Dx3’s director of content says startups will transform, not destroy, bricks-and-mortar

For the past six years, the Dx3 conference in Toronto has been dedicated to connecting Canada’s retail, digital marketing, and tech communities, while showcasing the intersections between them. With talks from retail thought leaders like Doug Stephens, interactive VR showrooms, a tech spotlight with journalist Amber Mac, and PayPal’s startup zones, there’s something for everyone. For the third in a row, BetaKit is a proud media partner.

This year, Dx3 wants to be more meaningful for Canadian startups.

“We’ve always thought of ourselves as more than a trade show or an event,” said Dx3’s new director of content Eric Mercer, adding that Dx3 has always thought of itself as a means to connect these communities.

This year’s theme is Experience Digital, which is both a play on Dx3’s penchant for in-person experience and the state of retail right now. According to Mercer, it is no long enough to survive on good product or fancy marketing; customers are now expecting meaningful experiences. Mercer takes a note from one of this year’s keynote speakers, Warren Tomlin (IBM’s Chief Innovation Officer), who once said the last best experience a customer had becomes their expectation everywhere.

This year, Dx3 wants to be more meaningful for Canadian startups. The conference is hosting Retail Innovation Challenge, which will invite six startups across Canada to pitch before a Dx3 audience. Two winners will be able to debut their tech at Yorkdale Shopping Centre (or another mall owned by Oxford Properties Group, the conference’s partner on the challenge) and the chance to pitch in front of the Retail Council of Canada’s board of directors.

“We’ve been involved with startups in a number of different ways,” said Mercer. “We’ve got the Paypal Startups Zone. We’ve got a bunch of different startups coming out, and they’re there to connect with people in the audience.

“Attendees form new business relationships with partners and potential clients. We want to boost that community. A lot of startups are innovative and there’s so much growth happening, a lot of enterprises can also benefit from them.”

Part of the reason for launching the competition was thanks to a trend Dx3 has noticed in the past year: the rise of retail companies with roots in tech (such as Frank + Oak and Indochino) launching physical pop-up shops.

“These innovative companies are starting online and moving to bricks-and-mortar are bringing their interesting technology and ways that they’re engaging consumers into the store,” said Mercer. “In chatting with Oxford Properties and RCC, it’s something people can get behind. Wouldn’t it be great to boost the community in startups in Canada who are trying to change this future of retail and try to help them?”

For both the disruptors struggling to get recognized and the disrupted trying to find the next hot innovation, Dx3 presents an opportunity to intersect. While a few years ago many in the industry thought that brick-and-mortar was dead, Mercer says Dx3 demonstrates that what’s old is new again with tech. “All of this technology is going to drastically affect that consumer experience, and brick-and-mortar will mean something different.”

Dx3’s early bird passes are available until January 27. Startups looking to apply for the Retail Innovation Challenge have until then as well.

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang is BetaKit's News Editor.