A Trip to the Windy City to See the IRCE & Retail Innovation Conference and Expo

Last week, the buzzing city of Chicago hosted the highly-anticipated Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) and the Retail Innovation Conference and Expo at the iconic McCormick Place. As an enthusiastic attendee, I eagerly dived into this innovative hub, where retail, technology, and ecommerce titans gathered to redefine the future of commerce.

From the moment I stepped onto the expansive show floor, the energy was palpable. Thousands of professionals, from all corners of the globe, filled the halls of McCormick Place. There was a distinct feeling of anticipation and excitement as we collectively envisioned the new horizons of the retail and ecommerce industries.

The IRCE segment of the conference showcased a myriad of keynotes, panel discussions, and networking opportunities. The well-organized sessions offered deep insights into ecommerce trends, digital strategies, and customer engagement techniques, covering everything from mobile shopping and social commerce to email marketing and data analytics.

For the first time in many years I participated in retailer day and participated in a couple of the workshops. The Future of Retail Marketing & Advertising with Generative AI which was delivered by Olivia Reid & Heather Peterson. These ladies really know their stuff! I left with a number of new AI tools to test and even better insight into the competition that new generative AI companies should expect to face.

I also enjoyed the workshop entitled New ecommerce Frameworks to Activate Digital Growth presented by Sharon Gai. Her career experiences have clearly had her involved deeply in a great number of exciting projects as illustrated by her energetic and deeply knowledgeable conversation. I found the information that she shared about China Market APPS to be particularly thorough and insightful. 

Perhaps the most exciting part of the Retail Innovation Conference Expo hall was the Innovation Zone. It was nice to see emerging tech receiving a special spotlight at the show. The passion that flowed from this area of the expo was truly inspiring, reinforcing my belief that innovation is alive and thriving in the retail industry.

Aside from the immersive learning and discovery experiences, the networking opportunities were invaluable. The meet-and-greet sessions, casual coffee breaks, and after-hours social events were the perfect platforms to connect with like-minded professionals. The diverse mix of attendees, from startups to established companies, offered a unique chance to share ideas, explore partnerships, and learn from each other’s experiences.

One of my favorite experiences about RICE is getting to tour some of the retail display companies’ displays. Getting to engage with the next generation of digital in-store retail displays, like what Glass-Media is developing, always blows me away.

Attending the IRCE & Retail Innovation Conference and Expo was more than just an opportunity to stay updated on industry trends and innovations. It was an inspiring and motivating journey, a chance to witness the future of retail unfold before my eyes, and a reminder that we are all contributors to this ever-evolving landscape.

As the event wrapped up, I walked away not just with a head full of ideas and a pocketful of business cards, but with a renewed enthusiasm for what the future holds. If this experience was any indicator, it’s clear that the future of retail is exciting, innovative, and full of endless possibilities.

 Thank you to everyone that participated in one of my walk-up PayEye demonstrations. Your encouragement and positive feedback was far more than I had anticipated. I look forward to seeing you all at the next show! In the meantime here is a virtual tour we put together of IRCE 2023.







Retail Innovation Conference & Expo IRCE Virtual Tour at McCormick Place in Chicago

4 Tips to Improve Your Outreach Response Rates


It is June and for me that means it is time for my annual trip to Chicago for IRCE & the Retail Innovation Conference. As with the registration to any conference I have received a lot of inbound emails and LinkedIn messages asking to meet. While I am always open to meeting new people and networking, this is literally why I attend these events. I am not a big fan of receiving templated emails with product offerings that are not a fit for my role or business.  With this in mind I wanted to share some tips and tricks that I use as to not fall into this trap myself when doing business development.


