IRX 2019 – The UK’s largest multichannel retail event

8 min read

On April 3rd and 4th, several members of the StudioForty9 team attended the Internet Retailing EXPO (IRX) 2019. The 2-day event saw a multitude of topics covered – from Marketing Excellence, Customer Obsession and Fraud, to International Growth, Operational Excellence and New Technology. The event was hosted in the NEC in Birmingham and showcased experts in the fields of retail and eCommerce present on some of the above topics.

The event had some well-known names as sponsors such as Shopware, Magento, and BigCommerce in addition to a plethora of exhibitors like Adyen, Fruugo, Nosto,, Trustpilot, and Visualsoft to name but a few. The doors to the conference opened at 9am providing visitors an opportunity to walk around and see which exhibitors were on display, before conferences and workshops began at 10am.

In relation to the talks, Customer Obsession and behaviour was high on the agenda. There were various speakers from different organizations talking on this topic at different times throughout the day. Of particular importance was the fact that there has been a decline in trust between the customer and brands. 42% of consumers distrust brands.

Consumer Behaviour

One contributing factor to this is that over the last 2 years alone, 90% of the data in the world was generated and as a result, customers do not know who to trust. This means more focus needs to be put on customer loyalty to build trust. On a more positive note, customers are getting what they want faster. This is due partly to the fact that companies are becoming more agile and are now 77% faster to get a new product to market compared to previous years. Also, 70% of high performing brands use data driven decision making to accurately target their customer base.


How organizations deal with and look after their customers is being re-evaluated and changed. Some new concepts are also emerging. For example, the Threshold Effect outlines the importance around the immediate decisions you make about someone when meeting them for the first time (i.e. first impressions/judging a book by its cover). So, when you go on a website for the first time, just like when you meet a person for the first time, you make very quick first impression decisions. This is where the importance of design comes in – typically if the customer does not like what they see, you will lose them very quickly and any hope of a conversion is lost. Speed of service is another area being re-evaluated. In the UK, the model of ringing a support line and getting an automated recording offering different support channels by dialling 1 for this type of support and dialling 2 for that type of support etc, is beginning to fade. Customers want to talk to a person as soon as possible when they call support, not to a recording. Organizations who have ditched this model and provide customers a real person to talk to from the very start are getting very positive customer feedback. And while we are mentioning feedback, just a small note – 80% of customers view a company brand more favourably if the company proactively asks its customers for feedback.

More and more organizations are also sharing customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction ratings with its behind-the-scenes technical staff, such as developers. In many companies, the behind the scenes development teams and technical staff are often unaware if a customer is happy or not happy – they tend to focus on issues, and fix them. Now, organizations are finding that sharing customer satisfaction with background technical staff has an overall positive effect on customer satisfaction in that it can result in the technical staff and development teams approaching issues from a more informed base.

The customer experience and its impact on loyalty was also a popular topic throughout the 2 days. In the information age, brands need to work harder to attract and retain consumer’s attention. Customers are finding that they come back to a brand when they have a good experience. This has a direct impact on business a customer base can be leveraged as brand ambassadors, if you are providing them with a great customer experience.

Customers as Brand Ambassadors

Good customer experiences drive customer loyalty. Along with quality products and competitive prices, a good customer experience is key to loyalty. For example, one area that appears to be becoming more and more important to customers is communication about when their product will be delivered. When an item is ready to be dispatched, communicating with the customer every step of the way is key to building both trust and loyalty. Another important area is providing a tailored browsing experience; consumers have come to expect helpful AI in their online experience. One technique which is consistently used to attract customers has been to provide discounts. However, the danger of discounts during the conference was discussed. Here, the emphasis was on how care needs to be taken when using a model of providing discounts to build loyalty.

The Danger of Discounts!

Customers can become reliant on regular discounts leading to a discounting spiral. Nowadays, there does not have to be a focus on discounts like there has in the past. Loyalty can be rewarded though many other channels, namely, personalised communications, and great customer experiences.

As a small side note to providing a good customer experience, social media was discussed and the importance of having a highly engaged social media customer base. Being able to retain and connect with your audience will serve to retain them (and attract new customers also). What was interesting here was how organizations can interpret their success on social media. For example, measuring the success of social posts purely by the number of “likes” will typically not give you the full picture.

The Value and Interpretation of “Likes”

Lots of people “like” a post without really reading or analysing the content. These are known as “quick likes”, and are not really a valuable measure on whether or not a post is actually meaningful or engaging. A better way to look at social media posts is to look at things such as how many comments it has tagged to it, and what the feedback is in those comments. A post with 100k likes and no comments is probably not as successful as a post with 50k likes but has a comment thread which has engaged your audience.

Stepping away from the area of Customer Obsession, one of the smaller talks which I found of particular interest was the evolution of drones/robots and autonomous vehicles. Many experts believe that this area will play an increasingly significant role in online deliveries within the next 12-18 months. There is an increasing number of global organizations investing significant money in this domain. The world of autonomous vehicles broadly falls into 3 areas; Air based (drones), Road based (self-driving cars and trucks) and Ground based. Air based and road based are self-explanatory. What is the difference then between road based and ground based I hear you ask? This is a little more subtle. Ground based is similar to road based but specifically refers to robots which can help people directly. For example, a suitcase can have robot technology installed within it so that now it becomes an autonomous vehicle. This means that when you walk to work, the suitcase will follow you, rather than you having to carry it. While air based and ground based systems are being used to deliver products to customers, how ground based technology could be used is still being explored.

In the UK and the US, the Starship delivery robot is being rolled out. This is an autonomous delivery robot which has been tested in over 100 cities. As of now, there has been $25m in funding provided to roll the service out globally. So far it has been very successful, providing retailers a service where the Starship collects a product from them before driving away and delivering the package to the customers specified address. The Starship is typically used for short delivery routes (think of a pizza order).

Starship: Autonomous Vehicles

Shifting gears slightly – another interesting discussion took place around the entire concept of Fraud in the retail sector. The overall message delivered was to increase awareness around how organized and intelligent today’s fraudsters are. Today, there exists an organized network of fraudsters who share information with each other in order to successfully attack weaknesses in organizations. Unless retail organizations themselves take the same approach by sharing information with one another to counter these fraudsters, then the problem of fraud will get worse. To that end, within the UK, CIFAS has been setup. This is a fraud prevention service whose core model is the sharing of fraud data and incidents between like-minded organizations. CIFAS have built – and are still building – a National fraud database. Currently this database is based on 475 organizations of different sizes, from different sectors, and which are both public and private. CIFAS aim to develop ways for retailers to combat and prevent future incidents of fraud.

Overall, the 2-day IRX event was very informative, and gave a great insight into some important topics that are happening in the eCommerce world. Most importantly, Birmingham offers great spicy sauce chicken burgers which I highly recommend 😊

Barry Fehily
Barry Fehily |