We’re just back from a very happening Internet Retailer Conference and Expo (IRCE) in beautiful Chicago, where we noticed some familiar and recurring themes…

Heard Around the Booth: The “P Word”
IRCE 2013It’s no surprise that a main topic of discussion at IRCE was personalization.  In a survey Monetate conducted with Econsultancy earlier this year, 94% of all respondents indicated that personalization is “critical to the future success” of their brands. Yet three out of four admitted that they were not effectively personalizing.

These findings were further supported by the prevalence of, and frustration around, the “P word” at IRCE in the hundreds of discussions the Monetate team had with retailers and ecommerce marketers from across the globe (companies from Finland, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, and Canada stopped by, to name a few).

And yep, big data is still a big deal. Brands are still challenged when it comes to making heads or tails of the data they collect about their customers, and even those that are able to glean insights are not always able to act on the data efficiently or even in an impactful way.

We did notice, however, that retailers were more aware of the technology solutions that take the big data conundrum out of their hands. Call it Big-Data-as-a-Service, or the democratization of big data, retailers are slowly coming to understand that they don’t need a team of data scientists on hand to harness the power of big data.

One attendee likened the democratization of data to the introduction of Microsoft Windows to the market in the early ‘90s. Suddenly, everyone could experience the personal computer through a graphical user interface without having to navigate the clunky DOS commands. It’s a good analogy—as marketers can now leverage big data through an interface without even having to look at the backend data.

Heard in the Sessions: Global We Go    
Everything online is local, so in that case—you better go global. Confused yet? Let’s discuss. Again and again in sessions, presenters stressed the importance of the global market, most notably the very real and present market opportunities in China and Latin America where ecommerce sales are soaring.

Presenters cautioned, however, against alienating these consumers by not appealing to their local cultures, concerns, and language. Does this mean creating hundreds of different international websites? Not necessarily. But it does mean understanding the conversion barriers that stop international customers from completing a purchase. For example, very few Latin American customers use credit cards, but that does not mean they don’t have buying power. Once brands understand the impediments to conversions in different countries, they can target campaigns, content, and payment options that appeal to their preferences and increase sales.

Heard Everywhere: “Opportunities are Boundless”
From keynote speaker Al Gore to networking banter, IRCE attendees were talking about the sheer size of the ecommerce market opportunity. With U.S. ecommerce sales at $343.43 billion in 2012, and expected to increase 12% to $384.80 billion this year, the future is promising. As Gore pointed out, ““If you keep on your toes and innovate properly, the opportunities are boundless.”

Marifran Manzo-RitchieMarifran Manzo-Ritchie is the Director of Corporate Communications at Monetate. She has over 12 years of experience in helping companies create and share the messages that resonate with their target markets. In a previous life, Marifran worked as a radio news writer, producer, and occasional on-air talent. She is always trying to learn the Italian language and the piano.