Survival of the fittest: iMedia Online Retail Summit’s ‘basic’ theme unveiled

‘Back to the Future: Why Retail is Getting Back to Basics’ has been announced as the theme for this year’s iMedia Online Retail Summit. In the aftermath of the post-pandemic online retail boom, the industry is witnessing retailers hone a critical skill: staying power.

Scheduled to take place on the Gold Coast from April 29 to May 1, the summit emerges as a beacon for Australia’s retail inspirators and innovators. Retail and commerce leaders across Australia will convene for the opportunity to network, meet promising tech-driven businesses, and learn from respected industry experts, all in an effort to navigate the challenges ahead.

The summit’s theme reflects a shift in narrative where revenue is no longer the sole motivator. Retailers with staying power are embracing a back-to-basics business approach where margins reign supreme. 

Helena Stylman, MD of Comexposium Asia Pacific, emphasises the significance of industry collaboration: “The ripple-effects from interest rate hikes, continued fuel and consumer goods price rises… It all adds up to a very real cost-of-living crisis leading to one rather substantial retail squeeze. It’s essential for the industry to come together for occasions like this, fostering a collective environment that prioritises staying well-informed, drawing inspiration, encouraging collaboration, and providing mutual support.

“This gathering of retail’s best minds provides the ideal platform to seek innovative solutions that are poised to define the future of online retail,” Stylman added. 

Paul Zahra, CEOr of the Australian Retailers Association, is a confirmed addition to the agenda, set to host a fireside interview featuring a distinguished enterprise brand to be announced soon. Perspectives from the Australian Retail Association, coupled with prospective keynote addresses by eminent economists, analysts specialising in consumer behaviour, futurists within the retail domain, and experts in retail technology, promise to paint a comprehensive picture of the Australian retail sector.

Zahra remarked recently on the industry’s challenging past years: “The past few years have been a relentless rehearsal, with the pandemic changing up everything we thought we knew about the sector. Throughout 2023, retailers found themselves at the coalface of fierce economic headwinds – a discretionary spending slowdown, coupled with the unparalleled rising cost of doing business. They have also struggled against a tidal wave of complex unprecedented government industrial relations reforms and a persistent retail crime crisis.”

A key aspect of iMedia Summits is its distinguished Advisory Boards, comprising individuals who’ve played instrumental roles in shaping and leading the industry. The professionals selected for the 2024 Online Retail Summit Advisory Board bring a wealth of expertise, ensuring the content and discussions are not only relevant but also transformative for all attendees.

Piloted by the summit’s theme and the Advisory Board’s guidance, the summit’s agenda is expected to comprehensively cover constructive aspects for those leading the way in retail. Speakers and sessions will be formally announced in the coming weeks, featuring a likely mix of research, product, and innovation specialists sharing best practices based on the latest data and findings.

The event will address the industry’s most pressing concerns, technological innovations, and emerging consumer trends. Retailers are keen to hear more on strategies for enhancing efficiency and effectiveness through updated tech stacks that embrace the latest advancements as well as presentations that will undoubtedly address the rapidly evolving role of AI, solidifying its position through swift adoption within the retail sector. 

Sonia Sutherland, Comexposium’s head of delegates, Australia and New Zealand, expressed enthusiasm: “Each year we bring together forward-thinking and highly engaged retail leaders. It might be challenging times, but Australian retailers and those whose businesses service and support them are always innovating and evolving. It’s exciting to catch up annually and hear about the progress and the wins that resulted from collaborations and partnerships established from prior events.”

While acknowledged solution providers invest in their attendance, the application process for retail brand leaders to attend follows a different path. Interested e-commerce and retail brand leaders are encouraged to submit a request via the event’s website. Each coveted retailer invitation ensures attendance and comes inclusive of accommodation and hospitality to complement the three days of valuable content.

Sutherland elaborated on the necessary pre-event due diligence: “Retailers are asked to specify the technologies they are interested to explore or engage in. Our focus categories include e-commerce sales and advertising technology, marketing and communication, customer service and CRM, data information technology, and logistics and supply chain. This comprehensive screening of retailer’s applications ensures we bring the right brands to connect and network with the most promising partners together under the same roof.”