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E-commerce

Comments on the Internet Show – Melbourne

Article by Chris Morley, ecommerce consultant

Last week I attended the Internet show with some colleagues as part of my involvement with ecommerce companythe_internet_show ChannelAdvisor. The Internet Show was a free event at Jeff’s Shed (Melbourne Convention Centre), held over two days with some impressive sponsors including, Google, PayPal, NAB and Aus Post – ensuring a crowd would follow; and what a crowd! I understand the attendance of the event to be over 3000, impressive to draw a number that size on ones first attempt at anything. Full credit must go to the organisers of this event as it brought together those who know it all and those who want to know it all, in an easy to access and well structured event; in fact further credit must go to organisers who needed to readjust theaters quickly to make room and improve sound quality for the swelling numbers of participants, overall a great event and I look forward to the next one – some key points emerged and I would like to share them with you.

1: Thirst

There is a growing thirst for ecommerce amongst Australians. It is almost irrelevant that this event was free, 3000 people turned up, that is impressive and shows a clear and growing desire by the average Australian to want to understand the Internet and ecommerce. People in the know will point to the fact that the Australian market is perhaps as much as five years behind the US, but is catching up rapidly due to our desire to capture a larger market of buyers as well as those using the Internet for research. The topics covered allowed for those just getting their heads around the Internet, right through to those who need help driving relevant traffic to their developed sites – either way the thirst is there, and it is spreading and desperate to be quenched.

2: Google – too big to care?

Google are certainly not doing evil; but are they doing good? Google were the main sponsors, but where was their stand? Google easily had the most popular seminars, people would often sit through the previous speaker just to get a seat at Google; in fact the first seminar by the search giant sparked the organisers into action to adjust the theatre layout and structure. So big is Google’s Australian pull it could be argued that without their sponsorship and attendance this show might not have been as popular. So why then were the Australian public treated with contempt? Where was the stall to back up this thirst of knowledge where punters could chat further with Google employees? After each Google seminar patrons were informed that they could chat with the speaker at the Reach Local stand – a boom for Reach Local – it must be said as that Google Ad words re seller reaped serious and steady interest from the masses. This is akin to attending a car show hearing the Ferrari employee speak and being told to direct further questions to the Hyundai stand!

I had chats with as many of the Google employees as I could; waiting in line for a time can only be tolerated for so long; but when I did chat to them I was left disappointed with the attitude for the global Goliath of search. Each employee pointed out to me that they had limited time, employment and financial resources to direct to the Australian market.

ChannelAdvisor have good numbers of customers desperate to learn more from Google; hoping for a number, an email to direct the masses to, so that they could learn more from the masters, increase their ad word spend and Google’s bottom line; but alas no help was forthcoming – surely the time spent with growing the Australian Internet community is investment in the future not a drain on current resources?

3: People vote with their feet

One of the best aspects of the Internet show was the ability to watch the masses, watch as they moved from seminar to seminar, watch as word spread about a good speaker and crowds swelled, watch as groups mingled, shared ideas and business cards – one of my favourite aspects of the show was the layout. It certainly had its issues early on day one, a lack of chairs, poor audio made attending a seminar pointless initially, but as I said earlier conference directors moved quickly and seamlessly to adjust these concerns.

With a central network area, theatres in corners and stalls in between, moving freely was great; people might argue for closed in theatres for the future, but I for one liked the ability to look over and see another theatre screen, or being able to see which seminars were swelling with popularity and follow the masses. To watch the keen public move with ease to quench their thirst was great; I hope this is not lost on the organisers.

4: Social media and all that jazz

One key area of the Internet show was the focus on social media outlets, such as Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, as well as up an comer Four square, and not forgetting the tried and tested blog. So how does this all fit in with the Australian online business? Obviously these sites have huge numbers of traffic, traffic that is usually driven by a well recognised grown up brand – but this is the Internet age where an old online company is 5 years, and you are in a retirement home with 10 years of operation. The traffic and interest to these social sites has implications for the online world, not all sites will be relevant to all businesses right now, but they will. Given the huge numbers of people at these sites it is inevitable that advertisers and marketers will capitalise, what works for one business will not work for another – and of course just as quickly as one story or idea goes viral in a positive manner it can go south just as quickly.

The thing that I took from the social media side of the show was to ensure that your site and functionality is up to date. Without a decent operating business, or clear work flow – too much focus on social media can be detrimental to earning a profit. Yes there are huge numbers of people checking into Facebook, My Space, Twitter et al each day; and if you have nothing to send them to or even worse – a bad experience in stall for them; well it will be tough to get that business back. New and developing business need to be aware of the social media opportunities for sure, but let’s get our sites looking great and allowing for easy transactions and positive customer experiences first. Today conquer your backyard, tomorrow the world – then tweet about it to your fans on Facebook.

The Internet show was a great experience and concept, I truly hope the organisers run it again, and next year the understanding will have improved even more and the outcomes will be multiplied more. Australians online growth is different to the rest of the world, the franchise model here for one has delayed the investment in online of the biggest retailers. Lately we have seen more medium sized business join the early adopting small businesses – the big fish will come eventually – but until then the small and medium businesses of Australia, the back bone of business down under – has more opportunities to succeed and grow than ever before.

Christopher Morley an ecommerce consultant with ChannelAdvisor; ChannelAdvisor helps the world sell online with applications that enable retailers to efficiently distribute their products across multiple online channels, drive shoppers to those products and then convert those shoppers into customers. The ChannelAdvisor platform empowers retailers to distribute their products across multiple online marketplaces, comparison shopping sites and search engines. With application features such as keyword generation, to in-depth reporting, to our merchandising engine, retailers gain the tools they need to easily fine tune and analyse their marketing efforts to drive more shoppers to their products. Rich media offerings and storefront applications enable retailers to provide an engaging online shopping experience that represents their brand and is optimised to convert shoppers into customers. In 2008, ChannelAdvisor managed over $2.6 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) on behalf of leading retailers around the world including Vodafone, Brother, HP, B&Q, and Schuh. www.channeladvisor.com.au

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