The events retailers deserve
12 September 2017
When we launched Retail Tomorrow we knew we had a success on our hands, so its nomination for a B2B Marketing Award for ‘Best Use of Live Event Marketing’ means we’re definitely doing something right. But what? What made the event different?
Retail Tomorrow was a 24-hour conference (spanning 21st-22nd Feb this year) overnight which wanted to do something different with the “one day conference” and the live event format in general. We were on a mission to make the event stand out in the attendees’ memories. We specifically sought to ‘disrupt’ the usual ways of doing things.
- Not the same old keynote speakers: We hand-picked a selection of speakers as important for their personalities and presentational styles as their insight and content, to create a truly inspiring environment which delivered on the event mission statement: Igniting ideas and accelerating innovation. The BBC’s Business Editor Simon Jack shared some very personal (and off-the-record) Brexit thoughts and reflections, and kept other presenters on their toes with his incisive questions.
- Not the same old session formats: We were upfront about the fact that we would be taking some of the sponsors out of their comfort zones. Credit to them, they braved it admirably, and to great reward. Two ‘Dragons’ Den’ format sessions gave ten brave companies the chance to ‘pitch’ to the assembled audience and be publically judged in real-time. Workshop sessions gave attendees the chance to really put companies on the spot and drill down into what an engagement might ‘look like’ for them.
- Not the same old event venues. The prestigious Four Seasons Hotel and Spa in Hampshire provided the perfect setting, easy to get to (30mins from Waterloo) but away from it all.
- Not the same old polite evening meal: The grand dinner evening (where retailers and suppliers shared tables) was ‘disrupted’ by two stand-up comedians continuing the element of fun and keeping energy levels high.
The drivers of disruption
But let’s take a step back – how did we get to these ideas?
We wanted to launch Retail in Detail with a proper splash, and we know that nothing beats face-to-face events. C-level retailers and Heads of Department were the target audience. Real decision makers, game-changers, movers and shakers. But…we knew there was a widespread feeling among senior retailers that there are too many events, with only a handful that have a wide enough program to draw different strands together and prove relevance to current challenges at the very top level.
So in Autumn 2016 we wrote to them asking what they’d like to see in an event, with the idea of focusing on the top four recurring retailers ‘wants’ to create our four pillars for a new event. These were:
One: A proper opportunity for focus, thought and deeper networking. In other words, an overnight residential event rather than a one-day conference or an expo-style format. The chance to get away without distractions. An event in which people can commit to talking, listening and sharing.
Two: A chance to see some technology-supplier pitches that senior retailers wouldn’t necessarily come across, in a compelling and time-focused way, but without the implied pressure of an expo-booth face-to-face format. (We thought: ‘Dragon’s Den’ it is…)
Three: A dedicated focus on innovation and introduction to concepts retailers will genuinely never have seen before, throughout all the content and conversation.
Four: Event to be near the start of the year, after the all-important New Year retail sales period and after NRF, with a commitment to discuss hot-off-the-press NRF insight and news.
Knowing how busy people are, particularly at the C-level, and that taking 24 hours out was a pretty big ask – we knew we’d have to deliver a big reward.
The event took place 21st-22nd February 2017 and saw a starry list of senior retailers in attendance. It was – as you’ve probably gathered by now – a huge success. You can read the event summary here. And we’re extremely pleased that all our careful planning and hard work are also being recognised by others, most recently through Retail Tomorrow making it to the final shortlist for the ‘Best Use of Live Event Marketing’ category at this year’s B2B Marketing Awards. We already have our fingers crossed for the awards ceremony in late November.
One good event deserves another
It was such a success and we immediately had retailers contacting us who wished they’d attended, that we were pretty much obliged to run a ‘sister’ event, called Retail Tonight, which is taking place on the evening of Thursday 21st September in London and features a couple of the same top speakers as Retail Tomorrow discussing new topics. We will have the same vibe and the same commitment to “igniting ideas and accelerating innovation” and if you’re lucky enough to have been invited then make sure you don’t pass up the once-in-a-year opportunity. If not, and you are a C-level retailer or senior retail IT honcho, there are a (very) few places left – if you’re interested in attending please get in contact with me direct and we’ll see what we can do…