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Sydney Online Retailer Conference: Key Takeaways from a First-Time Attendee

Aug 06, 2019

Partnership Director APAC

Last week, I attended my first Sydney Online Retailer Conference. With thousands of attendees and a focus on the future of retail, I couldn’t wait to get inside the internet retailer conference and learn more about the latest trends. 

Taking place over two days at the ICC Sydney Exhibition Centre, the digital marketing e-commerce expo is an insights and networking staple in the calendars of Australia’s leading retailers. The content consisted of over 100 presentations and panels, with over 2,500 people from across the retail industry listening in! Across the two days, there were so many exciting, innovative and inspiring talks packed with industry insights. But there were four key retail themes that kept surfacing, that I wanted to share in this post.


If there was a retail topic I was most excited to see and learn more about in this retail sector conference, it was that of retail sustainability. My first session of the day was “The Woke Consumer” and kicked off with some pretty distressing facts – there are over eight million tonnes of plastic waste currently drifting off the Australian coastline. Just one ton equates to about 115 black garbage bags, so imagine that multiplied by 8,000,000. Who is to blame? 81% of Australian consumers are pointing the finger at brands that aren’t acting responsibly to reduce the problem.

It was interesting to hear the perspectives of retail leaders on this topic, and how they’re adopting sustainability retail solutions as part of their business models.

For example, leading fashion retailer The Iconic recently launched a filter called ‘considered’ on their site, which categorises items into various buckets such as ‘Fair Production’ and ‘Community enagagement’, to name a few. Since launch, it’s become the most used filter on the site. Perhaps that’s not surprising when one of their biggest audiences is Gen Z. It’s clear we’ve reached a point where environmental concerns are creating real consumer behaviour changes, and this is reshaping online buying trends.

The advice from the retail conference panel was that for brands to flourish they need to look at how their products are sourced and produced, and clearly communicate these practices to shoppers. In the past, marketers haven’t always communicated sustainability messages very clearly. Going forward, it’s important to be genuine and transparent, so as to build consumer trust around sustainable practices. These lessons are being learned and implemented across global e-commerce.

Oh, and you have to walk the talk. There have also been instances where retail brand sustainability claims were not borne out by genuine practices. It’s very hard to win back trust.


There was a big focus on technology at this year’s summit – not a surprising theme for an online retail conference – but the focus was really on how brands implement and enable technology in a meaningful way. A great example came during one of the talks from Adore Beauty.

At the exhibition, Adore Beauty’s CTO discussed how they were facing challenges with site speed and load times, and that these slowdowns were affecting conversion rates. To combat this, they took a closer look at their technology and how it was helping the industry achieve its goals. The retail solution was to take a ‘headless commerce’ approach, which allowed them to pick and choose the best-in-breed technology solutions across different areas of their business, and connect them all seamlessly through foundational APIs.

It was interesting to hear this because it’s what we’ve been saying at Partnerize for a long time. Rather than trying to meet multiple needs, we have always focused exclusively on meeting needs in the partner channel, while ensuring that we can easily integrate with other best of breed tech.

Product Delivery and Shipping

Delivery and shipping were big talking points over the two days, especially when it came to optimising the customer journey. I attended an insightful panel called “Disruptive technologies: From discovery to delivery” where panelists talked about leveraging technology to best facilitate all steps in the customer journey.

The consensus was that for online retailers to maximize sales, free delivery is a must. Those online retail industry brands that don’t offer it are destined to struggle. The panel discussed ways to get free delivery to be affordable for smaller businesses, particularly those retailers in lower-margin categories. To address this retail industry challenge, the panel suggested implementing tactics like a minimum spend delivery to incentivise customers to increase their average order value.

Minimum spend delivery is something we see frequently in the partner marketing industry. We encourage brands to take a “test-and-learn” approach when it comes to promotional messaging and couponing innovation, including free shipping offers. Integrated seamlessly throughout partner messaging and checkout experience, this offer can greatly increase both conversion rate and basket size.

Outstanding Business Value of Revenue Partnerships

I’m not going to lie to you – I was thrilled to see the topic of retail industry partnerships come up again and again across the ecommerce conference. At Partnerize, we talk a lot about The Power of Partnership and it was fantastic to see that theme reflected in the many retail sessions I attended. We are clearly aligned with the needs and interests of the industry,

Going back to theme of sustainability, I heard a lot about sustainable partners for retail, such as:

  • Good On You – a fashion app that enables consumers to search for their favourite brands to get a third-party assessment of their sustainability and ethical practices.
  • Folo – an extension that allows consumers to give cashback to their charity of choice.

It’s great to see solution providers bringing such innovative retail technology to the APAC region. These forward-thinking apps and technologies illustrate that the retail partnerships channel is always rapidly evolving and aligning with buyer trends in market. To stay on top of opportunities, it makes sense that brands look across their businesses — to understand buying habits and then seek out partners that complement and tap into this.

Overall, I had a fantastic two days, followed by a wonderful evening at the Online Retailer Industry Awards with some great customers and team members. I’m already looking forward to #OR2020.

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