A new app lets attendees request meetings with other conference-goers and exhibitors.

The organizers of IRCE 2015 expect 10,000 people to attend the show in Chicago next week and 600 companies to exhibit. And this year they’re making it easier for attendees to meet people they want to meet, whether that’s retailers in similar industries, people in similar jobs or potential technology or service providers.

To set up those meetings, attendees can use IRCE Link, an automated meeting-arranging app from Jublia Pte Ltd. of Singapore. App users can search the IRCE attendees list by individual or company, or by industry, business type or region, then request a meeting with people they want to meet.

When an attendee sets up a meeting with another attendee they will arrange a time to meet at the Link Lounge, which will be on the right side of the exhibit hall as people enter. Meetings with exhibitors will take place at their booths, says Craig Dooley, group show director for the Internet Retailer Events group and senior vice president of Emerald Expositions, which owns IRCE.

“One of the biggest requests we get is, ‘How do I connect with people like me or people I want to see.’ Now we have a way to do that,” Dooley says.

He says IRCE opened up the Link meeting-setup to attendees two weeks ago “and the response has been incredible. We already have tens of thousands of meeting requests.”

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An attendee can request a meeting through the IRCE app or online at link.irce.com. An attendee has to provide the event password that IRCE provides in confirmation emails.

The Link meet-up system is one of several new ways IRCE attendees will get to interact this year.

Another is a “backyard lounge” area toward the back of the exhibit hall that will feature a bar open through the afternoon and evenings and games like foosball and bag toss. The area, sponsored by MasterCard Inc., will be “a place to meet and relax,” Dooley says.

Attendees also will be able to learn more about international e-commerce developments through an expanded program at the Global Theater on the show floor. There will be sessions on India organized by e-commerce event organizer eTailing India and on Latin America by eShow, which puts on e-retail conferences and exhibitions throughout Latin America, Spain and Portugal. Also speaking at the Global Theater on Wednesday, June 3, will be Porter Erisman, a former vice president of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., who will discuss his new book, “Alibaba’s World.”

Attendees will also be able to interact in a new way in a conference session in the Small Retailers track from 4-4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, June 3. In that session, three retailers will make a pitch for funds, as startups do on the TV show “Shark Tank,” and George Deeb, managing partner of Red Rocket Partners LLC, a Chicago consulting firm that specializes in advising startups will fire questions at them. Then the audience will get to vote on which of the three firms they would invest in, either by text or through the IRCE mobile app. A screen in the front of the room will show the results as they come in.

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Later that evening, IRCE attendees also will get a chance to celebrate industry innovators at a banquet honoring winners of the first-ever Internet Retailer Excellence Awards. Winners in 10 categories will be announced from among 35 finalist companies. Tickets for the event are still available.

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