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Internet Retailer Conference Kicks Off with Exhibit-Hall Reception

Over 600 companies set up shop in the 250,000 square-foot exhibit hall of the 10th annual Internet Retailer conference in Chicago on June 10th. Show organizers expect 10,000 attendees over the course of the 3-day conference, and the welcome reception on the show floor on Tuesday evening attracted a good crowd of attendees getting a head start, walking the aisles and speaking with vendors about solutions to their ecommerce challenges.

Joe Palko of 3dcart said he’d been attending the conference from the beginning, having attended the first event while at Solid Cactus, a company he cofounded and later sold to Web.com. His colleague, Joe Berger, had advice for marketplace sellers who had yet to launch their own site: “Any site is better than no site.” Get a domain name, set up a site, and keep adding products, he advised. Keep adding products to the site while continuing to sell on marketplaces, and in 6 months to a year, you’ll start getting orders.

Over time, organic SEO will bring in orders, and for those wanting to advance more quickly, engage in PPC advertising, Berger said. Palko warned, however, that merchants must have the margins to engage in paid search, – if you only make $2 per item, PPC won’t be for you.

On the other end of the spectrum, it was Linnworks’ first time at the conference, according to Sam Goodman. The multichannel ecommerce software based in the UK is opening an office in the U.S. as it expands internationally.

Linnworks started servicing “bedroom sellers,” a British term for small, home-based sellers. Now it also services large companies thanks to the flexibility of the software. The company partners with eBay UK as part of its international acceleration program to help sellers with international trade, Goodman revealed. The U.S. is Linnworks’ second largest market with 500 out of its 3,000 customers, and it also has clients in Germany and France, he said.

Another international firm at the show was Feedvisor, from Israel. Shmuli Goldberg showed an example of how using Feedvisor could actually boost the average selling price of a product on Amazon through the use of its repricing software, and gave a demo of a new feature that’s still in testing.

While walking the show floor, we ran into a former member of the USPS team that had worked with eBay early on, launching shipping services for its large number of micro sellers. While the Postal Service had had many services – or ideas for services – catering to small businesses, eBay provided a reason to make them happen, and was responsible for the launch or expansion of such services as flat rate boxes, carrier pickup, online shipping and discounts for online shipping. And, the former employee shared somewhat amusingly, the USPS received plenty of feedback on its early efforts from eBay’s vocal sellers through EcommerceBytes’ reporting.

Open source ecommerce was represented at IRCE by PrestaShop, which started in France and now has a large office in Florida as well. Justin Wilson said 185,000 stores use PrestaShop in 160 countries. Sellers use PrestaShop for free, only paying a hosting company for as little as $3/month, depending on their size. Another advantage of open source software, Wilson said, was that there were over 600,000 developers working to keep PrestaShop in top shape.

What about more fun aspects of online shopping? PriceWaiter was showing off its “make an offer” style service that lets merchants add a name your price button to listings on their own ecommerce websites. But it’s more than entertainment – shoppers engage in “virtual showrooming” as they look for the best price, Andrew Scarbrough said, and letting them seek discounts can boost conversions.

He showed off a new “exit-intent” feature that could detect when a shopper was getting ready to leave a merchant’s page – a pop-up appears that can entice the shopper to make an offer before leaving. On a client site called SmartFixtures.com, the merchant customized the message to read, “Did you know you can make an offer?” before the shopper clicks away.

If a seller has a 2% conversion rate, that’s 98 people leaving their site – why not grab them before they leave, Scarbrough asked. What kind of discounts will merchants accept? Generally they set up the feature to accept discounts of between 9 – 12%, but each client sets up its own discount.

Another advantage for merchants is the ability to go below MAP pricing, he added. Because the public doesn’t see the discounted pricing, the manufacturer is okay with it, and the retailer is happy to get the sale.

PriceWaiter also supports Bitcoin using Coinbase accounts. Between 8 – 10 percent of Pricewaiter retailers enable Bitcoin as a payment method, and shoppers are generally choosing to use Bitcoin for higher-priced items rather than lower priced items.

This is just a sampling of the vendors gathered at IRCE and the types of conversations taking place face-to-face in the normally virtual environment in which merchants usually operate.

On Wednesday, eBay CEO John Donahoe and Wikipedia founder and CEO Jimmy Wales will give keynote presentations as the main event kicks off at 8:15 am.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.