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We’re still coming down from the high of this year’s Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago this week, but before we dismantle our exhibit booth, we wanted to share some of our insights and experiences with you.

More than 10,000+ attendees from all corners of the globe came together to exchange ideas, tips and strategies for successful online retail.

Many of those attendees headed for Adestra’s booth to talk about their successes in making email a key part of their retail ecommerce program. It was exciting to discover that so many digital pros connect with our First-Person Marketing approach and to hear about their successes and goals.

The view from our booth: Marketers want help with new pain points

We also had incredibly in-depth conversations in our relaxation lounge – a welcome stop for attendees roaming the 600+ other exhibits – about the challenges and obstacles that they face integrating email into a complete digital marketing program.

What was notable about many of these conversations is how specific our visitors were about their email gains as well as what they needed to overcome to keep moving the needle forward toward relevant, valuable messaging.

This was far different from the issues marketers bring us at other shows. Our booth visitors were telling things like these:

  • “I know I need to get my conversion rate up but I’m stuck” and
  • “It’s taking my team too long to get the email product out the door, so I need to learn about more efficient workflows.”
  • “I’m stuck trying to integrate my email data to inform my search and social marketing.”

We loved hearing this questions because they told us our attendees – broadly digital marketers email – are seeing the connective tissue between email and paid search, email and social, email and SEO and trying to put the pieces together for a cohesive program.

They’re seeing how email can benefit all these other digital channels, along with offline channels and even in physical locations. (See our notes on the Warby Parker keynote below)

That’s exciting for us because that’s what Adestra is all about – showing brands how to break out the silos and create a strong, integrated program where messaging is driven by data.

Keynotes you need to note

With more than 130 special-interest sessions to choose from, we had to split up our squad to cover as many as possible. But, as always, the keynotes were a highlight. Here are our notes from two memorable sessions:

Brick-and-mortar still matters

You probably know Warby Parker as a classic eyewear company that built its brand eight years ago by selling online directly to consumers to help cut down costs. Co-founder Dave Gilboa told attendees during his keynote presentation that physical stores matter and complement the online experience.

“We see our stores as a way to solve a customer’s problem. A lot of our shoppers have been online first and favorited a pair of frames that they like, but then would rather try them on in store. We make sure that the frames are ready for try-on when they get there,” Gilboa said.

It also works the other way too, he explained. Warby Parker staff take photos of customers in the frames that they have tried on and then email the links back to customers so that they can buy them online later.

Gilboa said that this offline-coupled-with-online combination reduces friction for customers who might not have everything they need at that moment to buy a pair of frames (such as their prescription details) and ends up with great conversion.

“More than 60% of the emails that are sent to consumers that have been in store first result in some kind of transaction,” he noted.

Mass is just average

Marketing expert, author and speaker Seth Godin has a clear message for marketers: Yesterday is over, and so are the strategies that may have worked then. We are in a new era, one where you must battle against the millions to draw the attention of your consumers for even just a second.

So, you need to stand out and stop bombarding consumers with marketing “noise” designed to reach the masses.

While it’s all too easy to be tempted to send out more messages so you can drown out your competitors, “more” doesn’t always mean “good,” Godin said in his keynote. In fact, it makes consumers zone out.

“The challenge of the four-letter word ‘more’ is simple. ‘More’ equals ‘mass’ and mass leads to average products for average people,” Godin commented. “If you want to reach everyone, you better have something everyone wants to buy, which leads to ‘average,’ which means the same thing as mass.”

Godin urged marketers to think of consumers as individuals. (Sound familiar? That’s a fundamental concept of First-Person Marketing.)

While the internet might seem like one large network, it’s made up of millions of single human beings, each one looking for a personal touch to truly connect with, he said.

“You don’t win because you have a better factory than others,” Godin said. “You win because you touched humanity, you were connected and because those people that felt connected were loyal, and they are interested in hearing you.”

Godin closed out his session with a visual plea to marketers: He showed a photo of a classic marketing funnel on a giant screen and then spun it around to turn it into a megaphone – but not for marketers.

seth godin funnel

“It’s time for marketers to turn the funnel on its head and turn it into a voice for consumers,” Godin said.

Marketers are looking at the so-called funnel the wrong way, he said. Rather than see the process as generating leads, converting prospects and keeping customers engaged, the baton should be passed to the customers – a company’s biggest advocates.

“You have the dials, the levers, the trust and the privilege to take responsibility,” said Godin. “Now, pass it over to your customers, give them the speaker. Let them know that you see and hear them, that you understand them, and they will do the rest.”

IRCE off the clock

After a long day on the floor, it was time to relax with friends. The Adestra crew couldn’t let people go back home without trying a slice of Chicago’s legendary deep-dish pizza. Teaming up with our friends and partners at Fresh Relevance, Adestra hosted a pizza night at the historic Gino’s East. What a night it was!


ginos east


Of course, we can’t close without sharing a team picture from the Adestra booth.

irce team

See you next year!