Episode 251
April 22, 2022

The Evolution of Retail Trade Shows: RICE 2022

The Future Commerce team is headed to RICE in May! Phillip and Brian sit down with Alicia Esposito to chat about RICE, what's new, what to look forward to, and everything from the pre and post-conference and the serendipitous experience. Listen now!

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this episode sponsored by

Serendipitous Experiences

  • RICE's (the Retail Innovation Conference and Expo) goal is to stay true to their roots and put a new and fun spin on the event and expo space
  • RICE is working to reframe the way content is performed for the show, hitting reset on who is given a platform, and making the learning experiences as focused and tailored as possible
  • “We want this place to be a place where conversations happen and ideas get sparked.” -Alicia
  • One of the goals for RICE is to bring together passionate people from different careers of life and let them get together and geek out
  • “In-person events and conferences allow a serendipity experience for everyone.” -Phillip
  • Use promo code RICE50P07 for 50% off your tickets for RICE

Associated Links:

Have any questions or comments about the show? Let us know on Futurecommerce.fm, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. We love hearing from our listeners!

Brian: [00:01:28] Hello [00:01:20] and welcome to Future Commerce. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:32] What happened to the whole thing you used to do?

Brian: [00:01:34] I know. It used to be like, "Hello, welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about..." We've been [00:01:40] doing this for like 300 episodes. I figured people don't need to hear what we're about.

Phillip: [00:01:44] This is the time you decide to take a break? You're, like, throwing off my groove, man.

Brian: [00:01:47] No, no, you missed it. I did that last time, too, I believe. Or maybe...

Phillip: [00:01:51] Really?

Brian: [00:01:51] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:01:51] I want you to treat me like I'm like Emperor Kuzco. You can't throw off my groove. That is a dated reference.

Brian: [00:01:58] You threw off the Emperor's groove.

Phillip: [00:01:59] Okay. [00:02:00] You're Brian. I'm Phillip. And we're just leaving this all in because that's how we roll these days. And we are actually getting pretty amped up because there is... We're back into the real world. We have a real conference season that's actually happening for realsies this time. And here to talk about it with us is a venerable [00:02:20] guest, somebody who I think is going to become pretty well known around our parts and someone very recognizable. Alicia Esposito, who's the VP of Content for RICE, the Retail Innovation Conference and Expo. Welcome to Future Commerce.

Alicia: [00:02:35] Hi, guys. So glad to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Phillip: [00:02:38] And thank you for coming and [00:02:40] thank you for sticking around for our weird little banter in the beginning there.

Alicia: [00:02:44] I love it.

Brian: [00:02:45] And thank you for putting on RICE. We're so excited.

Alicia: [00:02:48] Oh, thank you very much. Yeah, it's been a journey. I'm sure we'll talk about it a little bit, but...

Brian: [00:02:55] Awesome.

Alicia: [00:02:55] Yeah, it's been a lot of fun.

Phillip: [00:02:56] I want to get into all of it because I think [00:03:00] that there is a story here. And but speaking of stories, there is a little bit of a story of sort of where you sit in the ecosystem. I know that Retail Touchpoints has a big role in this show and the show is kind of become this new thing. Tell us what RICE is and  [00:03:20]how we might all identify with it.

Alicia: [00:03:22] Yeah, absolutely. More people may know about Retail Touchpoints. So we're a digital media network. We started just as a website and a newsletter. Like many media companies, we have evolved to include podcasts, video series, and the like. We're [00:03:40] a B2B site and publication, which means we are for retail executives specifically, and that definition has expanded. That includes brand founders, DTC brands, but also executives at the big names like the Macy's and the like. So we [00:04:00] had a small, I guess you could say boutique-type event in New York City called the Retail Innovation Conference, about 500 or so retail execs from the Tri-State area largely. And it became known as a very close-knit, very collaborative event. [00:04:20] So we would have a day or two of content, very much networking style sessions, and it kind of garnered this very close community of followers and fans who would come year over year. And now we have the opportunity to kind of bring [00:04:40] it to the next level. Obviously with COVID, like many others, we were able to scale our event presence and event properties because of our digital expertise and presence there. And it came at an interesting time too, because we were longtime content partners [00:05:00] of RetailX, and the show kind of reached a fork in the road, needed some deeper expertise in the industry, and wanted a closer connection to more long-term content strategy. I think a lot of these events exist in a vacuum. [00:05:20] And our owners, Emerald, we were acquired by them in 2019. They're looking at this whole space in a more holistic way. So how can we engage our audience long term? How can we build a community? And they thought we were right for the job. So we took over RetailX and rather than trying to [00:05:40] build these two separate brands, it kind of created a bit of confusion, like what was what? Who's the audience? We expanded the brand to the Retail Innovation Conference and Expo, so I guess you could say a traditional expo-like event. We hope to kind of stay true to our roots [00:06:00] and put our own special spin on it because it will be a bit smaller than the NRFs of the world and the Shoptalks of the world, but we take pride in that. So that in a nutshell is kind of how we got to where we are today. And our goal is to stay true to our roots and also put our fun little spin on the [00:06:20] event and expo space.

