As part of my recent world tour, I spent about a week in Rome to attend the World Retail Congress and our Client Advisory Board (CAB) that we co-located with the annual gathering of retail leaders from across Europe.

I have the privilege of chairing our Board, which includes some of the world’s biggest global brands with billions of dollars in gross merchandise value. I was thrilled with the level of client participation from both sides of the pond. We had passionate conversations about our product strategy and the importance of the Demandware community.

While having lunch at the conclusion of the WRC event and CAB meeting with Steve Williamson, our sales leader the UK, he shared with me a question that he asks in every interview – “What is one thing you learned today?” It got me thinking about what insights I gleaned over the course of a few days. Here are three takeaways that I wanted to share:

Speed Matters: While there is much hype around strategic initiatives focused on omni-channel, I was reminded about how important user experience and speed are to key performance indicators. One CAB member, a CIO, told us that a group of his developers took it upon themselves to fine-tune homepage load times and were able to trim .6 seconds. Another client said that their experience is that every 1% increase in page load time equates to 7% reduction in conversion. As the use of resource-intensive capabilities — such as video and user-generation content – becomes more widespread, it is imperative to optimize both desktop and mobile site load times.

Unified Commerce Will Happen: Once again it was confirmed that the industry is on the cusp of a point-of-sale (POS) refresh. A majority of the CAB members said they will invest in next-generation POS in the next few years. And the members prefer a single platform to manage all consumer-facing data, processes, and business rules across all channels. This is consistent with research from the National Retail Federation and Ecommerce Europe that shows 53% today plan to leverage unified commerce, with 90% planning for it longer term.

Click-and-Collect Pays Off: One of our CAB members, the President of Retail at an international retailer, is contemplating a click-and-collect program. To help validate this approach, she asked me to survey her fellow members about their plans for this strategy. While the data may be a little skewed as the board represents some of the largest and most innovative retailers, it showed that more than two-thirds have, or are in the process of establishing, click-and-collect. One retailer in the meeting said that 30% of online orders are now picked up at store, while 30% of online orders are originated at the store — this is up from 25% for both measures just last year. Much discussion focused on the importance of organizational training and incentives to ensure success.

Readers, what do you think? Is speed, unified commerce and omni-channel at the top of your agenda? If not, what is?