Over 5,000 tech-savvy visitors from across the globe came together at the NEC for the co-located InternetRetailing Expo (IRX) and eDelivery Expo (EDX) this year.
Game-changing news, developments and innovations – including more than 25 large-scale product launches – were presented at this year's Expos by more than 300 exhibitors, sponsors and partners.
Attendees packed into the theatres to see the inner-workings and strategy from retail heavyweights and trailblazers including Google, Facebook, Vodafone, John Lewis, Next, Alibaba, Harrods, Sainsbury's, LEGO, GAME and Schuh, discussing strategy, industry trends, knowledge and personal experience.
A crowd favourite, Tom Rooney, Mobile Product Manager at John Lewis, joined the From Clicks to Bricks conference on day 1, and highlighted how retailers' multichannel strategy has been shaped by eight key factors, including the growth of smartphones; the behaviour of consumers on different devices and the 'spaghetti journey' consumers make to purchase an item.
Plus, Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of eCommerce at Schuh, outlined, to a packed-out conference hall, how customers demand for increasingly fast, slick and user-friendly online and mobile experiences, were forcing retailers to rethink their strategies to engage consumers at all times.
Another favoured speaker was Nick Wilsdon, Group SEO Lead and Channel Optimisation at Vodafone. He highlighted new and changing search behaviours, particularly, the rapid increase in searches on mobile devices, now starting to take over conventional desktop searches, as well as the excessive increase in voice searches seen within the last 12 months.
In addition to the 8 conferences, the engaging educational programme was completed with 20 workshops, 6 expert clinics, the Digital Payments Theatre and the Omnichannel Experience Theatre, all packed with attendees.
The topics covered were further expanded and brought to life on the exhibition stands where virtual reality, robots, cutting-edge technology and never seen before software, took the spotlight. Companies like Brightpearl, Eiratech Robotics, OrderWise, Consignor, Payoneer, Khaos Control, Papier Mettler, Netmatter, Kardex Remstar, Profulfilment, Akamai, Swisslog, VL, Automated Packaging Systems and Volo Commerce launched new technologies, products and features for the UK market.
Exclusive insight and research was also presented by industry experts and analysts, such as iAdvize, Magnolia and CompetitorMonitor, to help retailers better understand opportunities and challenges in multichannel retail and logistics.
Particularly, the Ingenico ePayments' stand proved extremely popular. The payments brand that recently announced a multichannel partnership with burger chain Five Guys, presented its latest innovation, Gamified Checkout – a solution that offers shoppers with the chance to play games and win prizes at the checkout, boosting conversion and loyalty.
Another central piece of this year's exhibition was the Innovation Hub. Independent retail accelerator and investment fund, TrueStart, together with 10 start-ups, Posttag, ChoiceMaster, Blockverify, LogistCompare, Milkman, ZigZag Global, PixonEye, Hullabalook, Photospire and Streetdots, showcased in this space the new technological solutions and platforms that are disrupting the retailing industry.
These ground-breaking entrepreneurs also participated in the Retail Innovation Award on Day 1, where ZigZag Global and Hullabalook were selected as joint winners after their outstanding pitches.
Patrick Eve, Managing Director of ZigZag Global detailed: "There were some great companies on stage this year, so it means a great deal to get the popular vote from an audience of retailers of all sizes."
Bryony Elliott, Co-Founder of Hullabalook, added: "Our mission is to create beautiful and playful discovery experiences which replace filters. It is a privilege for our technology to be recognised as winners."
Overall, commenting on this year's event, Sam North, Portfolio Director, said: "The success and participation we have seen only proves, once again, that IRX and EDX continues to be the key meeting space for the multichannel retail industry. Particularly, this year we have concentrated on creating the perfect balance of education, innovation, interactivity and networking. We have also showcased an upgraded Top500 Lounge for the UK and Europe's best retailers to call home, because we know networking amongst peers is a huge part of this fast-paced market.
The feedback we have had from retailers, partners, exhibitors and guests has been fantastic. Everyone got a lot of value out of that networking as well as the learning and immersive experience within our theatres and with our exhibitors."
Attendees greatly commended IRX with Paz Khorana, Senior Operations Manager at Holland and Barrett, detailing "Everybody is in one place, it's a really good way to network and meet people" and Evie Mackie, Technology Graduate at John Lewis saying "It's like a hub of innovation all coming together for retail", among others.
To further celebrate the continued success of the most dynamic online retail sector, more than 300 exclusive guests had the chance to join the first ever IRX Official After-Party. The unique evening brought together the who's who of the industry and the most distinguished professionals at this year's show, toasting to the bright future ahead of the industry.