Tonight’s opening reception at the Internet Retail Conference & Exhibition pointed out that the internet retail industry has reached first level maturity—it’s grown, like healthy bacteria in a petri dish—into a massive number of self replications supported by fat double digit sales growth the last few years.
How many companies want to optimize your product search or manage your Google ad words account or make your landing pages more user friendly? Yep, dozens.
So it’s time for the true test—the lean time when some colonies of innovation will merge and grow, and other will be starved into extinction. You can already see the bigger companies consolidating these services into suites that give growth-minded retailers a powerful menu of options.
Search optimization and more on emergency support
Still, every fifth booth seems to be some variety of Google optimization on a tactical level—there aren’t that many best approaches to getting your product feed into Google. Google itself had a helpful pamphlet on it, and industry leaders like CI (booth 505) are so confident about their approach (it works for Target and OfficeMax), that they offer a double-results-or-your-money-back guarantee—the company has driven over a billion in online sales for brand names with their approach. The firms defining themselves on winning strategy and technology are far fewer than those identifying themselves by their tactical competence (“we can do multivariate testing!”).
Then there are the one-shot wonders—companies that will build your Facebook or Mobile presence. Companies that will only work if your site is in Drupal, or if you have six toes…
What about a one-stop shop —like a social-commerce-capable, mobile-empowered ecommerce platform such as ShopVisible? (See their social commerce white paper) and look out tomorrow for big news around social commerce with client Ed Hardy.
While niche providers have no doubt developed value, it’s clear from a slightly bigger industry perspective that these values only gain traction with a choir of like-minded company. If you’re a substantial retailer, do you want a specialist Facebook presence done one-off, or the synergies of one e-tail provider that does it all like ShopVisible and others? Clear answer. And the research from NetSuite on the value of integration is a nice little plug that proves the point—you can pick it up in their booth.
Retailers demand more from online marketing
Then there are the retailers. At dinner tonight with a few over-a-million-a-month retailers, I was struck by how CEOs of growing internet retail companies are hungry for next-level partnerships and peer groups. They are stuck in the crossing between boutique and behemoth. Said one CEO who got a lot of nods—“I went to a session this afternoon on optimizing a site, and I knew everything they were saying—of course someone taught me but really, I need the next level. This was good for me years ago but I got no meat in sessions today.”
Online retail prepares for roll ups
So the good news—it’s coming. With so many companies offering such seemingly similar services—and in fact marketing their feature sets not their brand or their methodology—the companies with similar feature sets are set to roll up or roll out. Just today for example, Channel Intelligence announced its acquisition of SEM firm ClickEquations. It’s just the beginning. It’s a fascinating time to be at IRCE and I feel fortunate to be here with fellow attendees who are witnessing history in the making—the maturation of internet retail, one of the real business frontiers. It’ll be great to see what Chris Payne of eBay and Ariana Huffington have to say about the future of our industry in the general sessions tomorrow.
It reminds me of the energy industry, but that’s another story. : )