For those of you just tuning in, VL packed their bags, hopped a plane, and headed over the pond to Birmingham, UK for the co-located IRX (Internet Retailing Expo) and EDX (eDelivery Expo) shows.
Between the two, the full spectrum of start-to-finish omni-channel retailing was covered in depth with the thousands of attendees that poured through the NEC Hall 9 doors looking for information, solutions, and partnerships.
Unsuprisingly, Virtual Logistics had a great time!
Situated at Stand K55 and bridging the line between eDelivery and Ecommerce (as do our services through VL OMNI), we were treated to two solid days of fascinating insight, great conversations, and a slew of great new contacts.
Just like all the trade shows VL attends and/or exhibits at, there were a few emerging trends that came out of the many conversations we had. We’ve summarized and simplified them below. Keep on reading for more!
Some Trends as Noted by VL
1. Consumer-driven retail trends
On the second day of IRX/EDX, VL’s very own Robin Smith held a workshop on emerging retail trends, who’s driving them, and what businesses can do in order to stay afloat in this new omni-channel economy.
Stay tuned to VL’s blog for a recording of Robin’s talk on millennial-influenced retail trends, and how businesses can take advantage of them
We were thrilled to see the level of engagement from the audience in this session. Conference attendees were stopping as they were walking by the workshop space, hearing the subject nature, and coming in to grab a chair.
And the questions, comments, and discussions both after the workshop and that also followed us back to our stand space reflected what VL already knew:
Consumer-driven retail trends are making (or breaking) omni-channel businesses – and businesses are slowly coming to realize this new fact of the business-consumer relationship.
But what was new in these discussions was how the title of ‘Millennials’ (or ‘Gen M’) were narrowing businesses perspectives on exactly who is responsible for driving these consumer-centric changes. We spoke with a few brands that were challenging the narrow notion that Millennials are the only ones participating in the age of multi-channel commerce, when in fact you have digital natives, and those outside of the cohort who are just as savvy as the natives.
The next challenge for those businesses that have embraced consumer-centric trends? We’re calling it: It’s broadening the corporate perspective beyond hype titles like ‘Millennials’.
2. The issue of borders
This subject came up in no less that half a dozen separate conversations I personally had over the course of the two day expo, which leads me to believe that Canada is suffering from more than businesses who aren’t online in the right ways for their audiences.
Canada has an issue with our borders, and allowing businesses to ship freely to their end consumers.
This is an issue that is new to me, but from the consumer-facing side of things, I have definitely experienced some of the negative aspects of ordering items online from the EU and beyond. (You can read more on this subject here.)
At the heart of this issue is the Canadian Government, hailing back to a discussion that we’ve written on in the past: that the Canadian government needs to help Canadian businesses and consumers enter the digital age – before it’s too late.
And it’s already getting too late: one conference attendee I spoke with (a large multi-national corporation that represents omni-channel retail clients) told me that he’s crossed Canada off the list of the countries they will ship to because our borders are just too difficult and expensive to navigate. Wow!
3. A highly knowledgeable audience that’s thirsty for more
The attendees at IRX/EDX were in another class – they knew why they were there, what they wanted to achieve, and who they wanted to talk to.
Kate Temperly, Canadian High Commission, London and Business Development Officer at Government of Ontario, came up to Birmingham to chat with Robin Smith and Scott Beaver of VL and to explore the IRX/EDX show
Maybe this can be partially attributed to Birmingham’s location – almost everyone I spoke to came in from out of town, AKA highly motivated to be in the exhibition hall in the first place. And these attendees had done their research as a result: they knew what the problems were that they were looking to solve, and who they likely needed to speak to in order to get them on the right track.
Finally, these attendees (as alluded to above) were extremely prepared. Not once did I have a conversation about how important data integration is to a company in today’s omni- or multi-channel retail ecosystem is – instead, attendees who stopped to speak with us already knew. And they also recognized their problem areas, and how they were tied (or not – not everyone was a perfect fit!) into data integration inefficiencies.
Leading us into our fourth observation…
4. An audience that recognizes their dependence on paper
This is a trend we initially picked up on in the Fall of 2015 as exhibitors at London’s eCommerce Expo: the UK loves their paper. As conference attendees and exhibitors, we’re consistently amazed at the amount of brochures, booklets, leaflets, and other paper promotional products that are intended for other attendees to take away with them. Last year in London, our luggage was absolutely full of this paper; this year in Birmingham, it was much of the same.
But the tides are turning: the businesses we spoke with at IRX/EDX were very aware of the British dependence on paper. Even though the UK and EU digital retail front end is light years ahead of what we have in Canada (and to an extent, the USA as well), countless people admitted that their back end still ‘integrates’ to a piece of paper.
But better yet, these same people acknowledge that it’s time for a change.
Over the past months of becoming more acquainted with omni-channel retail and it’s supply chain in the UK, we’ve heard from countless parties first-hand that the combination of legacy systems, poorly formulated strategies in adopting new technologies and channels, and a slower adoption rate of cloud solutions and services than Canadian and American businesses have landed UK businesses in this ongoing paper predicament. But more than once did I hear accounts of business first hand or those that people knew of who have torn down the entire back-end technology stack in favour of rebuilding everything from scratch with data integration in mind. Amazing!
5. Canadian invasion – Not Quite
Our final observation was a surprise, even to us: we weren’t the only Canadian company to exhibit at IRX/EDX 2016! Our friends from Nextopia, based just down the road from VL’s head offices in Toronto, were just as surprised to see a fellow Canadian company exhibiting in Birmingham at IRX/EDX as we were. Small world – and I guess the UK market likes what Canadian technology companies are putting out.
See you next year, IRX/EDX!
How Millennials are Revolutionizing Omni-Channel Retail, Forcing Businesses to Change:
A look at trends and how to take advantage of them in the next 3 years