IRCE 2016 Takeaways: Amazon, Shopify Plus & Understanding Your Customers

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This year’s Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (IRCE) was one of the largest yet with over 600 exhibiting companies and 10,000 attendees. The Stitch Labs team was there on the front lines exhibiting on the expo floor, attending sessions and visiting with the most inspiring people in commerce. Since there was a ton of information to digest during the jam packed four-day event, we’ve boiled down the three major themes from this year’s IRCE.

Amazon: Still Growing and More Relevant Than Ever

From announcing new fulfillment centers to expanding their Echo product, it’s no surprise Amazon remained a main topic of discussion. Internet Retailer went so far as to dedicate an entire track session to the Amazon empire during the pre-show.

Amazon is a behemoth that keeps on growing.Their revenues are growing 26% year over year as they serve 310 million active buyers, a customer segment increasing 13% annually, according to Scot Wingo, the co-founder and executive chairman of ChannelAdvisor. He also noted around 80% of Amazon product sales are from electronics and general merchandise.

It’s tough to say how exact these numbers really are. Amazon chooses to grow mysteriously and exponentially in everyone else’s shadow. “Amazon is the world’s most secretive company,” Wingo said during his presentation. “Jeff Bezos is a big believer in game theory, which argues that it doesn’t make sense to share anything going on.” However, it is safe to say a growing number of retailers are sizing up a piece of the lucrative Amazon pie.

An increasing number of  retailers are flocking to Amazon to sell their products and grow their businesses. It’s hard to ignore Amazon’s impact when your competition is stealing your customers through Amazon listings. A seller's reputation on Amazon can either make or break their business. During an Amazon workshop, David Rifkin, president and CEO of cleaning supplies retailer MicroFiber Products Online, spoke to why a seller’s reputation is critical for their Amazon success. “There are so many people trying to get on Amazon to sell, and only so many brands. The rejection level is getting quite high,” Rifkin noted. “But if you have the best reputation on Amazon, and you can present that to a company and give them confidence that you’ll present their product in the best light, it opens doors.”

It’s no surprise IRCE had workshops and support centers dedicated to Amazon sellers. Though we might not know exactly how fast Amazon is growing, we do understand its impact on commerce, which is exactly why IRCE choose to highlight Amazon more than in past years.  

Ask the Right Questions to Understand Your Customers

The internet is a busy, busy place. Between your direct competition and brands selling complementary products, thousands of retailers are vying for consumer attention. There’s a slew of solutions to help you pinpoint and precisely market to your ideal target customer base. Email, SEO, paid search, buy buttons, and Amazon’s product sponsorships are among the many tools that can help you acquire and retain business. This year at IRCE, presenters and exhibitors conveyed the importance of understanding your customer.

So, if you think you know who your customers are and what they do, think again. Matthew Butelein, President of FreshPair, said, “I don’t know my customers, I just think I do. You need to learn how to market to your customers, not just based on who they are, but on what they do.” You can do just this by using behavioral triggers to send out email and customize display ads.

Furthermore, Greg Bowen, Vice President of Dell Commerce Services emphasised a key consideration for  keeping customer happy: “If you start with the wrong reasons, you’ll end with the wrong results.”

When you are first and foremost seeking out your customers’ needs, you’ll set yourself up for success. You need to think about your customer experience and engagement like an art curator. If you focus on your own preferences, you’ll end up satisfying a smaller number of people. When you consider your target audience and what they want, you’ll inevitably create a meaningful experience for your customers - and you might be surprised along the way.

Is Shopify Driving the Future of the eCommerce Ecosystem?

This year Shopify (Plus) took the plunge into the IRCE community by exhibiting for the first time ever. It wasn’t surprising to see many vendors - from developer agencies to preferred app makers - follow them to take part in this important industry event. It clearly demonstrates how Shopify has impacted the commerce space with their partner relationships. Many of Shopify’s and Stitch Labs’ mutual partners such as BVACCEL, Bold Commerce, and DIFF all came along to the show for the first time. We’re proud to have DIFF and Bold Commerce apart of our family as well as developer partners. In the same vein as Shopify, though for front-end measures, we’re using these agencies to outsource custom developerwork to build operational flows for our customers.

Upon entering Shopify Plus’ booth - a massive black box guarded by bouncers - attendees were presented with a video describing the fragmented retail space. As they proceeded forward through another door, a well lit section symbolized that Shopify Plus seems to have found the answer.

Their booth illustrated the current retail landscape. Many retailers feel left in the dark and desperate to find scalable solutions.. But retailers won’t be able to find the “light,” i.e. the future of commerce, on their own. Shopify’s developer partners play an influential part in helping retailers transition into a technology stack customized to their operational workflows. It’s a groundbreaking year for all of us as we understand the problems larger retailers face, and we’ll have to work together to continuously improve upon the solutions we’re providing.

Lastly, a special thanks to all those who attended our happy hour event with Shopify Plus and ShipStation. We loved talking, networking, and eating and drinking with all 400 of you!

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