Brian: [00:06:24] Very cool.

Phillip: [00:06:26] We have thoughts.

Alicia: [00:06:27] Oh, God. {laughter} I'm scared.

Phillip: [00:06:29] Congrats to you.

Brian: [00:06:31] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:06:32] I mean, no, I think it's all good. [00:06:34] We need opportunities to come together as a community [00:06:40] to learn and share ideas. Some of that happens in a sort of programmed way. In the conference circuit, you have people that are sort of broadcasting information to a crowd or to an audience. Some of that happens on an expo floor where the hallway track is where you're learning or you're meeting. But these provide a natural rhythm to [00:07:00] our world. And when you don't have that, the rhythm gets thrown off. And I have certainly missed over the last couple of years having that rhythm in our ecosystem. And I'm so glad to have it back. [00:07:13] It's a successor in many ways. So Retail X sort of was  [00:07:20]the show that sort of combined a bunch of different portions of the industry and at a prior time. Also at the McCormick in years past and before that was the Internet Retailer Conference and Expo, which is an anagram in its own right, RICE versus [00:07:40] IRCE. Whatever it is, whatever happens in late spring or early summer in Chicago, I am there. And so I'm looking forward to this show. Brian, you're looking forward to the show.

Brian: [00:07:50] Oh, am I ever. In fact, the last time we were at the show and obviously this was the first of all, the first event back from COVID [00:08:00]. It was literally the first event back. Second of all, it was delayed to August. And third of all, it was Phillip's birthday.

Phillip: [00:08:13] What does that have to do with anything? It has nothing to do with anything.

Brian: [00:08:17] No, but it was an [00:08:20] interesting moment for me because it was so incredible. It was literally the first event back. You have now taken over this event, though. I just want to hearken back to last year, because I think after this show, we kind of called it the sacrificial [00:08:40] lamb of coming back to shows.

Phillip: [00:08:43] Unapologetically.

Alicia: [00:08:45] There had to be one, right?

Phillip: [00:08:45] Yeah. There had to be one.

Brian: [00:08:46] There had to be one.

Phillip: [00:08:47] Maybe two because I was at the NRF that they claimed that there were thousands of people there. But I digress. There's been more than one of these.

Brian: [00:08:55] Clearly, it was not the show that it had been in the past. [00:09:00] But I cannot tell you how much energy there was from the people that were there. I had actually the best time.

Phillip: [00:09:11] You made the best... We made the best of it.

Brian: [00:09:14] Everyone made it the best.

Alicia: [00:09:15] Everybody did. Right? Yeah, absolutely.

Brian: [00:09:17] Exactly.

Alicia: [00:09:17] Everyone that was there was thrilled to be there. Even [00:09:20] the speakers who had to deal with their own challenges. Traveling and making it work. This was in the middle of Delta, too, right? And we were navigating people dropping last minute because of that. And understandably, too. People with kids in school and they're worried about them. There were so many other things going on, but the people that [00:09:40] we were able to chat one on one with were like, "I am so stoked to be here." And that kind of energy is what drives me and what gets me excited as a content person because it's not just about shouting these stories out into the empty hallway. It's the response. It's the back and forth of members of your community. [00:10:00] So I agree 100%. I think it was a bummer that more people weren't there and it wasn't like huzzah. Shoptalk was like a mega huzzah moment. I wasn't there. But we won't get into that. But it was for what it was, and the people that were there, it was a moment. [00:10:20] It was a nice venture back in.

Brian: [00:10:22] Yeah. Kind of a necessary one. And I think that what we're seeing now is now we've been to a few more events we saw NRF with The Big Show kind of go through their cycle in January, which was the smallest NRF that I can remember going to. And [00:10:40] then some of the other conferences started to trickle back. And like you said, we just had Shoptalk, which felt very back.

