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In this line of work I get to talk with a lot people, and after hundreds of conversations with e-retailers I can say with confidence that people working in e-commerce are the most energetic and excitable (in a good way) people I’ve had the opportunity to get know in the business world. Maybe it’s the relative newness of the space or the speed at which things change in online retailing that keeps people looking ahead. It probably also doesn’t hurt that seemingly everybody I speak with is increasing sales.
In more mature industries I’ve reported on—like the highly regulated financial services industry in the wake of the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation—all the low-hanging fruit was plucked long ago, leaving it harder to uncover new profit centers. Interviews in that space could be teeth-pulling affairs. That may have been because most interviews had a corporate communications rep present to make sure the interviewee kept to the company line, or that few people had anything really new to say.
I keep a running log of the people I interview and jot down a few notes after an interview is complete about my impressions of the person and what they told me. Been doing it for years. I hope no interviewees from my former life in the financial industry are reading this, because a good portion of those notes trended toward “snooze,” “same old story,” and “schmoozer.” There were exceptions of course, and if you are one of the dynamic executives I talked with back then, take comfort in thinking that you were among that number, OK?
My notes on e-retailers read differently. They include comments along the lines of “up-and-comer,” “tells it like it is,” and “pacesetter.” So many of my comments are about movement and change. In interviews, questions about past programs or what things were like “before” are always the ones that seem to throw people for a loop. Recall is short because something that happened two years ago reads like ancient history in this field. The preference, or course, is to look ahead and with optimism.
I also keep an eye on the Monday edition of Internet Retailer’s Newslink e-newsletter. That’s the edition dedicated to “NewsMakers” and highlights the new hires and career moves made by e-retail execs. I read through the employment histories of those profiled and see how they’ve moved from e-retailer to e-retailer, making changes and then moving on to tackle another challenge. Change is constant, and change makes for good stories.