Internet Retailing Expo Insights and Evolutions: Live from Birmingham, UK

I attended the inaugural Internet Retailing Expo event this week with half my attention devoted to spotting new business opportunities and the other half as a delegate, listening to see what is moving and shaking in UK e-commerce. A very interesting twist for this event was its location and timing. As a venue, the Birmingham NEC opens up easier access to more of the retailers based in the north of England—where reduced warehousing and distribution fees attract more and more online companies.  The event timing enables retailers to more readily define their goals and projects for 2012 by gleaning deeper insights into key projects on their roadmaps.  For companies operating on a more fiscal rotation, it represents a last chance to change or influence future direction.

The show itself offered some very interesting speaking slots and subjects thankfully away from ‘mobile’ and ‘social.’ (They dedicated a separate area to both.)  Instead, the show focused on SMEs selling online and the multichannel experience. My main insights would focus on the increasing numbers of retailers in the north coming online with a raft of ideas, concepts and eCommerce propositions that reinforce that this is a high-growth vertical—and all this on the same day the Chancellor messaged hard-hitting plans to reduce the overall country deficit. Today, Europe has already outpaced the US as the leader in online retail sales, with growth in 2010 sales at 19.4% compared to diminishing growth in the US at 11.4%.  UK shoppers far exceed their fellow Europeans in online spend last year: £41.5 billion vs. second place contender Germany at £33.3 billion.

The attendees must have had a field day wandering the exhibit hall of 100+ booths, all demonstrating that third party software innovation is alive and kicking just as a wealth of sites begins to crop up online and transact. Each attendee walked the floors with bags of collateral and with much reading ahead but all will walk away with a better grounding of their next steps and future opportunities, which is essentially the raison d’être for the Expo. Nice one, IR!

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