I've just returned from one of my favorite industry gatherings, the Shop.org Annual Summit in Las Vegas. Although organizers gave fair warning that this year's event would be "the premier gathering" for Internet and multichannel retail executives, it was still amazing to walk into the main seating area and see 1,500 seats.
What I particularly like about Shop.org is the quality of the dialogue. Rather than being a venue for drumming up business, the conference serves as an interactive forum focused on networking, strategizing, fact-finding and education in a non-commercial atmosphere. While everyone jokes about the fact that vendors specifically are not invited to some of the conference events, I think it has the positive effect of reminding everyone that "hard selling" is off-limits. It also reminds everyone that the focus here is on the retailers.
Meetings and catching up with colleagues prevented me from attending many of the presentations. But the ones I did see were excellent. Hot topics included the use of RSS and blogs, building communities around stores and products, and of course, the omni-present issue of blocking-and-tackling in an ever-changing retail environment.