Al Gore tells U.S. e-retailers to think globally

The former vice president says global markets are key to the future of e-commerce.

Bill Siwicki

E-retailers must embrace a global mindset and a global approach to business to continue the phenomenal success they have achieved to date, former U.S. vice president Al Gore told attendees of the 2013 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition today in Chicago. His address was titled “The global view: The Internet, business and the worldwide opportunity.”

“You in your industry ought to feel absolutely great—even in the midst of economic stress and a weak recovery, you are growing more than 15% year on year,” said Gore, a Nobel Laureate who is a director with Apple Inc. and a senior adviser with Google Inc. “The one piece of advice maybe some of you have not come to grips with yet is whatever business you are in you need to think global. Your customers are global, your competitors are global. The Internet connects billions of people and smart devices; It’s unbelievable how the information flows.”

Gore said 2 billion of the 7 billion people on the planet are in the global middle class. He said humanity currently is witnessing the biggest reduction in poverty in the history of the world. With population growth and continued economic opportunity, the global middle class will increase to 4 billion within the next 10 years, he said.

“If you think your businesses are booming today, if you keep innovating and changing, then the opportunities are boundless,” Gore said. “Metcalfe's Law says the value of any network increases by the square of the number of people connected to it. So whatever you calculate the value of being connected to the global Internet today, when you double the people connected to it, it doesn’t just double in value, it increases by the square of the number of people connected to it.”

As populations soar, the East is rising in importance in e-commerce, Gore said.

“If you look at the volume of gross merchandise sold by Amazon.com and then you add to it the gross merchandise sold by eBay, that total volume in the fourth quarter of last year was surpassed by Alibaba in China,” Gore said. “The monetary value is nowhere near as close, but you can see where this trend is going.”

Gore added that the number of Apple iOS and Android devices activated in the U.S. was surpassed in January by the number of iOS and Android devices activated in China. He stressed the importance of mobile technology to the future of the Internet, global markets and web retailing.

“I've got the best MacPro and these three big screens, but I never use it anymore—like a lot of people I’m using mobile all the time. Even at home in Nashville I will use my smartphone or tablet before I go into the office and crank up that desktop,” Gore said. ”The rest of the world is leapfrogging all of this and going straight to the mobile customer.”

Consumers around the globe are looking for businesses that share their values, Gore said. He placed great emphasis on what he called the responsibility of business people to make the world a better place.

“The world is making your opportunities grow,” he told attendees. “We are all connected to one another, not only with our dollars and heads but also with our hearts. To go global, you need to recognize that all these dramatic changes taking place will continue to unfold at a more rapid speed, and you need to keep changing and innovating, look over the horizon at Asia and Latin America, but also look within and see how you can connect on a deeper level with people who want to do business with you. Those who do will capture the essence of what people are looking for in businesses in the future. We have the capacity to change, we have got to change, we have got to have businesspeople actively involved in making the world a better place.”


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