Phillip: [00:10:50] That's an understatement.

Brian: [00:10:51] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:10:52] It was. We're probably going to cut this from the show. It was like the horniest conference I've ever been to.

Brian: [00:10:57] {laughter}

Alicia: [00:11:00] It [00:11:00] seemed like Spring Breakers.

Phillip: [00:11:02] Ohh

Alicia: [00:11:03] Retail Exec Edition.

Phillip: [00:11:03] Yes, that's exactly what it was.

Brian: [00:11:05] Oh my gosh.

Phillip: [00:11:06] There were people there for all kinds of reasons, and I don't know if business was most of it. There was a lot of... There was just a lot. People have a lot of pent-up feelings. And if you see people that you know that you haven't seen in years, you [00:11:20] kind of go through this, oh, my gosh, I haven't seen you in forever feeling. Just imagine that for three solid days. It was a real endorphin rush. And I think you can't blame people for kind of going a little harder than they used to. I feel like we're going to have a couple more of those in 2022 [00:11:40] as we're kind of getting back to an industry that's kind of realizing, oh, all these things that we said that were never going to come back, all these things that we said we're never going to do again, do we need to work from office? Do we need to go to conferences? No, no, actually, those things are going to come back. They're just going to be a little different than they used to be.

Brian: [00:11:58] So what you're saying, Phillip, is party [00:12:00] in Chicago? {laughter}

Phillip: [00:12:02] Yeah, there will be, I think. I do think so. And I like the thing that makes me most excited is actually looking at how you've taken an opportunity to sort of reframe the way content is programmed for this show. It feels a lot more modern. It feels, like just seeing the lineup and [00:12:20] having a little bit of an understanding of who you've booked. It feels like we have now kind of hit reset on whose voices are given platform and whose thoughts can be shared with a larger, more diverse audience. And that's never... That's been a thing that I felt has been the biggest [00:12:40] disconnect in the conference circuit for me is the old Internet retailer sort of vestige of what eCommerce was versus the large retail industry was a lot of old retail people who were crafting the digital story. And now we have digital [00:13:00] natives that are crafting the digital story. And it was time for us to see a turnover in the people that are sort of represented. Maybe you could, Alicia, give us a little bit of a rundown on how you're thinking of programming this show and how that might be different from years past.

Alicia: [00:13:12] Yeah, absolutely. And thank you so much, Phillip, for saying that, because it's definitely something that we've been very, well tried to be, very [00:13:20] intentional about. I think, again, going back to our roots of that smaller space in midtown New York City, it was how do we get the most diverse cross-section of founders, seasoned retail execs, tech executives [00:13:40] in one space and really give them the forum to not just talk about how great their brand is and the six figures of investment that they've made or whatever. It's like an opportunity to share, "This is what we've done. This is what we're trying to do. Here's where we've maybe failed a [00:14:00] little bit. Here's where we messed up, but here's how we're learning and improving from that," and we really want to tap into that. I think this year in particular, and obviously, it's a larger scale. So the challenge was how do we make these learning experiences as focused and tailored as possible to [00:14:20] who we're trying to reach? So we're bringing it back, IRCE. So that was a nice little comeback moment, being able to do an expanded content program for a wider set of executives. We have social teams, we have digital marketing, we have CROs [00:14:40] and Chief Growth Officers. There's this very rich environment of innovation and new ideas, new formats, new platforms, new brands that we just saw that opportunity to bring it back, bring back the heritage of IRCE. But like do [00:15:00] it a different way. Do it our way. We also are doing the Retail Innovation Summit, which, again, kind of taps into our roots of let's get the omnichannel retailers, let's get the disruptive platforms that are offering new revenue models, and let's have a frank conversation around what does the future of business look like [00:15:20]? And finally, design retail that's for our store designers and our visual merchandisers. And that program in particular has been interesting for me because there are so many conversations around the future of the store. We're seeing those "DTC brands" realize, "Oh, hey, we need stores. What do we do about that?" [00:15:40] We're seeing partnerships. We're seeing pop-ups get reimagined. There are so many different trends happening in that store space. And as a result, we're seeing different teams get into that store design conversation, you know what I mean? So it's not just the visual merchandisers. It's marketing teams, it's [00:16:00] digital teams, it's IT. So at that track, in particular, I'm going to be curious to see who sits in on those sessions and who they bring from their team. That's the one thing I really hope to see. I hope to see that connecting point for different teams to come together and sit in on sessions [00:16:20] together, share ideas and say, "Okay, here's how we can work together to bring this concept to life," or if we want to do social commerce right, we need to bring these people together. We want this to be a place where those conversations happen and those ideas get sparked.

