Over the last two days leaders in online retail and the vendors who support them gathered in Orlando, Florida to discuss the state of eCommerce.
Some key thoughts:
1 – A glass half-empty is also half-full. Business is tough for some, and good for others. These times are full of opportunity and will lead to innovations. This was a resonating theme from Bob Thacker’s absolutely terrific keynote Wednesday morning, and reinforced by our forecast for 2009-2013. Many online retailers I spoke with reflected a relative strength of the online channel in an otherwise very challenging retail environment.
2 – Focus on the customer. Alfred from Zappos shared some key insights in the operating philosophy and culture at Zappos and how this has translated into a value proposition and loyalty for their customers. The metrics and results from this laser-focus on customer service and satisfaction speak for themselves. Much of what they do is common-sense, but requires commitment and courage to execute.
3 – A healthy eCommerce technology market. Our data and level of client engagement on this topic was reinforced by the retailers and vendors at the forum. A show of hands in my session on “The eCommerce Platform of the Future” was yet another data point, with 25-30% of retailers in the room indicating they intend to replatform in the near future. Point-solution providers have also shared that they have been pleasantly surprised by the market this year.
4 – International is still not a real priority. The complexity, cost, and distractions of operating international eCommerce remain a barrier to companies. This is still not easy. Payments, logistics, content, marketing, talent, and technology all add up to a challenge. As Jim Okamura said in the international session, it requires a commitment over the long-term by companies to get this right. It is great that Shop.org is getting behind this topic, helping retailers solve this, and I know Forrester is looking forward to supporting that as well.
I encourage you to check out the Shop.org blog for more coverage of the sessions.
- I am thinking that the Gaylord resort concept may be an indicator of what it will be like to live in space. No one left the bio-dome for 3 days, living is a faux-reality complete with “outdoor square s”, 17th century forts, and alligators. Will we have space-ports themed after every state in space? When I finally stepped outside today if was as if I have been living without gravity and was trying to get into the helicopter harness to be spirited off the waiting carrier (my rental car ).
- Twitter is a major topic of conversation. I was amazed by how many conversations started with “oh, I think I am following you on twitter”. But, relatively few people are really participating, and many talk about not knowing if this is really a useful and meaningful tool. I do think it is a great way to keep a conversation rolling, and it will be interesting if all the new follows from the forum develop into that.
- We have great people in this industry. I was again reminded by the genuine, down-to-earth, smart, and creative people we have in this industry – retailers, vendors, and thought-leaders. It was great to connect, share stories, and learn from each other.
Now, back to my debriefing after returning from space,