Given that the conference industry has been hit very hard due to Covid-19, I wanted to take some time to reflect on some of my favorite conferences that I attend every year. Also, Shoptalk, which is on my shortlist of favorites, was just canceled in the last week. This leaves only 1 left on my top 3 for 2020…
Without further ado…
In no particular order…
This conference is a hybrid of retail and eCommerce but it still is one that I never want to miss! In fact, before it was canceled this week, six members of our team (myself included) were planning to attend.
At first glance, your jaw might drop a little bit when you see what a ticket costs. However, they have an awesome program for merchants/retailers that gets you a free ticket and a reimbursement for hotel and travel. You simply agree to meet a set of potential vendors in a ‘speed dating’ like setting, scheduled throughout the day. Typically you get matched with 6-8 vendors and the meetings are only 15 minutes. ShopTalk does a great job asking you questions, showing you vendors, and letting you know what vendors want to meet with you. Through a multi-step process prior to the show, you eventually get matched with vendors that they feel are a good fit for you. They are typically hit or miss. Last year, I met with 6 vendors, 2 of the meetings were great and 4 just did not make sense for our business. The ones that did not make sense simply did not make sense because we already had a similar solution or vendor in place and were not looking to disrupt for various reasons. We are batting 1.000% with this conference with finding a vendor/solution that impacts revenue positively or brings cost savings.
The reason I like this conference is three-fold. The first reason is the above, vendor sourcing. In addition to the meetings, there are a metric ton of booths and we always find a potential vendor ourselves each year simply walking the floor.
Reason #2, vendor management. All of our major incumbent vendors are at this conference for the most part (Shopify, Recharge, Braintree, UPS, etc). This is great because it gives much-needed facetime to the relationships that normally exist over email, Slack, and an occasional video call. I have always viewed major vendors as partners, extensions of our own business, and ShopTalk allows me to connect very efficiently with them all.
Reason #3, networking management. This is a BIG conference. In addition to getting to spend some time with our vendors, meeting up with peers is always a major key to this conference. A couple of dozen fellow e-commerce execs that I speak to regularly all attend, so ShopTalk allows me to continue building those peer relationships.
The first, official, largest, and best conference for the Subscription eCommerce economy. This conference checks all the boxes of Shoptalk (vendor sourcing, vendor management, networking management) but in a smaller, more personal setting. This conference feels like a community and that is by design. Slightly north of 1000 attendees (Shoptalk has like 7x this), nothing is missed at this conference and any new business relationships formed feel a little more real.
Because this is a niche conference, the quality of the attendees and vendors is greater to me. Just to be clear, greater to me, someone that is in the e-commerce subscription space. I view the guys that put on this conference as friends (Subta), but I am not the only one that feels this way. It goes back to their strategy of community feel. Everyone there wants to help and add to the community. Whether it’s sharing a best practice or simply some free advice, most people at this conference are all on the same team (Team Grow Your Business).
The last night of the conference they have an awards dinner (CUBE Awards) to recognize leading brands in the space and it is a very fun evening. I might be biased here since I have taken home 3 CUBE Awards (1 in 2017, 2 in 2019).
I have also met some of the most genuine, caring, intelligent business owners at this conference. Many of which, I consider friends now.
This one is the smallest of the 3 conferences, but again, by design. Recharge hosts this event every year (virtual this year, boooooooo) and it is well put together. Recharge is one of our most mission-critical vendors as they handle our subscription billing for all brands. Their team has an amazing company culture and it shows at their events. There are some vendors at this event, but not many. This is for their partners and their merchants, and they normally break apart a day for each.
While vendor management is a big part of all 3 of these conferences for me, it’s the #1 reason I attend ChargeX. Since this is a small conference, the face time and conversations are much more intimate since you simply have more time. Besides the time we spend with Recharge employees, all of our ‘major’ vendors attend this, so it really is a great use of time.
It is also in Santa Monica which is a really fun city. I am not in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area very often, so it also gives me some time to possibly meet with vendors and colleagues that are in the area but might not be attending the event.
At the end of the day, when I attend a conference, I look at the Return on Investment (ROI) from that conference. Typically looking at the cost of travel + hotel + meals + my time (+ the same for any other team members that come with me) and making sure something occurs that offsets that.
This is easy when you look at new vendor solutions that save you money or increase sales/efficiency, or a best practice you can implement onto one of your eCommerce stores but can become a little tough when you look at variables like vendor management value. In reality, maintaining great relationships with your vendors can actually net a much higher ROI than you would think, it can just be tough to equate. Because of this, I do not include it in my ROI analysis and only focus on the easily definable variables.
These 3 conferences have always provided me a positive ROI.