IRCE @ RetailX 2019 – Making the Most of the Ecommerce Tradeshow of the Year (And Where To Find Everything)

It’s that time of the year again…TIME FOR IRCE!

Every year, the Internet Retailer Conference + Exhibition, one of the most prolific ecommerce conferences for North America, opens its doors to let the wide world of commerce in. This year is a bit different from others, as IRCE is no longer IRCE all by itself; the IRCE VL OMNI has come to know and love over the 7 years we’ve been attending has joined forces with RetailX. Attendees of the show this year can expect a bigger, better, more complete picture of everything to do with commerce, expanding IRCE’s usual focus on ecommerce and into the ‘real world’ of bricks-and-mortar with the co-located shows of RFID Journal Live! Retail and GlobalShop.

This means IRCE 2019 is going to be bigger, better, and even more stuffed to the brim with the best technology vendors and commerce solutions the industry has to offer. If you’re planning on walking the show floor this year, you might want to come prepared with a game plan more than ever before. This year’s show boasts 130+ conference sessions, over 200 speakers, 600+ exhibitors, over 3100 unique companies, and a whopping 10,000+ attendees. Where do you even start?

Lucky for you, VL OMNI is going to share our cheat-sheet of how to work IRCE like a pro! Read on!

IRCE has always been a beast of a show. 2019’s show is upping the ante, running in parallel with RetailX’s RFID Journal Live! Retail and GlobalShop shows. Attendees of any of these three shows will have equal access to the open floor-plan of the exhibition space, spanning a whopping 840,000 square feet of exhibition space.

Rule 1 of IRCE: Bring your walking shoes… and maybe a spare

But it’s not just about walking the conference show flow and visiting all the fantastic exhibitors, VL OMNI included. IRCE is and has always been an education-first conference. Every year, attendees flock to IRCE for their world-class workshops and seminars held by internationally recognized experts and thought leaders.

Rule 2 of IRCE: If you have a conference pass, register for sessions well in advance—but leave yourself some breathing room, and time to really visit the world-class exhibition floor

This year will be VL OMNI’s seventh time exhibiting at IRCE. As much as we’re becoming old pros at getting the most out of the show as both an exhibitor and an attendee, every year IRCE changes its face to match the changing retail ecosystem. So even IRCE vets like VL still find it important to do our pre-event planning, scheduling, and strategizing well before we walk through the doors of McCormick Place in Chicago.

But there are some things that have stayed consistent over the years….

Rule 3 of IRCE: Leverage the List of Exhibitors

There are over 600 booths you could potentially explore at IRCE, but with only 2 days to explore the floor, don’t expect to be able to visit every exhibitor. The exhibition floor is only open for a total of 19 hours across 3 days; if you wanted to visit each exhibitor, that’d leave you with about a minute per booth, and leaving you with no time for anything else. It’s very important to attend the IRCE exhibition floor with a series of lists: one of who you must speak to, one who you’d like to speak to, and an ‘if I have time’ list of extra exhibitors you’d like to just browse.

The IRCE website, IRCE Connect App, and other resources around the show have plenty of information on where to find your targeted list of exhibitors. You can start exhibitors through many of these portals, but VL recommends you come with a hard print-out of your targeted exhibitors; the Wifi at IRCE (as with many shows) is notoriously unreliable.

Bonus tip: order your lists by booth numbers to create a quick plan-of-attack map. The first two digits of an exhibitor’s booth number are the aisle they can be found in, while the last two digits are the rough row position.

Rule 4 of IRCE: Leave room for the unexpected

One of the beauties of IRCE is that you have so many solution providers and experts in a single place. You never know what you might stumble upon—it might just revolutionize how you do business!

It can, however, be hard to know where to start at the show. Even with a great plan of attack, walking through the big blue arches of IRCE can be overwhelming. What the show is on paper and in planning, is completely different in person. From incredible booth builds (and I do mean builds, with some exhibitors choosing to erect temporary buildings on their spaces for the show), to great swag, to just stumbling upon a solution you didn’t know you needed, build in room for discovery at the show—you won’t regret it.

