|Thu June 7 2012 03:40:40|
Internet Retailer Conference Day Two - Gorilla Sandwich
By: Ina Steiner
In a research note I received today about the inaugural Advanced Retail Technology Conference, Wall Street firm Citi said retailers are being pressured between Amazon and Google: "Retailers are at risk of being in an "800 lb. gorilla sandwich" as they are squeezed between GOOG (product discovery) and AMZN (purchase transaction)."
That sums up the sentiment of attendees of the Internet Retailer conference in Chicago this week. Online merchants are frustrated at the low prices they're forced to offer on Amazon and are still absorbing news that they will have to pay Google in order to have listings show up on Google Shopping.
On Wednesday, the conference began with presentations from Barnes & Noble, Walmart Labs and CNN's Fareed Zakaria. Internet Retailer's Kurt Peters said we are in a technology revolution and must learn to connect with the "21st Century Consumer" before he introduced the speakers.
Barnes & Noble's William Lynch discussed Nook's beginnings and its mandate, which was to become the innovation leaders in digital reading. The strategy was not taken lightly, and they persevered despite early pans of the Nook from critics. Today, Lynch said more consumers watch Netflix on Nook than any other Android device, and it owns 27% of the ebook market.
B&N adjusted the compensation of its booksellers, making device sales half of their bonus. As a result, customer service became a differentiator in ebook readers. Other lesson they learned, Lynch said, was to ignore the pundits, focus on the reader and focus on their unique strengths.
Walmart's Joel Anderson told attendees, "we're in the age of the customer" and said it's getting harder to define ecommerce, with ship-from-store, QR codes, and other line-blurring developments.
He said there were three inflection points in retail over the past 50 years. The age of the brand (1960 - 1990); the age of the retailer (1980 - 2012); and the age of the customer (2000 and beyond). Now, we must provide anywhere, anytime access and offer an integrated sales experience, he said.
CNN's Fareed Zakaria ended the keynote session by "making the case for optimism."
After the keynotes, it was back to the exhibit hall (see yesterday's blog post for day one of the conference).
What's with All the Badges?
I stopped by ChannelIQ's booth and spoke with CEO Wes Sheperd, whose company provides services to manufacturers and helps them in four key areas: channel management; competitive intelligence; brand protection; and retailer badging.
The latter is a seal that displays on the websites of authorized retailers, letting shoppers know that they are buying from a merchant that will provide authentic products and manufacturers' warranties.
In light of last week's news that Google would be opening its Trusted Store seals to merchants this summer, it was interesting to see a different concept that gives a sort of "thumbs up" from manufacturers.
I also ran into executives from two other seal programs, Jeff Grass of BuySafe (which bonds transactions) and Jordy Leiser of StellaService (which rates ecommerce websites for the level of customer service they provide).
Shopping Study and Tips for the Holidays
David Sisco of UPS briefed me on the UPS study conducted by ComScore (see coverage in Newsflash). Several items of interest in the study:
"When comparison shopping, consumers take product price and shipping charges almost equally into consideration."
"While 48% of customers stated that they are not willing to wait more than 5 days for most of their purchases, 23% said that they would be willing to wait 8 days or more."
The study also found that 42% of respondents had abandoned a shopping cart due to estimated delivery date, and of those, "24% of shoppers who abandoned their cart due to delivery time did so because no estimated delivery date was provided."
Sisco also said the MyChoice program, which allows shoppers more control over home deliveries from UPS, already has over 1 million users. (Merchants will like this, as it has the potential to reduce the frustration buyers feel when they don't get their package because they weren't home when the driver came.)
Jim Davidson of Bronto shared some information from a report they will be publishing soon on tips for preparing for the holiday shopping season, and I'll publish a podcast of the interview. (Hint: start planning your holiday marketing campaigns now!)
Marketplace Selling and Google Paid Search Strategies
I attended two sessions, the first on marketplace selling - though the retailer spent a lot of time on comparison shopping engines and affiliate marketing rather than eBay, Amazon.com, Buy.com, NewEgg, Sears, etc.
And see the previous blog post for my thoughts on the Google session presented by Google Retail Industry Director April Anderson.
Edgenet and Manufacturer Data
Merchants will be the first to tell you that product feeds are far from perfect - they have missing or incorrect product attributes, for example. Edgenet, a company I've previously written about, works with manufacturers to improve the quality of product listings.
I met with Joe Czarnecky and Craig Cervenka of Edgenet, who explained they get feeds from manufacturers, standardize it, and then license it to merchants - and to Bing and Google.
Joe explained that using its data, Google can check merchants product feeds for quality and have the potential to rank better quality feeds higher than those from merchants who provide lower quality feeds. It would seem to me that larger merchants who could afford Edgenet's services would be in a better position to rank higher in search results at some point, if not today.
Women Ecommerce Executives
The Women Ecommerce Executives networking event was well attended, and I was delighted to see some old friends again.
Only one more day left to scour the show for news and information!