Conversations with Visionaries of e-Commerce

Sep 1, 2011 by Tom Dellner

Prior to joining the team at CalSouthern, I was the editor of a business magazine called Online Strategies. It covered the world of digital commerce—everything from search engine marketing and optimization to social media marketing, mobile commerce, and, of course, e-retail.

It was a blast. Every quarter, new technologies and platforms were introduced and it was fascinating to predict—and then observe—which ones took off and which ones quickly became passé. Twitter’s meteoric rise was a surprise to many. Conversely, dozens of companies like Coca-Cola poured millions and millions of dollars into Second Life—only to see the virtual world fizzle (although a few remain bullish).

The best part of the job was traveling across the country, attending the many conferences and trade shows and interviewing some of the industry’s luminaries who would speak at these events. Some were true visionaries, whose perspectives on the future of commerce in the digital age were fascinating and were applicable to retailers and businesses of all stripes.

I’ve saved the notes from those conversations and will compile them into an article which I hope will be of interest to students in CalSouthern’s School of Business. In the meantime, I thought I would share some excerpts from conversations I had with Seth Godin and Pinny Gniwisch. Godin is part marketing guru, part best-selling author, and part e-commerce pioneer. Gniwisch is also one of Internet marketing’s great change agents, and one of the first professors of e-commerce. The commentary addresses a common theme in age of digital commerce: a move away from traditional “push” marketing.

Godin: “Before, people made average stuff for average people because, in a sense, everyone was average because there were three channels. You bought a bunch of ads and interrupted a bunch of people and hopefully those interruptions made you enough money so that you could do it all over again.

Man shopping on the internet“Today, with the Internet, there are billions of channels to look at. Attention is now an asset. You have to earn it. And people are no longer average or homogenous. Now, there are a billion little silos of people who share very specific interests. You used to sand all the rough edges off of products so the maximum number of people would find them tolerable. Now, you add rough or unique edges so that your product becomes desirable—irreplaceable—to one or more of these silos.”

Gniwisch: “Transparency will be the mantra of the new marketing director. ‘Target markets,’ ‘hit projections’ and other such language will have to change. The consumer needs to be considered to be on an even playing field with the marketer so that the marketer (or marketer and consumer in collaboration) can create products the consumer will want to pull, rather than ones the marketer will need to push.”

More to come...

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