IFA 2022 Convention: Our Key Takeaways

It had been a long time coming, and it was so nice to be back in-person for the International Franchise Association’s (IFA) annual convention at the end of February. For the first time in more than two years, franchisors, franchisees, thought leaders, suppliers, friends and colleagues gathered together in San Diego for franchising’s largest annual event and it did not disappoint! The southern California weather was sublime, the convention center was lively, and the content throughout the convention agenda was thought-provoking in many ways. Here are some of our highlights and takeaways:  

Franchising shows signs of post-pandemic growth 

Despite the challenges and difficulties faced by many franchises over the past two years during the pandemic, the outlook for franchising in 2022 and beyond is largely positive. As always, the IFA released their annual Franchising Economic Outlook report shortly before the convention and the numbers are encouraging: 

  • Output for franchises rebounded by over 16% in 2021, reaching nearly $788 billion 
  • Franchise growth is expected to stabilize in 2022, adding approximately 17,000 new units this year 
  • Output for franchises in 2022 is forecasted to grow by 4.9% to more than $826 billion by the end of the year

From IFA’s President and CEO, Matt Haller: “At every level, local franchise businesses offer opportunities for economic and career advancement. For aspiring entrepreneurs, franchising removes barriers so they can more easily open their own businesses. On the other side of the Great Resignation is a great reimagination that has emboldened white collar workers and store employees alike to become local business owners.” 

Franchisors need better technology, but recognize technology is only part of the solution 

A lot of conversations and agenda topics at this year’s convention highlighted the growing need among franchisors (and franchisees) for better technology to drive growth and revenue. If you walked the exhibit hall floor, suppliers everywhere were pitching their technology, platforms, tools and dashboards as a “one-stop shop” or magic potion to cure all marketing and operations problems. Buzzwords like “artificial intelligence” and “automation” rang through in countless sales pitches, but the reality was clearly obvious to many whom we spoke with; technology alone will not solve your problems, and smart people with smart strategies still make the most difference in creating success for brands and their local franchisees. 

 The above axiom was most evident during a keynote session with Paul Brown, CEO of Inspire Brands, in which he spoke about how Inspire relies heavily on technology and automation to deliver quality data analytics to Inspire teams. However, he noted that it’s still critical that the people at Inspire – from executives to corporate teams, agency partners, field marketing teams and franchisees themselves – know how to properly leverage that data and the insights provided to improve the customer experience and ultimately their bottom line. Marketing is and always will be a science that requires critical thinking from experienced people, and it was reaffirming to hear a leader in franchising like Paul Brown speak to this in a way that cut through a lot of the technology noise that exists in franchising right now. 

 A few more highlights and takeaways 

Aside from reconnecting with some old friends in franchising (this was Location3’s fifteenth consecutive year at convention!), it was also great to meet so many new people at IFA 2022. In many ways, this is the best part of these annual gatherings. Some of our other favorite moments included:
 

  • Keynote session featuring the incomparable and engaging Shaquille O’Neil, highlighting his growth as a person, a public figure, and an incredibly successful franchisee (and recent franchisor) 
  • Thought Leadership Roundtables – these continue to be one of the best agenda segments, and offer so many great insights from those who live and breathe franchising every single day
  • Shout out to Location3’s V.P. of Digital Strategy, Vera Shafiq, for her incredible Marketing Innovation session on privacy-centric marketing, and how franchisors and marketers need to prepare themselves for the changes coming to technology and data management 
  • Certified Franchise Executive Class of 2022 – cheers to all of my friends and colleagues in franchising who also completed their CFE certification this year! I’m proud to officially be recognized as a CFE and to be part of such an incredible group of franchising experts!

We’re already looking forward to the 2023 annual convention in Las Vegas, but if you missed our team in San Diego you can be sure to find us onsite as a sponsor of the new-and-improved Franchise Customer Experience Conference in Atlanta this June. Reach out to us – we’d love to connect. 

 A final word of thanks to the International Franchise Association, as well – we value our partnership together and we appreciate all that you do to continue keep franchising strong!