Phillip: [00:16:38] That can only happen if you understand [00:16:40] where those conversations happen outside of your venue. And that's been my biggest disconnect is that retail trade publications traditionally don't really understand the network that exists outside of their purview. They see subscribers. Sure. And they have, I understand PR, [00:17:00] and I understand byline and sort of people who have editorial beat in the retail trade. But then there's a whole section of people that exist on Telegram and Signal, Slack, DMs, and Twitter who are self-organizing to try [00:17:20] to further a community as well. And I feel like what has been missed very often and one of the magic points for me that existed in other software ecosystems in particular, like eCommerce platform ecosystems like a Shopify or Adobe, is that you have this vibrant community of people who would self-organize, and that was an investment that those [00:17:40] platforms made. It was like, "We're going to help contribute and uplift the thing you guys are already doing and give you space even within our events to be who you are. And that has always felt like this massive chasm to me between traditional retail trade publications, the  [00:18:00]up and coming crowd who are all trying to figure it out and building in public and learning in public, and then sort of the old stodgy, sort of like retail operator and now, not to put words in your mouth, it feels like you've understood that dynamic and you're bringing all of these worlds together. [00:18:20] And that's the thing that's really, truly differentiating for me.

Alicia: [00:18:24] Yeah. I mean, it's definitely the goal. I hope we execute successfully. I mean, to be determined. But I mean, even in the panels that we put together, the moderators we get for our sessions... I mean, I love Twitter because it has helped me [00:18:40] discover so many different brands and experts. The people who have actually done the work. I mean, to be transparent, that's how I found you guys. And I've been a follower of you guys for a while, but it also brought me to people like Kaleigh Moore, who is a fantastic writer and expert in eCommerce, DTC, the [00:19:00] creator economy. She's moderating a panel for us. Kristen LaFrance, who's an expert community builder who loves DTC and CPG. She's going to be moderating a few sessions for us. Our goal is to get people who not just know the space, who have done the work and have [00:19:20] experience but also love it too. Especially like over the past two years, I feel like back-to-back zooms, deadlines, and goals you still need to hit even though everything's turned upside down. There's like a lot of pressure and a lot of overwhelm. And [00:19:39] I read an interesting [00:19:40] article around how grief as a word comes up frequently, like when they describe the past two years, not just like the immediate bad things that have happened, but just the grief of navigating that this is a different kind of life now. So like bringing passionate people together to geek out and talk about the things that they love, not [00:20:00] just how great their business is, but like, "Oh, I'm a big fan of X brand and like, here's what they do really well, and here's how we tried to replicate that and we got inspired. Here's what we did." That's the kind of stuff that gets me all jazzed as a content person. I love to hear those stories of how people [00:20:20] have turned their love for retail into something meaningful for them and for their consumers. So that, hopefully, is going to be the level of passion and perspective we bring into our content. [00:20:33] I mean, before this, I just had the content call for our NFT panel and such an incredible [00:20:40] cross-section of folks. We have moderators from an innovation lab, we have the Chief Digital Officer of elf Beauty on the panel. We have an NFT strategist who is also digging into the metaverse. We have a Marvel writer and creator. [00:21:00] So our goal is to get these really diverse views and experiences together and they can just geek out together and share their passion. And by the end, like, my head just like, exploded. I was like, "We need to have like a post-show marathon meeting, and everyone can just listen in and just, like, [00:21:20] marvel at you guys. No pun intended."

Brian: [00:21:22] Ahh.

Alicia: [00:21:24] Because there's so much there and it's so new and exciting and there are so many ways to dig into these topics. So that was very long-winded. But really the crux of it is like passionate people together geeking out about the stuff they love and you're going to get some actionable stuff [00:21:40] to take away with you.  [00:22:00]

Brian: [00:24:22] You [00:24:20] hit a couple of things here over the past few minutes that I like really resonated with me. One, one, and maybe we should cut this from the show later as well. But like there are a lot of executives out there that just make the worst speakers.

Alicia: [00:24:39] And they're super smart, too. Let's put an asterisk. [00:24:40]

Phillip: [00:24:40] They're smart people.

Alicia: [00:24:41] Yeah.

