Dx3 is Canada’s largest annual digital marketing, retail, and advertising conference. This year, it’s coming to Toronto on March 7th and 8th. But what exactly does a conference like this entail? It essentially merges the worlds of tech and consumerism in innovative and game-changing new ways by merging the diverse worlds of promising new start-ups with CEOs from established media and tech giants in a conference that’s so much more than a networking opportunity.
Dx3’s Director of Content Eric Mercer sat down to tell us a little more about what we can look forward to at the upcoming conference, and why you need to get your ticket ASAP – we even have promo codes and giveaways to make this rare opportunity more achievable.
Mercer has a background in marketing and tech and used his unique skill set to tackle the enterprising, creative conference that is Dx3. In the final days leading up the conference, his life looks like a lot of managing and improvising last-minute changes, very little sleep, and hands-on involvement with media and marketing.
Mercer initially found himself in the marketing world when he came out of school. He started at Proctor & Gamble, on the beauty and household sides of the business, working with brands like Gillette, Old Spice, and Tide. While he was there, social media was rapidly developing and changing businesses all over. “At a large company like P&G, they were still focusing primarily on things catering to an older mass market. I was just watching from the sidelines getting excited about the world of tech startups.”
Eventually, he left and joined a start-up called “Stinson Design” that was created by a few of his ex P&G colleagues, and they worked with many other startups as well. He worked there for about a year, helping with funding, and building out a deck. This provided ample exposure to the tech worlds in all corners, from NYC to San Francisco, to here in Toronto. “That really opened my eyes to what folks were doing,” Mercer explained.
It was during that journey that Mercer came across Dx3 and started to work with their speakers. He became close with the people running the conference, and when an opportunity presented itself, Mercer took a role and has been a valuable asset to the team and their mission ever since.
Dx3 encapsulates the experience of the modern shopper in a way that stands out from the rest. But who exactly is the modern consumer, and what are they looking for? “The modern-day shopper is really tech savvy. They like to shop both online and in store. Mobile plays a big role in that, and it will get even bigger as time goes on. The modern consumer craves the journey of an experience when it comes to how they relate to brands and retailers, as well as a truly personalized experience.”
One of the key aspects of Dx3 is its ability to engage the consumer in an interactive way, as opposed to a traditional conference or symposium, as well as a distinct ability to find meaning within that interaction as opposed to being rooted in hype and sensationalism.
Mercer expands on this: “What’s interesting about Dx3 versus other typical tech conferences here and in the states is that they deal mostly with the future. What will the future look like in 5 or 10 years when tech like the internet and augmented reality are more advanced? That’s a totally worthwhile and important conversation to have, at Dx3 we’re focused on the here and now, and we always have been. You want to come to a conference and learn from it – walk away with tangible takeaways and lessons you can take back to the office the next day. We want to equip conference-goers with tools. To create meaning and avoid sensationalism, we have great service providers, great installation and amazing displays that are happening around the world, like interactive in-store technology from the perspective of the consumer. A few years ago we had “Pepper the Robot”, the world’s first robotic in-store assistant as a fun and cool way for people to interact.”
Tech has always existed, but every year we see more rapid developments and possibilities that reach new heights. This year, Dx3 goers will be treated to an exhibit on the show floor that goes to a bunch of different technology in the world of augmented and fixed reality.
“It will be a connected interactive popup store by Kinetic Commerce where you can get sneak peaks at innovations in in-store technology. This will include new payment systems, digitally connected change rooms where you can order a product to a fitting room, and ways of browsing collections or garments using a smart screen.”
The key to being successful at Dx3 is keeping content boundary-pushing while still remaining accessible, and Mercer employs some tactics at Dx3 that help them excel at this.
“We try to find people that don’t speak too often. For example this year, we’ll have Tamir Bar-Haim, Country Manager at Amazon, Jeff Miller, Global Head of Creative Strategy from Snapchat and Leanne Gibson, Twitter Canada’s Managing Director. Both the speakers from Amazon and Snapchat will be giving opening keynotes for the conference.
