Internet Retailer 2008

This year’s Internet Retailer conference had many more up’s and down’s that previous years, mostly down’s since most of the speaking engagements covered topics pertaining to brick and mortar businesses or were tired old subjects covered in previous conferences. Although, my stack of business card was twice as thick as last year and the quality of the attendees was arguably more interesting than most of the vendors. Nonetheless, I still left the conference with many ideas than I know what to do with.

I arrived late on Monday to the Hyatt – McCormick Place in Chicago and checked in. Even though I booked a room in January, only party rooms with sofa beds were available at the time and since they cut the rate more than half from 250 to 99, I accepted. I was hoping this would not set the tone for the conference, but in the end I was rather surprised at how comfortable the sofa bed was and really enjoyed the room.

One of the best sessions I attended, was Track F (Web site design spotlight: Live, on-the-spot critique of retailers' sites) that offered critiques from three, very different, leading experts. Lauren Freedman understood page layout and customer motivation very well. Stephan Spencer was the SEO guy on the panel and made some great comments about the sites. On several occasions, he was questioned by the two others on the panel, which shows even leading experts do not understand the value of SEO. Lastly, I was most impressed with Amy Africa’s machine gun critique approach. Of the 500 people in the one hour session, about eight websites were critiqued that just happened to be larger, more established brands like FTD.com, Acehardware.com and QVC.com. There was one person in the session whose website received an error when the page loaded, and the panel made some very funny comments. I looked over at him, and his head was down with his hands over his face – poor guy. I highly recommend watching the video from this session – it was fun, exciting, and most of all, informative.

Greenmountaincoffee.com grew more than 200% in one year which was the most notable accolades among the mid-sized players. During the session they were mentioned, a few people behind us cheered and clapped. I’m guessing they were part of the company. Of the big players, Amazon keeps lurching forward at phenomenal pace growing to 14.5 billion dollars in sales last year.

The keynote speech on day two, by Neel Grover, of Buy.com was, by far, the most entertaining. He compared buy.com in 2000 with buy.com of 2008 and the differences were striking. He mentioned they partied every night 2000, but in 2008 had 364 less parties, by just having one Christmas Party.

Overall, the conference was a great source of inspiration and information.