Brian: [00:24:41] Yeah. Oh, yeah. No. Oh, yeah. That's why...

Phillip: [00:24:44] Smart people. Great logo. Please don't give them a podium.

Brian: [00:24:47] Exactly. Smart people who should be leading their companies. There's nothing wrong with what they're doing. Just let's not put them on the stage. And so I love that you're looking for the [00:25:00] actual content creator, like the actual person who's passionate, the person who's interested in actually talking about their subject. That's super, super wonderful. And the diverse perspectives just add so much more color to the content and it makes it more educational. And that was the other thing you said, which was [00:25:20] educational experience. And I think this is super important when it comes to thinking about coming together in person. [00:25:28] You can go find a lot of great digital content and webinars, even with passionate people, but there is something different about coming together in person [00:25:40] to experience it and learn about it and ask questions and talk to other people about it who also engaged in it with you in person. [00:25:49] Seventy-two to 92% of communication is nonverbal or whatever the stat is.

Phillip: [00:25:58] I was going to say, that is a very [00:26:00] specific range.

Brian: [00:26:01] I just read this on the Internet recently, and I didn't even quote the right stats, but it's a lot.

Phillip: [00:26:06] It's in one of your million tabs somewhere.

Alicia: [00:26:08] A meme. I found it as a meme.

Brian: [00:26:08] It's in one of my tabs somewhere on my desktop.

Phillip: [00:26:11] There's a lot of nonverbal communication. Yes. We get it.

Brian: [00:26:13] In short, it makes a difference. [00:26:18] You can feel [00:26:20] the passion. Actually feelings can transform thought. [00:26:26] And so I think that...

Phillip: [00:26:31] That's profound.

Alicia: [00:26:33] It is really profound.

Phillip: [00:26:33] I'm going to unpack that in our after dark later on. Yes.

Alicia: [00:26:36] It's like Brené Brown.

Phillip: [00:26:39] It is. {laughter}.  [00:26:40]

Alicia: [00:26:41] It is.

Brian: [00:26:41] Oh, gosh.

Alicia: [00:26:42] I just finished her book. Whatever.

Phillip: [00:26:44] No, it's good. I have it on my back, actually.

Brian: [00:26:47] In short, what I'm getting at is the emotional impact.

Phillip: [00:26:53] Dare to Lead, Brian.

Brian: [00:26:53] There it is. Dare to Lead. Dare to Lead. I'm in. Let's go. I'm excited about building [00:27:00] an educational experience that's not just about knowledge, but it's about people and passion and excitement and entertainment even.

Phillip: [00:27:09] Yeah. And maybe, I don't know, sometimes maybe it can just be about... This is my biggest [00:27:20] challenge right now is what do in-person events provide me the opportunity to have that is worth getting on a plane and spending money and going to another city for? And beyond an excuse just to be in a cool city because I love going to Chicago, don't get me wrong, but [00:27:40] I have a new schedule and pattern and a rhythm to my life now than I did a couple of years ago. And so  [00:27:49]what does an in-person event provide? Well, it provides serendipity and unexpected chance encounters to find something or a solution or [00:28:00] a person to meet that I would not have found otherwise. And that to me is kind of especially if you're a retailer, that's kind of the power of the in-store retail experience too, is a lot of eCommerce kind of comes down to spearfishing the thing that you are [00:28:20] looking for or the thing that you know how to describe. What in-store can provide to you is the intangible experience of the thing you didn't even know you were looking for, that you didn't know that you wanted. And that's this really powerful parallel that physical events can only do that digital events will never be able to do. [00:28:40] [00:28:40] And also, I'll be honest with you, the digital event ecosystem has kind of become pretty... It has fostered some of my worst qualities in second screening and passive consumption and that is so...

Brian: [00:28:59] The [00:29:00] intentionality of going to an event...

Phillip: [00:29:03] Right. You have to be there and you have to be present.

Brian: [00:29:04] Yes.

Alicia: [00:29:06] You're there. You've invested in this. Essentially you get what you put into that experience, right?

Brian: [00:29:13] Yes. Well, and Phillip man, you just nailed something that I love so much. I can't believe I haven't [00:29:20] thought of this before. But the serendipity of it. I would go to something just because there's a chance for serendipity. Serendipity is underrated.

Phillip: [00:29:33] It's true. It's true. All right. A lot of shower thoughts from Brian today. Let's [00:29:40] kind of downshift a little bit. Let's talk a little bit about the pre and post-conference experience. Alicia, it's something I'm pretty... I didn't prep you for this. Sorry.

