May 2, 2008, 12:00 AM

Where does e-commerce go from here?

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The session entitled “Web 2.0: A Reality Check,” for instance, will delve into the present value and future potential of such web features as social networks, customer reviews and consumer-generated video.

“Web 2.0 taps into innate human behavior,” says the session presenter, David Friedman, president, central region, of digital marketing firm Avenue A | Razorfish, part of Microsoft Corp. “People have always asked each other for advice on goods and gone shopping together. Web 2.0 taps into this innate desire to learn from each other, and instead of being limited to family and friends or by geography, people now can reach out to the world.”

For a glimpse at the future, he points to such sites as Digg and del.icio.us that aggregate online content and present it as ranked by online users. While none of these sites is very topic-specific today, he says, they likely will begin to break out specialized subjects, including shopping.

Friedman’s session is part of a June 10 track focused on the interactive and dynamic technologies known as Web 2.0. Another session will take up how to add Web 2.0 features without slipping in the results of search engines built with traditional web pages in mind. “Searches are based on text, and this fancy stuff can make it difficult to get through to some content,” says Rahmon Coupe, CEO of YourAmigo, a search engine marketing and optimization firm, who will speak on “Mixing Web 2.0 & Organic Search.”

“The Big Power of Little Widgets” will be on the agenda of the June 11 marketing track, giving attendees examples of how online retailers use the small applications called widgets to boost sales and customer loyalty.

DueMaternity.com’s lighthearted widget called “Look Who’s Prego” lets a woman upload a photo of herself and see what she would look like as her pregnancy progresses. The woman can e-mail the images to friends. Sales on the site of products from one of the widget’s sponsors have gone up 20% in the past year, says Albert DiPadova, president of multi-channel retailer Due Maternity, who will speak at the session.

When to use video will be addressed by a panel that includes Adam Lindquist, director of business development for 2nd Wind Exercise Equipment, which sells treadmills and similar products. The retailer has used video for more than three years and learned that it’s most valuable for demonstrating complex and unfamiliar products. “If it’s something the customer already knows a lot about, it probably doesn’t make sense,” Lindquist says.

Advanced marketing

Paid search represents the largest online advertising expense for many e-retailers and Scot Wingo, CEO of e-commerce service provider ChannelAdvisor Corp., will provide the latest tips as part of the June 9 workshop “Advanced Strategies for Marketing Your Retail Web Site.”

He’ll discuss “day-parting,” adjusting bids according to time of day to maximize ROI, and how to balance the cost of expensive, popular keywords with “long tail” keywords that typically attract the clicks of fewer, but more qualified, shoppers.

Comparison shopping engines will be the focus of a panel that includes Catherine Paschkewitz, product marketing manager for Hewlett-Packard Co.’s HP Home & Home Office Store web site. She says HP had under-invested in its comparison shopping program and will describe how the company changed vendors and added technology, resulting in improved bidding strategies and more effective landing pages.

Internet marketers always have more ideas than dollars to fund them, and Ames Flynn, vice president of e-commerce at home improvement retailer Lowe’s Cos. Inc., will discuss how to invest those dollars wisely as part of the June 10 track, “The Chains: Rethinking E-Commerce to Survive.” He says Lowe’s takes a two-pronged approach, implementing some quick-hit projects-such as features that encourage visitors to enter their e-mail addresses-while building the case for more expensive investments, such as site personalization.

“Several small successes can prove our case with the CEO, while also bringing in new revenue to fund longer-term initiatives,” Flynn says.

Profit requires not just bringing in revenue, but avoiding losses. A June 11 track will take up security, payment and operations, and will include a presentation on the latest findings on online fraud by Tom Donlea, executive director of the Merchant Risk Council, a retailer group that promotes secure e-commerce.

Another session will take up “Changes in the Parcel Industry and How They Affect E-Retailers.” Jeff Carter, vice president of fulfillment at outdoor gear retailer Backcountry.com, will discuss the higher fees, including fuel surcharges, hitting online merchants and how merchants can track shipping costs to better evaluate whether they should increase the delivery fees they charge customers.

For smaller e-retailers

A June 10 track and two full-day workshops will focus on issues facing smaller online merchants.

A small retailer typically does not have the resources to handle all aspects of an e-commerce operation, and should focus on what it does best and outsource the rest, says Jason Roussos, president of Richlund Ventures Inc., operator of e-commerce site CompactAppliances.com. Roussos, who will speak in a session called “Relying on Other People’s Expertise: How to Make the Right Outsourcing Choices,” recommends preparing a detailed list of requirements before meeting with vendors, seeing vendors at their offices when possible and seeking recommendations from peers.

Jon Kuhlman, president of shoe e-retailer Grapevinehill.com, will speak during the June 9 workshop, “Growth: From Entrepreneur to Enterprise,” on a panel on how to get the best deal on payment processing. Look at what an actual monthly bill would be from a payment processor, including the higher rates charged on business and rewards credit cards, and don’t be deceived by the lower rate for standard cards that processors will emphasize, Kuhlman says.

The third-party shopping platforms of eBay, Yahoo and Amazon, will be the subject of another session featuring three retailer speakers. Among them is Ken Kikkawa, CEO of eHobbies.com, who will describe the pros and cons of Yahoo, his provider. The pros include the availability of many add-on applications from third-party developers; the cons include Yahoo’s proprietary programming language and “cookie-cutterish” shopping cart, Kikkawa says.

There will be a full-day workshop on the third-party e-commerce platforms June 12, following the main conference.

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