Rule 5 of IRCE: Don’t start by the main doors

If you’re already feeling overwhelmed or unsure of where to start in the giant hall, don’t feel pressured to start at the front—if you do, don’t be surprised to be joined by potentially thousands of fellow attendees. Instead, be a contrarian and start at the back of the hall, or towards the middle. You’ll be rewarded with the luxury of time and elbow space. Trust us.

[Add Image of promo map for Shopify Plus Partner Area; caption: “Of course, the Shopify Plus Neighborhood is a must-go-to attraction at IRCE 2019: Be sure to come see VL OMNI’s new booth at #1060, but don’t forget to visit our valued partners Shopify Plus (#561), Chief Digital Advisors (hanging out between booth #1060 and #561), Gorgias (#465), Half Helix (#261), eHouse Studios (#461), Metacake (#559), and many more!]

A great starting place in the exhibition hall has been the Shopify Plus Partner Area. A ‘neighborhood’ of Shopify Plus Partners, this area was first officially spun up at IRCE 2 years ago with 2019 being the third consecutive year this special grouping of exhibitors. Here, you’ll not only see VL OMNI, a top data integration platform and strategic consultancy and Technology Partner of Shopify Plus, but you’ll also get coveted one-on-one discovery time with some of ecommerce best agencies and solutions—especially if you hit this area of the exhibition floor before the crowds really pour in. Both Shopify Plus and VL OMNI only partner with the best of the best, and the Shopify Plus Neighborhood is a quick way to find many of these companies within a few steps of each other.

Rules 6-9 of IRCE: How to Do IRCE like a Pro

When I think back to when I first attended IRCE with VL OMNI back in 2016, I have to shake my head in shame. I had thoroughly prepared for the show, but being on the exhibition floor is something completely different.

I started this cheat-sheet of ‘how to do IRCE like a pro’ when I found I had learned considerably from my first year and was sharing my learnings with other exhibitors and attendees at the IRCE. I figured: if this advice is useful to these people, it might be useful for the wider audience of IRCE, too.

So here are my consistent tips for any year of IRCE:

Rule 6: Grab a paper copy of the IRCE guide as soon as you can. This is your bible at the show! As much as you may think that you won’t need one, you’ll likely end up turning around to grab one at some point. Filled with everything you need to know about IRCE and a lot more reliable than the wifi and hotspots, there’s good reason as to why IRCE continues to print the guides!

Rule 7: Download the IRCE App—and use it! Unlike many conference apps, the IRCE App is extremely useful for scheduling meetings, staring exhibitors and sessions, and connecting with other attendees. Download it now and set up all the features you need to save you precious time at the show.

Rule 8: Remember to give your feet the occasional break—and don’t pay for snacks, water, or coffee. Look out for the key places where you can sit, eat, and drink. Those of us who attend a lot of conferences and trade shows know that a place to sit and take a bit of a breather is a must. IRCE has plenty of places to sit, network, and to grab a bite to eat and something to drink, but if you’re just looking to grab some water, coffee, or a quick nibble to recharge your batteries, don’t pay for it at the concession stands! Many exhibitors give these things away as their ‘swag’ at their booths.

During a cursory tour of the exhibition hall, note where the good snacks, water, coffee, and seating is; you’ll thank yourself later (as you’ll likely go back to these booths more than once). Can’t find a seat? Come visit VL OMNI in booth #1060! We have plenty of room to relax; we’ve filled our space with comfy chairs for a reason. And if you just want to sit, you’re still welcome in our space: we understand the value of a moment of space at IRCE just as much as any attendee, and we’ll be sure to extend our Canadian politeness your way if you just need a break.

Rule 9: Have fun and enjoy yourself! IRCE is always a great time, but it can be easy to forget to enjoy yourself in between networking and speaking sessions. Take your time, grab some great swag, and save room for the after parties! You never know what you might find when you’re least expecting it!