Alicia: [00:29:52] No, it's okay.

Phillip: [00:29:53] I do think that there's kind of a missed opportunity. You operate in a media-centric world. You have a media [00:30:00] brand. What are the things that kind of go into pre-conference that a lot of people discount or don't think about that are a lot of thought and planning go into and what are the sorts of things that you try to do afterward to kind of keep the momentum rolling that make it, that [00:30:20] kind of extend the life of what the in-person experience set up and provided for?

Alicia: [00:30:25] Yeah, I mean, it's a really good question because it's something that requires a lot of thought and a lot of work, I think, to stand up. One thing that we've always tried to do, granted, we actually executed upon a lot of it this [00:30:40] year, was introducing our speakers into our media community sooner and more consistently. The good thing is we have such a great list of speakers with so many different areas of expertise that we were able to find those connecting points to features that we were planning [00:31:00] or topics that we were hoping to dig into. And we're a relatively small team. I think between the editorial team and the events team, our content group is like six people and that's managing everything. So we have our weekly [00:31:20] meetings where we can just say, "Listen, here's what's on the doc. What should we bring in? What new topics are possibly aligned to the event, and who can we bring into this conversation?" I think it's a really great way to get that speaker or speakers in front of our audience a little bit sooner. So it's more of like a slow [00:31:40] drip, so to speak. We're bringing people into the fold in a natural way. It's tied to our editorial coverage authentically. It's not just like, "This person is speaking on X topic. Please register. Oh, my God." It actually makes sense in context of what we're doing. And then [00:32:00] I think that gets them in front of our audience. It helps build awareness. So when we do those more focused event-specific promotions and that content, it's like, "Oh, I know that person. I remember reading X and I thought they were great." I think [00:32:16] the next big thing is trying to find [00:32:20] ways to connect speakers to each other if that makes sense. So I'm very lucky in that I've had the chance to really connect with a lot of awesome people like experts, actual practitioners. And when you get to know people, you get to understand what they're passionate about beyond [00:32:40] their discipline, beyond their day-to-day work. So we've been able to connect people like, "Oh, you should really meet so-and-so because you're both like really passionate about X." Being able to build that community in an organic way kind of builds momentum. So you start to see these conversations happening, through LinkedIn, through Twitter. They [00:33:00] start to bring each other into the conversation and then people outside of that immediate connection, "Oh, well, how do these people know each other?" It's that organic way of building, I don't want to say word of mouth... That sounds so market-y. Building that ripple effect, if that makes sense around the event. And like, "Oh, if these people are going [00:33:20] to be here. I need to see what this is about." So I think continuing to build that relationship, that's what we're really focusing on right now, is getting people to spread the word, share 1 to 1 or one to few with people in their community that they think would get value out of this event experience versus just the email promotions [00:33:40] or the advertising campaigns which are important, don't get me wrong. But we're really trying to get into that community-driven approach, I think, to get people excited about this. And [00:33:52] post-event, I mean, repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. I'm gonna geek out about the content stuff for a little bit. But  [00:34:00]we have eight tracks per day.

Phillip: [00:34:04] Wow.

Alicia: [00:34:05] I mean, first day is end to end like 8:30 to 4:30. Second day is like a half day. Plus we have workshops. I mean, there are so many, there are going to be so many great insights and conversations that take place. So it's how do we [00:34:20] revisit those in a way that is intentional and meaningful for our audience, but doesn't quite cannibalize from the people who came to the event? It's a tricky balance. We want the people who come in person to feel like they got something exclusive and valuable, but we also want to give the people at home a little something [00:34:40] something too.

Phillip: [00:34:42] There's been a, I don't know... I would say I'm going to tread lightly here because I don't want to throw shade at other events and such. Because I think they're all valuable and they all have their own [00:35:00] unique need in the industry.

Alicia: [00:35:05] Oh for sure.

Phillip: [00:35:06] But there's been this trend of creating more opportunities for product providers, service providers to be able to like pre-book meetings, table talks, etc...  [00:35:20]There's one particular brand of conferences that's really well known for this. And in doing so, you can start a scholarship. Stop it, Brian. You can sort of scholarship in people to get people to a show that wouldn't typically come, whether they're a junior in their organization or they don't have a budget sort of planned [00:35:40] out for this sort of thing or maybe creating like a faux sort of educational track. These are all ways of trying to encourage attendance, and I think it's generally very good as an idea. What I tend to see as somebody who has paid for exhibition space and someone who has gone to these events for ten or 11 [00:36:00] years now is it creates a very, very, very busy show experience for a merchant or a sort of retailer who...