  1. Create a handful of templates. Every email outreach does not need to be 100% customized, but it needs to feel that way to the prospect receiving it. I recommend creating a few templates that are relevant to different types of prospects you plan to reach out to. I have successfully deployed a couple strategies for this including breaking down prospects by category (retail, travel, & classified) or bucketing prospects by product need or feature (custom creative,upper funnel solution, brand safety). Once you have reached jedi levels and really know your prospects you will be able to group your templates by what drives the decision maker (revenue, incremental revenue, new customers, lower ROAS, higher AOV). Once you have a number of templates it is easy to create an email that is unique and relevant for each prospect outreach.
  2. Focus on developing a relationship not just selling a product or service. While I understand that it can be very easy to get stuck thinking in the short term and focus on just getting a monthly or quarterly meeting quota achieved to earn your bonus. A more strategic approach would be to focus on building a network that will yield you better and more consistent long term results. 
  3. Do your research. I cannot stress this enough. You only have one opportunity to make a good impression with a decision maker. Sending a template that doesn’t make any sense to someone’s business will not help you to start a relationship with a potential client. I have received hundreds, perhaps even thousands of cold outreach emails from sales professionals who have seen a title on LinkedIn or an event registration list and reached out no matter if they have a product or service for my business or not. For example, while working at an ad tech platform having people reaching out sell ecommerce products and services for my products and shopping cart. However, one quick glance on my company website and one should have realized that we did not have any physical products, we have no shopping cart and therefore they probably shouldn’t be trying to sell me a shipping solution. I have even had numerous competitors reach out with key collateral, which is always surprising and sometimes helpful, but this is a topic for an entirely different post. That being said, a well thought out email proposing a win-win partnership will likely catch the attention of your prospect and get you a meeting or at the least, a response that will start the path to a relationship. It can be beneficial to research your prospect in addition to the company. Drawing a parallel to a University, friend or previous employer in common can often help improve the possibility that someone will respond, just don’t go overboard into their personal details. Many will appreciate the effort but will not want to feel intruded upon.
  4. Follow up. Even if you don’t close the big deal or get the meeting, make sure you connect on LinkedIn and follow up to thank them for their time. Ask if it is okay to check-in from time to time and make an effort to include them into your regular update and announcement emails. As people move jobs on such a regular basis, this person could be your next big client. 

I hope that these 4 tips help you to create a more strategic approach to your cold outreach strategies. If you have any questions or would like assistance improving your outreach strategy feel free to reach out: Gary@midwestmarketingassociation.com.

Unlocking Success: 5 Reasons Why Networking is Crucial in Your Career

In today’s hyper-connected world, the ole adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know” has never been more relevant. Throughout my career, I’ve witnessed firsthand the power of professional networking in shaping careers and fostering success. This is why I wanted to share my insights on why professional networking is vital for career growth, and how you can harness its potential to propel your professional journey.


  1. Expand Your Opportunities and Gain Access to Resources

Professional networking is an essential tool for uncovering new opportunities and resources that can help advance your career in many different ways. By connecting with others in your field, you gain access to a wealth of industry knowledge, job openings, potential business partnerships, and even investment opportunities. You never know who might become your next big customer or even your next manager. You will want to balance engagement and growth with your network, as it is important to not only stay in touch with your existing contacts but also continuously adding new contacts into your network.  

  1. Learn from Industry Experts

One of the most valuable aspects of networking is the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals within your industry. These connections offer invaluable insights, advice, and guidance, which can help you navigate your career path more effectively. Furthermore, networking events and conferences provide a platform for staying up-to-date with the latest trends, technologies, and innovations shaping your field. 

  1. Enhance Your Personal Brand

In today’s competitive job market, having a strong personal brand is crucial for setting yourself apart. Professional networking allows you to showcase your expertise, demonstrate your value, and build credibility within your industry. By actively participating in conversations, sharing your knowledge, and offering support to others, you can cement your reputation as a trusted, reliable professional.

  1. Build a Support System

Climbing the corporate ladder can be a challenging and isolating experience. Networking helps you create a supportive community of like-minded professionals who understand the struggles and triumphs of your career journey. These connections can provide encouragement, motivation, and camaraderie when times are tough and celebrate your achievements when you succeed.

  1. Pay It Forward

Finally, professional networking is an opportunity to give back to the community that has supported your own growth. I have been privileged to have not only been mentored by amazing people but also to have mentored a number of amazing individuals as well. The experience of guiding others is not only personally rewarding, but it also enhances my own skills, perspective, and understanding of the industry.


Professional networking is a vital component of career growth and success. By expanding your network, you can unlock countless opportunities, learn from industry experts, enhance your personal brand, build a support system, and give back to your professional community. As you progress in your career, never underestimate the power of professional networking ~ embrace it wholeheartedly and watch as it propels you toward new people and opportunities. If you are interested in networking with marketers and business leaders responsible for marketing in and around the Midwest, be sure to join the Midwest Marketing Association for access to events and content. Membership is free for marketers and agencies.