This year's Internet Retailer Conference (IRCE) did not disappoint. Over 7,000 retailers, marketplaces and vendors gathered in San Diego just over a week ago. Attendance was up 14% from last year's Chicago show, and the exhibit hall was packed with over 500 companies enticing attendees with their ecommerce offerings.
Social commerce was everywhere, including part of the keynote address given by eBay's Christopher Payne, who said eBay was bringing social conversation back to shopping as he gave a sneak peek at a new Facebook feature. Social commerce also had a big presence among the vendors in the exhibit hall, and booths advertised social shopping features or promised to help retailers set up stores on Facebook.
One company, Shop Socially, offered something different from many other social commerce offerings. It focuses on getting customers to share their purchases with friends immediately after payment while still on the checkout page - a time they are still theoretically excited about their purchase. The service integrates with Magento, Shopify, OScommerce, and Yahoo Small Business, and allows sellers to offer special promotions to the buyers who are most influential on social networks. The reporting capabilities were impressive, allowing retailers to measure the impact of their social commerce investment.
And while there was much talk about how to exploit the social networking phenomenon, it was companies in shipping and payments that really caught our eye for having the most potentially useful services for AuctionBytes readers.
Online Payments and Shipping
Moneybookers, an online payment service popular in Europe that recently changed its name to Skrill, is expanding its services in the U.S. (it's currently available on eBay.com). I believe Skrill could be a game-changer and poses the most serious competition to PayPal. Look for more about this in an upcoming AuctionBytes Newsflash newsletter this week.
Equaship is a new company that promises to save small shippers up to 30% in shipping costs - a powerful message. Shipping is consistently one of the biggest concerns among our readers, and Equaship has the potential to disrupt the big three - USPS, UPS, and FedEx - among small online retailers. We'll have more on Equaship as they near launch.
Another area where retailers could potentially save on shipping costs is through the use of auditing firms, which we discovered when talking to Roy Hessel of EyeBuyDirect.com, an online retailer of prescription eyeglasses. He plans to explore some of the shipping-auditing companies that were exhibiting at the conference that promised to save online retailers money by reviewing their FedEx and UPS bills.
Video in Ecommerce
Video is becoming more mainstream in ecommerce. Online retailer Joel Lederhause from DiscountRamps.com told me he had hired a fulltime employee just to handle the company's videos. The staffer creates the videos and also responds to comments on YouTube, something they hadn't had time to do in the past. He said his sales are up 25% in 2011 (up from $18 million last year for its entire network), which he attributed to more people and more products.
In an example of listening to customers, Lederhause said they took some existing ramps and remarketed them for people who were using them with their RC (remote control) cars. They were able to create an entire new category with existing products - see this page.
Watch this video and you can see why video works so well for them.
I wrote previously about a company SundaySky that enables larger retailers to create dynamically generated product videos. This year I had a chance to talk with the founder, Yaniv Axen, who said companies are now finding they are competing with YouTube. They put video on their website and on YouTube, and Google favors YouTube and won't index the videos on their own site. He said he finds there is not traffic going from YouTube to retailers' websites.
Axen then walked me through the stages retailers go through with video. Step one, retailer buys a camera and post videos on YouTube. Step two is about scalability - they hire a full crew. Step three is about how to use video in more channels - email campaigns, outside the site, social context, pre-roll ads, etc. And the fourth step is personalized video, which is very big - AT&T, Disney and Office Depot are doing some interesting things with personalized video, he said.
What Others Thought of the Show
Skip McGrath attended the conference and wrote about some of the services he found interesting in his current issue, including AIRmove, a bubble pak machine.
SLI Systems' Shaun Ryan wrote about some of his impressions from the show, including TurnTo's social service and Mobify's mobile service.
And of course Internet Retailer has extensive coverage of the sessions, found on this page.
Lissa McGrath and I covered a lot of ground at IRCE, here are links to our coverage.
Articles and Blog Posts
eBay Tells Retailers Its Mission Is to Connect Buyers and Sellers - Link to blog post
Arianna Huffington Keynotes Internet Retailer Conference - Link to article
Details of eBay's New Facebook Social Shopping Feature - Link to blog post
Keeping an Eye on your Amazon Competition and Prices - Link to article
An Inside Look at Groupon from the Merchant's Perspective (in today's issue) - Link to article
eBay VP Discusses Social, Local, and the Traditional Seller - Christopher Payne, Senior Vice President of eBay Marketplaces North America, talks with Ina Steiner about a new social shopping feature launching in the fall and about eBay's efforts to collect inventory from local brick-and-mortar retailers through a new initiative at MiloFetch.com. - Link to podcast
Magento Founder Roy Rubin Discusses eBay Acquisition - Magento co-Founder and CEO Roy Rubin talks about what the upcoming eBay acquisition of Magento means for developers and online merchants. - Link to potcast
How EyeBuyDirect's Roy Hessel Makes Shopping a Social Experience - Roy Hessel, founder and CEO of EyeBuyDirect.com, said social is a fundamental part of the shopping experience on his site, and described the "Wall of Frame" - a social network for vision correction consumers where shoppers can upload a picture of themselves and "try on" different frames, share photos, leave comments, rate, and upload photos to Facebook. - Link to podcast
Chris Taylor of PageMage talks IRCE 2011 - Chris Taylor, Marketing Director of PageMage, talks about the "buzz" at the Internet Retailer Conference, including the latest in social media, mobile trends and what's going on at the breakout sessions. - Link to podcast
PowerReviews' Nadim Hossain on the Power of Reviews - Nadim Hossain, Vice President of PowerReviews, talks about the power of consumer product reviews and how they benefit online retailers. - Link to podcast
Robin Cheung, President and CEO of BridesRally.com at IRCE 2011 - Robin Cheung, President and CEO of BridesRally.com, talks about her daily deals website and how she uses Payvment to power her ecommerce efforts on Facebook - Link to videocast
Christian Taylor, CEO of Payvment at IRCE 2011 - Payvment CEO Christian Taylor talks about Payvment and what's new with his service that lets anyone sell on Facebook. - Link to videocast
Sean Cook, CEO of ShopVisible at IRCE 2011 - ShopVisible CEO Sean Cook talks about ecommerce, the results of a recent ShopVisible study on social commerce, and what online merchants can learn. - Link to videocast
More to Come
I had the opportunity to talk to the cofounder of ChannelIntelligence Alan Fulmer about the importance of data feeds - he's been working closely with Google and had lots to say about the evolution of search engine marketing, and we'll be publishing more on this and other interesting vendors Lissa McGrath and I found at IRCE in future issues.
Finally, a big thank you to Kurt Peters and Jack Love and all the crew at Internet Retailer for welcoming us yet again to the most important industry conference. If you're interested in the breakdown of attendees, it's available on this page - the breakdown by industry segment is especially interesting. Next year's conference will take place June 5 - 8 at McCormick Place West in Chicago - hope to see some of you there!