Attendees at IRCE 2019 can look to technology to help them boost customer engagement and sales.

There are two constants in retail: consumers are shifting more of their spending online—even if they increasingly move across multiple channels before they make a purchase—and vendors are rolling out new technology and tools to help merchants better serve shoppers however they choose to buy. Technology is changing at break-neck speed, and competition among retailers to grab and hold their share of sales is moving at a similar pace.

For example, artificial intelligence—technology that enables computerized systems to learn and improve processes without human intervention—is helping retailers entice shoppers to make online and offline purchases by predicting what individual shoppers want. AI can help merchants gather data from their own databases on shoppers’ buying habits, as well as data from other retailers, product manufacturers and software vendors.

Nothing artificial

There’s nothing artificial about AI’s uses, such as predicting what individual shoppers might want to buy and updating product offerings in real time with that shopper’s data and data based on similar shoppers’ buying habits across the internet. Such tools can open new shopper engagement channels and enhance the customer shopping experience, which equates with increased revenue. A number of retailers are getting out their wallets and investing in new technologies.

Retailers globally are projected to spend $12 billion on AI services alone by 2023, according to a study by Juniper Research. That’s up by a gaudy 233% from an estimated $3.6 billion in 2018. And more than 325,000 retailers globally will adopt AI technology in the next five years,
the digital consultancy predicts.


The broad applications and growth of AI is just one technology category that will drive a range of educational sessions at this year’s Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition at RetailX in Chicago. For instance, Ken Natori, president of women’s fashion and home furnishings merchant Natori, and John Wood, founder and CEO of US Wellness Meats, will explain how AI has helped them streamline their marketing operations with minimal human involvement.

AI is just one of a number of fast-emerging technologies that retailers are embracing, which explains why global retail technology spending is expected to grow 3.6% to nearly $203.6 billion this year, according to a recent Gartner Inc. forecast. Software is the top technology spending category as retailer chief information officers identify analytics, digital marketing, mobile applications and ecommerce platforms as key technologies needed to meet their organization’s mission, Gartner says.

CIOs accountable for business results

“Retail CIOs used to be tasked with minimizing risk and cost,” says Gartner analyst Molly Beams. “Now they are held accountable for business results. They are prioritizing ROI and other measurable business impacts. Retail CIOs are investing in analytics for both near-term benefits like decision-making and to prepare for innovations such as smart machines, AI and augmented reality—all of which will require robust datasets.”

In addition to insights into the latest in ecommerce technologies, the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition has a new look and feel this year, along with a new name, IRCE @ RetailX, reflecting its co-location with two related conferences. The conference, which runs June 25-28, features an exhibit hall with nearly 600 ecommerce software, hardware and services vendors, ranging from startups to the industry’s most well-known names—and everything in between.


This year, attendees can also visit exhibitors from RFID Journal Live Retail, which focuses on the use of radio frequency identification to track retail inventory, and GlobalShop, thanks to RetailX’s combined exhibit hall. RFID Journal Live Retail and GlobalShop, which showcases retail store design, are owned and managed by Emerald Exhibitions, which also owns IRCE. Emerald combined the three exhibitions this year to give attendees access to a broader range of educational sessions and exhibitors as the industry expands.

Keeping up with a rapidly evolving business environment is a major challenge for retailers, and IRCE @ RetailX brings together technology, marketing and operations exhibitors and subject matter experts under one roof. Every year, IRCE, which is the largest annual event focused on ecommerce, showcases the latest advances in technology, marketing and operations from ecommerce platforms to fulfillment to omnichannel management. This year’s show aims to highlight some of those emerging technologies in a new track, “Place the Right Bets Now for the Digital Future.”

New business models

“This track puts the focus on new business models and technologies that aren’t in widespread use,” says Doug Hope, RetailX show director at Emerald Expositions. “The track is a new approach for IRCE and will give attendees with a deep understanding of current strategies and technologies a glimpse of what’s to come.”


For example, Daniel Lucht, global research director for the London-based research and consulting firm ResearchFarm, will speak in a session that will dig into how changing consumer expectations in the European Union, Asia and elsewhere are driving retailers and vendors to invest in robots, facial recognition technology and other applications. In the same forward-looking vein, Brendan Witcher, a Forrester Research Inc. ecommerce analyst, will review the latest ecommerce technologies and identify those that can help retailers achieve measurable competitive improvements.

In some cases, the sheer scope of ecommerce technology available to retailers can be overwhelming. Marta Dalton, global director of ecommerce at consumer packaged goods giant Unilever, will explain how the company built and organized multiple marketing technologies—the marketing stack. Dalton will share tips on how to select and evaluate technology from among thousands of marketing applications and describe how to organize the stack to produce a healthy return on investment.

Between the conference sessions and an exhibit hall that covers more than 400,000 square feet of space, there are ample opportunities for retailers to examine what’s coming next in retail, Hope says.