We try to get access to these brands that don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk. If you look at our roster of speakers this year, these are people that are out there really doing stuff and speaking from their years of experience. That’s more engaging than having a conference with people who speak all the time. These folks, their principal role isn’t giving talks, but doing what they’re talking about on stage, which is a valuable perspective. In terms of being provocative, polarizing opinions are a good thing. For instance: last year, a speaker took a controversial stance on loyalty programs, stating that they don’t work, and if he had the change to do things over again, he would have invested in different things”.
To get the most out of the conference, Mercer suggests learning as much as you can from speakers, but also to put yourself out and network as much as possible. It’s a refreshing chance to get out of the office and expand your network, meeting peers who face similar challenges.
Dx3 has taken the sterile essence of networking out of the equation and bring a more approachable alternative to the mix.
“We will actually have a dedicated cafe area on the show floor to get people out there – grab a coffee with potential clients and partners. We’ll also be holding an opening night party, and after speaking sessions, a more casual interaction that’s not as aggressive a tone as comparative networking events appear to take on.
The roster of those who attend the conference is always one filled with a dynamic range. It’s just as essential to include big CEOs from Fortune 500 companies as it is to include young new startups that are new on the scene and leading innovation. The relationship between the two at a conference like this is like yin and yang, Mercer explains.
“First and foremost, these groups really want to meet each other. Some of the biggest reasons attendees come are because they want to see the young, fresh startups on the market. Large retailers and brands want to sponsor incubators and be a part of a startups growth – they see it as an investment. Large brands pay attention for this reason, and startups are looking for the exposure, so there’s a great marriage between the two demographics”.
But this whole new world of tech doesn’t mean that more traditional brick-and-mortars will be shutting down. They’ll just be merging with digital aspects.
“The narrative of last year and even now is this notion of “retail apocalypse” but it’s just not the case. We’re looking at an evolution. In commerce, digital and physical world are totally merging, though we once thought of them as separate. That journey is so intertwined and in-store experience still plays an important role. The biggest relevant examples include the cashier-less phenomenon of Amazon Go, a grocery store with no checkout and Roots Canada. Roots work with us and are coming out with new format stores, geared towards celebrating the brand heritage and Canada. They’ll be participating in a conversation during the conference to reveal the new tech they’re bringing forward and how it’ll be incorporated into stores.”
Even though the roster of attendees and speakers is filled with talent, there are a couple of newcomers that Mercer is excited about. Portl Media is one of them, and you can catch them on March 8th.
“Many startups are currently running out of Ryerson University’s DMZ, Canada’s top university business incubator and Portal operates out of that. Co-founder Wyatt Shaw will be speaking on the integration of marketing in new autonomous cars. These self-driving cars are coming faster than we think, and it’s a new opportunity for advertising. In the current age of driving, you can’t be distracted – it will endanger your life. But in the future of being driven, you can turn your attention to other things like work, and content consumption. With Tesla, we’re seeing a lot of big screen in vehicles, and the idea is to serve ads in vehicles an ultimately give people the option to reroute if an ad speaks to them.”
Portl is one step ahead, working on putting screens in the back of car services like Uber and Lyft, and if you click on an offer (which will be contextual to your route), you can actually re-route the car and redeem that offer. This could be a huge game-changer.
While the conference has too many simultaneous speakers and aspects to be completely live streamed, Dx3 will have Amber Mac set up a booth on the floor where she interviews some of the most innovative new startups.
“All of those interviews can be live-streamed on FB life and on her page as well, so if you’re looking to get a feel for these companies, you can check it out on Facebook. Amber is confident and passionate about the power of live-streaming that she’ll actually be doing a speaking session on that which you can catch on March 8th.”
Dx3 is Canada’s largest conference and trade show dedicated to digital marketing, advertising and retail. It brings brands, agencies, retailers and technology companies together for two days of networking and education, and we’ve got a pair of tickets to giveaway!
Can’t wait to win it? Use code: PURSUIT425DX3 to get $125 off your All Access Pass for Dx3 2018