Day 2 at IRCE 2011 was marked by two outstanding speakers, Christopher Payne, head of North American Marketplaces for eBay, and Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post.
Both emphasized that today is a time of change and experimentation, because the online revolution is happening right here and now. Christopher Payne went way back to the beginnings of Ebay: Being in the online business now for 15 years makes them a dinosaur in the Internet world, yet they are not showing any signs of extinction. Ebay’s mission was always to bring consumers and merchants into direct contact with each other. With the new technologies on hand, this mission has gained newfound expression. For example, take Ebay’s first attempt at a mobile platform, which was only three years ago.
With the insights gained along the way, mobile is now the fastest growing part of Ebay’s business. Chris made one fact very clear: mobile means that you go wherever the customer goes. Experimenting with new capabilities is a must in the ability to shift to new paradigms. The number of mobile consumers is growing, and their level of activity is on the rise. Being able to shop virtually anytime, anywhere, resulted – unsurprisingly – in consumers simply buying more. Truth be told, e-Commerce is still only a small part of the commerce picture. As Chris pointed out, there is an unclear grey area or ‘cross channel’ when it comes to defining whether something belongs to traditional commerce or e-commerce. This cross channel is where consumers research a product online, however choose to buy it locally. Clearly online and offline commerce complement each other. Chris actually sees the future as taking the “e” out of e-commerce, meaning that in the end there will be no separation between online and offline commerce anymore. Let’s recall: We had Commerce 0.1, the traditional, in-shop commerce. Next was Commerce 0.2 with the ability to sell and buy via the Internet. Now Chris sees Commerce 0.3 emerging, where the consumer is the center of all activities, with a profound understanding that shopping is a social experience. Sharing has to be built-in into today’s shopping experience, and Ebay is heading in this exact direction. One of the early developments was Groupgift.ebay.com, allowing a group to jointly bring in the money for more expensive presents. Only a few years ago this would have been technically impossible. The sneak peek Chris gave on adding polls before a purchase was extremely interesting. Consumers may post the products they are interested in on their facebook page to get feedback from their friends. Is it the black or red dress that would make more of an impact at the boss’ birthday party?
Understanding shopping as a social activity has tremendous impact and is a fundamental shift from traditional ways of doing business. Now is the time of sharing. Beside Mobile and Social, the next aim for Ebay also lies in “Local”: This is a huge undertaking indeed, as it means bringing the offline inventory of local sellers online, in real-time. While large sellers already have their inventory systems up and running (integration being the main issue here), smaller merchants may still have “pencil and paper” or excel worksheets as their tools. This represents a huge gap that has to be closed. Chris remains positive: The acquisition of new companies, as well as the building of a framework of virtually tens of thousands of developers, should bring results as early as this September. So let’s all be on the lookout! To quote Chris: “We are in an amazing time of change!”
Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief, of the Huffington Post, is nothing less than a star of the internet revolution. She conquered her audience with charm, humor and an unforgettable Greek accent (after all, she was raised in Greece). Her ex-husband had his own interpretation as to why she still has such a heavy Greek accent, saying that she never listened to him. “Well, he is my EX-husband now,” she retorted, making her audience roar with laughter. Just as Jack Love, Publisher of Internet Retailer remarked in his introduction, both e-commerce and e-media show a similar trend as to their share of business. They both represented around 3% back in 2002. This year e-commerce is expected to be accountable for 9% of overall commerce, and e-media is tipped to reach 13% of the advertising expenditures. Much of what makes up the success of the Huffington Post has to do with how to make an online business successful. The path of success comes down to acting in real-time, being social and engaging consumers. The internet is all about bringing your own individual personality online. At this point, we should reflect on Arianna’s three, inspiring “h”s: humor, humanity, and huge deals! To find a suitable way to engage with your consumers, keep in mind that self-expressing is the new form of entertainment. So make sure to enable your customers to share their thoughts by commenting on blog posts or product descriptions. Arianna, like Chris, sees today as a time to take advantage of opportunities. It is up to us act and not be afraid to fail. Arianna offered many insights during her speech, but none was more simple and true than this: “Failure is not the opposite of success; it is a stepping stone to success.”