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Wed June 9 2010 12:41:32

Notes from the Floor of IRCE 2010

By: Greg Holden

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AuctionBytes Contributing Editor Greg Holden will be sending back reports from the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago. Bookmark this blog post for updates.

Wed. 10am:

It's my first day at the Internet retailer conference. I am immediately struck by the fact that I am almost certainly among the oldest people among the 6500 in attendance. Although it seems as many women are here as men, the energy is predominantly male. Maybe it's all the 20-something and 30-something guys crowding the exhibit hall aisles. You can almost feel the testosterone. The presence of a sleek yellow Chevy Corvette on the floor adds to this feeling. It is apparently a door prize of some sort. If Adam Sandler was into e-commerce instead of acting, he would be at home here.

I avoid the bright purple Yahoo! area, which is giving away free hacky sack balls for all those 20-something males, and head for the smaller booths. Instinct tells me the resources for small businesses will be there. I can't get near the people from GoECart. In fact, many of these booths are packed with people asking questions, gathering free shopping bags of many colors.

I venture down to Big Commerce, which is listed under "Shopping Cart Software in the FitForCommerce "cheat sheet." Problem is, this company and others like it don't use the term "shopping cart." It's so twentieth-century.

"I prefer 'e-commerce solution,'" says Travis Ferris, a sales rep with the Austin, TX-based company. Big Commerce, despite its name, is really aimed at small-time retailers. Its smallest package costs $24 per month and allows sellers to post up to 100 sales items at a time in their online store. Big Commerce caters to absolute beginners, too. "All you need is an idea and a product to sell," says Ferris. Big Commerce is based on the software platform of another shopping cart/e-commerce solution called InterSpire, which is geared at larger enterprises.

In contrast to companies I've looked at in recent and upcoming articles on shopping cart software, Big Commerce helps customers set up and hosts their online stores. It's Software as a Service (SAAS). It's coming out with eBay integration in its next release. Customers don't need to have MySQL or other software, and they don't need to work with code of any sort--unless they want to. apparently, it's striking a chord with entrepreneurs: In just 9 months, Big Commerce has gained 5000 users.

Wed 11:am:
Sites that offer "daily deals" are all the rage these days. Currently, Groupon seems to be one of the hottest sites in this area. What does it mean for me? I hear you asking.

There is a way a company like yours can take advantage of the "daily deal" approach to e-commerce., which originated the Daily Deal, has expanded into aggregation, and companies like yours can take advantage of its success and advertise with it. It's here at the conference looking to hook up with other businesses that want to advertise "sponsored deals" on its site.

"One of the things we were finding was that, we had a million people coming to our site, but we only sell one thing a day, so in our very best day, we only had 25,000 orders," explains Jay Johnson of "We've started creating deals from other sites."

On the right side of its home page, you'll see such Sponsored Deals. You might also find ads from sites that do the same sort of thing as you can't beat 'em, join 'em. "Some of our biggest advertisers are other Deal of the Day sites," says Johnson. 

Wed. 12:15pm:
Key takeaway from Scot Wingo (of ChannelAdvisor)'s talk "Putting the Changes at Comparison Shopping Sites to Work for You":

Shopping comparison sites fall into 1.0 and 2.0 versions based on their newness and level of success. Don't simply stick with the traditional "Big Three" shopping sites: Google Product Search, ShopZilla, and When it comes to listing your products on such sites, Google is doing great, but other 1.0 venues like ShopZilla and are losing traffic to newer competitors. Your business will atrophy if you limit yourself this way. Add new sites like Pronto, Bing Shopping, and TheFind to your mix.

The hall is packed with hundreds of attendees, by the way.

Wed 12:45pm:
As a former English major, I cringe when I am exposed to all of the made-up, meaningless words used by companies in the high-tech world. Here are some that jumped out at me from the vendor directory. These are probably fine companies to work with and believe me, I'm not making fun of the companies themselves. But can anyone tell me what their names mean? Please vote for the one you like least (or suggest another I haven't listed here):


Enough silliness--I'm moving on to take Knotice of more atrinisic corporate entities that can help you monetate your business omniture right now...

Wed 2:00pm:
The Internet Retailer conference is really crowded--not only with attendees, but with vendors, many of whom seem to be doing the same thing. There are several companies providing business intelligence, a whole group of competitors in the search and search engine marketing area, many e-commerce platforms, and so on. What does it all mean?

