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Bits of wisdom from the Shop.org Summit 2014

Maybe you’ve been to your share of industry conferences; and you’ve probably heard the analogy that taking in the information dispensed over one of the multi-day events is like drinking from a fire hose.

While I won’t disagree, I find that events, like this week’s Shop.org Summit 2014 in Seattle, are also opportunities to latch on to little pieces of wisdom, brief bursts of thought that you hadn’t heard before or that you hadn’t heard put quite that way.

And so, from this year’s big Shop.org event, a sampler:

“What I’m looking at here is a consumer who changes so quickly and responds to marketing cues in such an emotional way, that unless I go really deep, really psychological, and get down to the essence, it’s worthless. So focus groups where I’m asking people what they think, I don’t do any more. I want to find out what people feel.”  Kit Yarrow, Golden Gate University consumer psychologist on the new and evolving consumer.

Brad Stone talks to retailers at Shop.org

Brad Stone talks to retailers at Shop.org

“I think the contrasts here are sharp. Amazon offers payment as a service, both for customers and for merchants, and it has deeply considered the links between payment and commerce. eBay, it was really the first to establish the synergies when it acquired PayPal in 2002. And now, even as it seeks to be a partner to offline retailers and to spearhead omnichannel commerce, it is unwinding those synergies. And it feels to me, frankly, like a defeat.” –Brad Stone, author of “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon,” on the breakup of eBay and PayPal.

“We have to be learning all the time. The second you think that you know your customer is the second that somebody else will find out something that you don’t know and run right past you.” Katia Beauchamp, CEO of BirchBox, on the way customers shape brands.

“It’s really about remembering why you started because when you turn on the dollar machine, it’s easy to forget that.” Alon Cohen, CEO Houzz, on the importance of always keeping customers front and center in your strategy.

“You don’t discover what you want on Amazon. On Amazon, you purchase what you discovered somewhere else. We do believe that customers will shop with those retailers and brands that really give them a rich, engaging shopping experience.” — Scott Pulsipher, president of Needle, on the exhibition hall floor talking about the importance of providing an engaging online experience.

Alon Cohen, Darrell Caven & Katina Beauchamp with Matthew Kaness at Shop.org

Alon Cohen, Darrell Cavens & Katia Beauchamp with Matthew Kaness at Shop.org

“I think about when I see things like the drone delivery system… I think one of the reasons why they love talking about these new inventions, is because Jeff is very consciously trying to position Amazon as an inventor, because he knows it’s something that might counter people’s increasing skepticism of its size and might.” — Stone on one reason Jeff Bezos pushes into fields of innovation that seem beyond Amazon’s core mission.

“I think shopping will always be popular. People increasingly get bored with products more quickly. They do think of shopping and buying and reorganizing as a relief from boredom.” — Yarrow, on the need for retailers to provide products that an individual consumer feels are just for her.

“What we saw happen was, these e-commerce businesses really representing big box retailers in the offline world. E-commerce had become all about selection and once everybody had the same selection, it then became about price. And then once everybody had the same pricing, it became about shipping speed. And what we saw was there’s this huge part of commerce that was not about that needs-based shopping, but was very much about that person walking through the mall and going to that specialty store and discovering an amazing product. And we thought, ‘Nobody is doing that online.’ How can we bring that storytelling, that discovery, that curation and passion for great product, great pricing and experience that you’re not going to find elsewhere?” Darrell Caven, CEO zulily, on how e-commerce sites have to differentiate themselves on factors other than price, availability and shipping.

“The temptation is to follow every new innovation. It’s critical, but it’s not a winning strategy. Differentiation is where you will prevail.” — REI CEO Jerry Stritzke on the need for differentiation.

Photos courtesy of National Retail Federation

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at mike.cassidy@bloomreach.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.