitors (IRCE Kickoff Bash pictured above), to happy hours held on the exhibition floor, this theme persisted throughout.
What We Experienced
We approached IRCE 2016 differently than in other years. For one, we had a team member fly out to Chicago a day early to participate in the full day Amazon Workshop. Aside from being a great place to absorb some new perspectives on Amazon, it was a great networking opportunity.
As alluded to above, we also brought enough people with us this year so that we would have the opportunity to walk the trade show floor. If you’re considering IRCE for next year, we’d go as far to say that this is an absolute must! Aside from the networking potential, having team members walk the floor exponentially increases your returns from the show.
The overall feel of IRCE this year was one of partnerships and camaraderie with open discussion on how strategic relationships could be formed between companies so that the entire network of partners in the eco system could grow together.
This is a distinct change from previous years, and possibly signifies that the days of companies being secretive and protective in who they take on as partners is perhaps behind us — which is fantastic news. In our next blog on IRCE 2016 we will discuss some of the trends we saw.
See you next year, IRCE!
Did you miss VL at IRCE 2016?