IRCE 2018: What to Expect & Making the Most of Chicago

IRCE, the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, will be taking over Chicago's McCormick Place from June 5-8 2018.

If you've never been, here's what you need to know about IRCE:

  1. The conference operates in partnership with Internet Retailer magazine---their editorial staff helps to curate conference sessions.
  2. Speaking of sessions, IRCE draws in some of the industry's biggest names to speak, including bestselling author Seth Godin, Warby Parker Co-Founder Dave Gilboa, and Houzz President Alon Cohen.
  3. IRCE features the largest number of exhibitors in terms of related industry events: there are over 600 potential business partnership opportunities!

Navigating Chicago: From the Airport to the Loop

There are two major airports in Chicago. Most of the time, you'll fly into O'Hare International Airport (ORD)---unless you have a preference for Southwest or one of the other airlines with a hub at Midway International Airport (MDW).

In either case, both airports are connected to Chicago's downtown via public transportation. If you're going to IRCE on your own dime, this is the cheapest way to get from the airport to the Loop.

Once you've made it downtown, you'll come to realize that the city is very walkable. But if you're staying in the Loop, you'll want to consider public transportation or Uber/Lyft to get to McCormick Place---it's quite a walk! After the conference is over each day, consider using these same transportation options to explore Chicago's diverse neighborhoods.

If it's a nice day and you're feeling spry, another way to easily get around the city is with a rented Divvy bike. There's a docking station in front of McCormick Place and pricing starts at just $3/30 minutes.

Must-see Sessions and Events at IRCE

IRCE brings together so many industry superstars that it's hard to decide who to go see speak, if it means having to say no to another value-packed session. BigCommerce shares their top IRCE session picks in detail but here are a few highlights from various conference tracks:

  • Ecommerce Summit: The Ecommerce Summit is a limited attendance (250 people) half-day event. Many attendees are raving about the opportunity to see Jenny Fleiss of Rent the Runway's share insights in her session, "From Startup to $100M Brand".
  • Fashion Track: Craig Kapilow of Rue La La's session "See Now Buy Now -- Shoppable Content" will be talking about a mobile-first approach to the shopping experience.
  • The B2B Workshop: Technically a day after IRCE, this workshop focuses on the finer points of building a scalable B2B channel for your existing B2C ecommerce business.
  • Fulfillment, Operations & Customer Service Track: Ken Cassar and Lauren Freedman are working together for their session "Too Fast? Too Slow? Industry Standards and Customer Expectations for Delivery". Though it might seem basic, it's an important consideration for ecommerce success that any business can benefit from.
  • Future of Ecommerce "Track": Thornton May of IT Leadership Academy's session "Listening to Cassandra: Getting the Future Right" covers a broad range of considerations for future-proofing your ecommerce business.

What to Do While You're in Chicago

There's a lot to do at IRCE but try to make some time to enjoy the city of Chicago outside of the conference.

Here are a few ideas to make the most of Chicago:

Where to Get the Best Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

As a native Chicagoan (suburbs, that is, though I lived in Chicago for about three years after graduating college), and a foodie (see my latest creations on Instagram), I have a lot of opinions about Chicago pizza!

Here are my top three picks for the best Chicago deep dish pizza:

  • Lou Malnati's: There's some contention as to who invented the first Chicago deep dish dough recipe---it's between Pizzeria Uno and Lou Malnati's. Regardless, Lou Malnati's is number one on my list due to its flawless delivery of this Chicago staple.

  • Gino's East: Gino's East is second on my list thanks to its interesting topping offerings (I love the Jalapeno Blue pizza) but also because their River North location has a craft brewery with beers that pair perfectly with deep dish.

  • Giordano's: If you're looking for the best Instagram opportunity, it's here: Giordano's pizza has the perfect amount of cheese for a beautiful cheese pull picture.

Indulge in the Craft Beer Scene

Chicago has recently become a destination for craft beer aficionados, thanks in part to major local operations by Revolution Brewing and Lagunitas Brewing Company. At most Chicago breweries, tours are free (or $10 per person at most)---and include plenty of tastes. Is there a better way to unwind after a busy conference day?

Check Out a Baseball Game

Chicago can't pick a favorite between the White Sox and Cubs, which inspires a lot of friendly competition between local residents. While you're in town, don't worry about picking a side---you'll get an awesome Chicago experience by attending a game at either team's baseball field.

The good news? There are plenty of game options depending on your plans during IRCE.

Specifically, there are five opportunities to see the White Sox play. If you're staying near McCormick Place, this baseball field will be the most convenient to get to. There are also four opportunities to see the Cubs play if you'd rather spend some time at Wrigley Field in Wrigleyville.

Go on an Architecture Tour

Chicago is a city known for its colorful history and an architecture tour is a great way to learn more about it. The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers a picturesque river cruise that makes learning all the more enjoyable.

Final Thoughts on Making the Most of Chicago and IRCE 2018

You could certainly stay busy with IRCE's sessions, exhibitors, and attendees without ever leaving McCormick Place. But if it's your first time to Chicago, make some time to check out the city's hotspots and take in the culture. If you can swing it, come early or stay a few days after the conference to relax and unwind after the conference!

What are you most excited to see and do at IRCE in Chicago? Let us know in the comments!

Maddy Osman is a writer for BigCommerce, a native Chicagoan (suburbs originally and lived in Chicago for about three years after graduating college), and a foodie. Check out Maddy's latest food adventures on her blog and Instagram.