Brian: [00:36:10] Over-programmed.

Phillip: [00:36:10] They become over-programmed. They're exhausted. They don't want to talk to anybody.

Brian: [00:36:15] No space for serendipity.

Alicia: [00:36:18] Well, it's tricky, right, because you want [00:36:20] to create that value for the people who come out.

Phillip: [00:36:22] It is tricky. Yeah.

Alicia: [00:36:23] It's like, how do you create those moments and those little pockets, I guess you could say?

Phillip: [00:36:27] I think that's the question. Can you manufacture those moments? Do those actually, at the end of the day, is that something? And this is always my... I tend to believe things happen because [00:36:40] things happen and there's not a thing that you can do to manifest it. Maybe that's sort of becoming the theme of my forties, Brian. I'm becoming a deist and it's all the great...

Brian: [00:36:53] Que Será Será

Phillip: [00:36:54] ...into motion and there's nothing you can do to change anything. Very Calvinist.

Brian: [00:36:58] All chemistry.

Phillip: [00:36:59] I have [00:37:00] just this idea, though. It's like you can't manufacture community. Sorry, direct to consumer brands. You can't manufacture loyalty. Sorry, traditional retail brands. And I don't know that you can manufacture unique, authentic human connections by programming speed dating people at a table. Those things just happen and maybe someone who's [00:37:20] coming to a show doesn't want that. And this is the thing that I feel is the important part. Whatever we happen to be doing in our programming in these shows, that's going to change from year to year. I think just holding the space is the important part.

Brian: [00:37:39] And yeah, to [00:37:40] add to that, just to pile on a little bit. You don't want people walking away from your shows feeling exhausted and behind.

Alicia: [00:37:53] Right.

Brian: [00:37:53] You want them feeling energized and excited and I think that's what you were getting at earlier, Alicia [00:38:00]. You're putting together groups of people that, like when they talk to each other, it lights them up. It doesn't deflate them. It gets them excited. They want to pile on. They want to keep going. They want to go longer and later and be late for their next meeting. That's the kind [00:38:20] of thing that you want out of this where it's...

Phillip: [00:38:23] You want people to be late for the next meeting?

Brian: [00:38:25] Yeah.

Alicia: [00:38:27] I want to disrupt calendars.

Brian: [00:38:28] You want people to be so excited about what they're doing. You disrupt their calendars.

Phillip: [00:38:32] Yeah, it's true.

Alicia: [00:38:33] Well, and to add to that point, I think, there are a few people, a few speakers, which is [00:38:40] unavoidable. Some people fly in and fly out for their speaking engagements, you know what I mean? It's just like the way of the gun, especially for higher-level execs. But I want those people to be like, "Oh my gosh, next year I need to block my calendar because I want to stay for this whole thing."

Brian: [00:38:51] Yes.

Phillip: [00:38:52] Yeah.

Brian: [00:38:53] Totally. Instead of feeling like, oh, that was like...

Alicia: [00:38:56] "Oh get me out of here."

Brian: [00:38:56] Yeah, "Get me out of here. That was just one long slog [00:39:00]." That's the last thing you want for any attendee, you know?

Phillip: [00:39:03] Yeah, I'm waiting for the day when I don't know, I want to see this thing through to its logical end. One day somebody is going to have, like, a four-story bounce house in their expo center. I'm there. I want to be in it.

Brian: [00:39:18] Oh, I think it already happened. [00:39:20] I want to say that happened.

Alicia: [00:39:21] Well, Shoptalk had the Pacman and like the beanbag chairs. I saw the pictures. Yeah, it was pretty cool.

Phillip: [00:39:27] But I need like a full-contact sort of...

Brian: [00:39:29] I think Within did that actually.