Manish Chowdhary, CEO of the e-commerce platform GoECart ( said the current fragmentation and proliferation of solution providers is not going to last. He is cautious about the future. "Five years from now, you will have one-quarter the number of players (in e-commerce)," he says. "If you look at Moore's Law, which describes a technology adoption curve, we are in a time of mass expansion now. Many companies have been forced to invest in more efficient channels such as the Internet. This sort of fragmentation is not sustainable." Although he says he is not pessimistic, he believes we are not out of the woods yet as far as the economic downturn, and sees the possibility of a "double dip" effect in the next 18 months. Although social media and social networking are all the rage now, and the subject of some humorous comments in this convention's keynote addresses, "Nobody has time for fun and games all the time. After the games, we have to get down to business. We have to provide real business connections."

Wed 2:50pm:
I popped in to a discussion that Ina was moderating entitled "Lean and Mean Customer Engagement Strategies." Julie Swatek, Founder and CEO of  Scrap Your Memories Inc.M said she gets personal--as personal as possible--with her customers to get their attention and build the all-important one-to-one customer relationships that result in repeat business.

She has done the following:

--Provide handwritten thank-you notes to customers.
--Written about a "birds and bees" talk she had with her daughter.
--Written about her divorce, and told customers about having to move out of her house.

As she said, she certainly takes a "no boundaries" approach to communicating with customers.

At the risk of raising controversy, I have to ask: Is this a woman thing? Guys won't respond to this level of soul-baring and chattiness. If your clientele is highly female, taking the time to start sharing can pay off without great expense on your part.

Wed 4:00pm
You might already have multiple storefronts hosted on different e-commerce sites. But chances are they all present the same sorts of products, or even duplicates of the same storefront. Did you ever consider creating a "niche" store for a special event or small audience?

In the session "Using Niche Stores to Grab Opportunities," Yahoo!s Paul Boisvert said stores that address a single product type, one brand, or one occasion, let small businesses compete with bigger players.

Evaluate your product line and buyer personas (do you have these?) and split them off into niches when you can.

Google Trends will help you ID products that people are looking for.

A niche site lets you do tighter messaging, save on pay per click costs, and get better SEO rankings. The big drawback: loss of focus that can take time away from your main site.

Comments (6) | Permalink

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by: Hank Yankovitz

Thu Jun 10 10:13:20 2010

Made up words, handwritten notes to customers about sex instruction to kids OH THE HORROR.
Foll that i am I thought commerce was about profit and survival.

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by: Red Ink Diary This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Thu Jun 10 14:53:46 2010

Greg I believe it is soul-baring as in making it bare rather than soul-bearing, which would either be something to carry or downright grizzly.

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by: Digby
Web Site

Thu Jun 10 19:54:05 2010

Not much interest on the conference it seems with only two comments.

If it was about an ebay conference there would be 50 by now !

The conference looks a little bit high powered and elitist for me, from what I have read.

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by: another side of the coin

Thu Jun 10 20:17:42 2010

Got the same impression. The small and medium sellers are once again snubbed and left behind.

I guess ecommerce is just going to be businesses doing business only with other businesses or consumers who have USD and Euros to burn.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Tue Jun 15 08:48:40 2010

A few notes on the notes:

New words, why not? Remember all of the Al ''Haig-isms''? during the Reagan Era? Some of them actually are part of the lexicon now. English is not French with its academy-to-preserve-French [no ''le hot dog'' allowed], or Latin which needs 20 syllables to describe a satellite - one language is dead except in the Vatican - or is it not used there either - and the other is walking dead.

As for the IRCE vendors - sure the small to medium sellers are not specifically targeted - why should they be? Are you going to cough up the bucks to attend if you are a small seller? I'm sure you can do your research online for less, but you won't have any of the Chinese-made trinkets to show for it.

The vendors themselves cough-up a pretty penny for the booths and which would you rather have - one ''whale'' with whom you can answer questions for 10-15 minutes or 50 tire-kickers in the same period. As a vendor, you need to develop the largest customer you can handle. I've been to software trade shows [not the CES] representing small to mid-sized corporations and the atmosphere is no different. You look for a product which may fit your business model, go to the booth & ask questions & hopefully get good answers, then followup via regular business channels and get all of the interesting goodies you can.....

But that was done on the company dime, as a small seller, considering the air fare, 2 days in a hotel, munchies, etc - it's nice to read about it, but not cost-effective.

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by: Dave Pounder

Wed Jun 16 17:11:25 2010

Yes, names can have silly connotations, can't they? Like 'Bytes'. Auction 'Bytes'. Some things just 'byte', don't they?

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