codal insights

Here’s Your Takeaways From IRCE 2018

June 11th, 2018

The booths have been shuttered and stowed away in closets, the mountains of company memorabilia gifted to kids, spouses, or airport garbage cans, the weary attendees settled back into their routine workdays, greeted by a tidal wave of missed emails.

Yes, IRCE 2018 came to a close last week, with the four-day retail and eCommerce conference in Chicago concluding with parties, networking, and one lucky attendee winning a brand new car. And while Codal had a blast hanging out with some of our clients, partners (and yes, competition), we also learned quite a bit from IRCE.

Here’s Your Takeaways From IRCE 2018


The online retail space has changed significantly since our last IRCE, and the eCommerce community has grown and evolved with it. Here are some takeaways we gleaned from one of the biggest retail conferences in America, from one eCommerce design company to you.

Stop, Collaborate And Listen

Any industry trade show—though especially one concerning a sector as competitive as eCommerce—is going to be filled with companies vying for that next big deal or hunting for the juiciest leads. But the atmosphere at IRCE wasn’t a cutthroat battle royale. On the contrary, McCormick Place fostered an overwhelmingly friendly, collaborative environment.

How do we know? Well for starters, we’ve got a hefty stack of business cards from department heads of partner programs and alliances. No matter the exact nature of your business, the attendees and exhibitors are IRCE were interested in seeing if a mutually beneficial relationship could be formed.

We also experienced some good old fashioned camaraderie from merchants and neighboring exhibitors. One Shopify plugin company, stationed a few booths down from us, courteously sent a few attendees our way that were looking for UX design and development services. That’s the kind of goodwill that stems from an industry where companies would rather give each other a leg up than tear each other down.

Conference Promotions Are King

There’s no end to the different gimmicks exhibitors will wheel out to promote their booth and their business. But due to the ubiquity of popular freebies like pens, shirts, or stickers, many are forced to come up with more creative alternatives for attracting attendees to the booth.

Codal’s experimented with all sorts of company ‘swag’ in the past, trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. This year, we went the food route (our popcorn machine had attendees following their noses to our booth), but we also decided to devote a sizable portion of our backdrop to advertise a promotion we were offering in conjunction with Shopify Plus: six free months on the eCommerce platform when users switched from Magento.

The promotion was a hit. Magento users who came to IRCE in search of greener eCommerce pastures flocked to the booth, many of them deciding to be proactive and make the switch right then and there. And even the attendees who weren’t on Magento stopped to inquire about the signage, recognizing the Shopify Plus seal and asking if we’re a certified partner. (Affirmative.)

This advice obviously isn’t exclusive to IRCE—the conference promotion can be an effective strategy regardless of your industry. Take a look at the backdrop we whipped up that made our booth a hit:

Here’s Your Takeaways From IRCE 2018

(And by the way, we’re still offering that promotion. Ask us about it here!)

Why You’re At This Conference

It’s easy to get caught up in the all the bells and whistles of enormous industry trade shows like these, but it’s important to remember that the real work gets done in those brief little conversations you have throughout the week, those elevator pitches of your company’s purpose and value prop.

After talking to a neverending carousel of attendees, exhibitors, business owners, marketing managers, and more, you start to uncover the larger reason why all of these people are at IRCE. The reasons aren’t as disparate as you’d think—in fact, nearly all of them shared the same key concept.

Here’s the conversation I had over and over:

Me: “Hi! What brings you to IRCE this week?”

Them: “Well, to be honest, I’m not really sure yet. I’ll know what I’m looking for when I see it.”

I can count the number of times on one hand that someone came up to us and explicitly said: “I need UX design and development”. What people were really looking for was a solution to a problem their business has. Not every business needs a redesigned website or app, but every business has problems. After quickly picking up on that, my conversation went a bit differently:

Me: “Hi! What brings you to IRCE this week?”

Them: “Well, to be honest, I’m not really sure yet. I’ll know what I’m looking for when I see it.”

Me: Well, what sort of challenges is your business having? We do a lot here at Codal, and I’m willing to bet we’ve got something in our arsenal that could help. *enters flawlessly polished spiel on Codal’s UX design and development services*

That’s another huge takeaway: how best to interact with conference attendees and forge useful connections.

That’s what I learned, at least. Our designers and developers who attended some of the conference’s workshops and breakout sessions learned much more. That’s our philosophy here at Codal: we’re always learning, so we can better serve you and your business.

Sean McGowan


Sean is a technical researcher & writer at Codal, authoring blog posts on topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest and greatest in digital design, Sean can be found baking, watching movies, or complaining about the shortcomings of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.


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