Phillip: [00:39:31] I don't know, post-COVID, maybe not, but I need some kind of a.. Or a dunk the executive. I don't know. I need a dunk tank. [00:39:40] I'm very late-capitalist in the way that I think. Don't let me play events, Alicia. But I do think that just holding... These are all jokes. I think just holding the space and not necessarily having to become gimmicky about it, just being, I think programming it in a relevant way, understanding what the conversations are that are happening in the world, [00:40:00] understanding where the capital is flowing, understanding what challenges the businesses need to solve for and like what are the important things that we need to consider. That's the other challenge that you have and I'll give you the final word, but I'd love for you to weigh in on [00:40:20] this. Yeah. How much do you think about what is relevant and timely when you're programming all of these talk tracks and how soon in advance do you have to... You sort of have to be a fortune-teller because I'm sure you're planning this months in [00:40:40] advance and it sort of becomes like, do you ever get concerned about having trendy topics or having things that become sort of de passé or tired in the conversation, that sort of date the content in a way that doesn't become durable and then give you the opportunity to have that repurpose, repurpose, repurpose? Maybe speak [00:41:00] a little bit about that.

Alicia: [00:41:02] Yeah. I mean, it definitely is tricky, right? Because you never want to hop right on any bandwagon that comes and like go all-in on it. And it's a funny thing you said typically it's a year-long thing planning these events. We [00:41:20] planned the agenda, the experience, everything for this event in like six months, five months. So very tight timeline. We'll see what happens next year. But what we tried to do is... We're lucky. We have a great group of advisory board members, both from the eCom [00:41:40] world as well as from omnichannel and the store design and experience side of things. So we meet with them at least quarterly and of course have these ongoing conversations to kind of gauge, what are you focusing on, what's happening in your business, what are your priorities? What are you thinking about? What's coming down the pike that excites you and that [00:42:00] you want to learn a little bit more about? And we try to monitor those, kind of compare it with our editorial coverage. That's the other advantage of being part of a media company. You have so much data around what's resonating with your audience. Bring that together with just tracking social media. So I would say [00:42:20] from a strategic content development level, I would say a good, I want to say like 70% of that content is like the core fundamental evergreen topics that we create like a high-level agenda for to start. And then over time, [00:42:40] as we get closer to the event, as we start speaking to potential speakers or panelists, that's when we start to fine-tune things a bit because we want to make sure that our speakers are telling a story that's relevant and meaningful to them. A lot of our sessions are focused on specific teams, use cases, strategies. [00:43:00] So for example, how, Jane, the marketplace brand, uses social commerce to drive tangible revenue. We want them to be very case study-oriented. So like the speaker feels like, "Okay, this is my day-to-day. I'm just telling my story and I'm sharing my lessons with the audience." But we [00:43:20] also know that the hot topics are what get people excited, get the butts in seats. So we try to reserve a keynote and a couple of sessions throughout the agenda for those more buzzy trends just to make sure that they're touched on. But... The big but is [00:43:40] how do we... {laughter} Sorry, guys. It's the end of the day.

Phillip: [00:43:43] No, that was very on-brand for Future Commerce night.

Alicia: [00:43:49] It's like how do you dig into the topic in a purposeful way? So it's not just like high level, "Oh, this is going to disrupt everything. Everything's changed. [00:44:00] Everything's going to be in the metaverse." "Oh, well, I don't know about that." It's like, okay, let's get practitioners in the room to talk about what does this mean to them? How are they embracing it, how are they testing it, and what are they thinking about? So turning it into like a viable business discussion, [00:44:20] but in a way that people are like, "Oh, I see what they're saying. This could be something. Here's how we can think about whether it's right for our business."

Brian: [00:44:29] Mm hmm.

Phillip: [00:44:29] That's a great place to leave it there. And then, I guess what would be really timely or relevant here? Oh, [00:44:40] I don't know. How can people go to get registered to attend RICE?

Brian: [00:44:44] Yeah.

Alicia: [00:44:45] Yeah. RetailInnovationConference.com and definitely subscribe to RetailTouchpoints.com. If you're part of our subscriber base, we're always sending emails, flash sales, and all that fun stuff tied to the event as well.

Phillip: [00:45:00] That's [00:45:00] great.

Brian: [00:45:00] Awesome.

Phillip: [00:45:00] And I love that we're partnered with you guys on this one and can't wait to see you in person. And we will in just a few short weeks. Thank you so much for coming on the show, Alicia. It's been great having you.

Alicia: [00:45:14] Thank you for having me.

Brian: [00:45:15] Looking forward to it.

Phillip: [00:45:17] And we're looking forward to seeing you there. And [00:45:20] the whole Future Commerce team, there's gonna be a whole slew of us will be attending, so come and find us. We'll be on the show floor and hey, remember, the future is what you make of it. And we can help shape that future together at Future Commerce. Thanks for listening.

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