If you're trying to grow your sales online, the Regional Ecommerce Day forum is an event you can't risk missing. From specific ways to grow your market, to resources and tools to help you connect with your customers, to investing in digital marketing - Ecommerce Day speakers covered what business owners and entreprenuers need to know to be successful in the online channel.
More than 100 local entrepreneurs, business owners, marketing professionals, web developers, and creatives attended the annual event and had the opportunity to immerse themselves in an entire day focused ecommerce planning and strategy.
Speakers included business professionals from some of the largest PA-based retailers, including Listrak, Online Stores, LLC, SnapRetail, UPS, and more. They covered a wide range of ecommerce topics, including best practices for growing ecommerce-based businesses, multi-platform ecommerce, logistics, content strategy, and even global expansion. No matter what level attendees' businesses were at, they were able to take away advice and personal anticdotes designed to help businesses increase reach, boost brand awareness, and build their customer bases.
Here's the rundown - in case you missed it - complete with speaker presentations
Keynote speaker: Ross Kramer, Listrak
"Beyond Ecommerce: Ideas to Transform Your Business"
Ross Kramer, CEO of Listrak, has grown his multi-million dollar technology business from inception in his parents’ home to his Penn State dorm room to the new 100,000sq foot headquarters now under construction in Lititz.
He shared his own personal experience in getting his startup off the ground, ecommerce tips, and ideas that stretched beyond ecommerce, including how attendees can find innovative ways to create a lasting business that drives value for both sides of the transaction.
He told attendees that over the years he's learned that a strong team is the key to success, and to hire and pay for the best people you can afford, vent hires thoroughly, and to hire slow but pay fast. On the customer side, his advice to attendees was to define client segments and to specialize segment treatment.
Ecommerce Speaker Panel
Kevin Hickey, Online Stores: "How to grow you ecommerce business at 20% - best practices in marketing, sourcing, and systems."
CEO Kevin Hickey summarized the state of ecommerce by advising attendees that whether they integrate or compete with Amazon, they'll face uphill challenges. It comes with the territory. BUT - it can be done - and his company is a perfect example of that.
Jeanne Cain, Nature's Fabrics: “How to use Family, Fabric, and Facebook to Grow an Online Business"
Twenty-two years old shop differently online than 50-year old individuals do. This was something owner Jeanne Cain discovered when she began selling her fabrics online. Her advice was to subcontract with the experts for web development, shipping and marketing, and focus on your core expertise - making your product.
Sean Michaels, MaxBack: “How We Utilized eCommerce to Turn 41 million lbs of Trash into $32 million in Fundraising Cash”
Founder of MaxBack, Sean Michaels explained how his company's market was so thin, the only way it could build a worthwile base was to maximize its online reach. He told attendees to grow their markets everywhere, or someone else will reach in and take it. He also noted the importance of UI/UX design, especially when experimenting with variations.
Tara Ronel, SnapRetail: "Ecommerce: 4 Steps to Start Selling Online"
Businesses don't have to jump into every platform and market all at once. That was the advice from CEO of SnapRetail, Tara Ronel. What customers want is compelling content delivered with consistency appropriate for specific brands. She recommends investing in creating this type of marketing content and adapting to rapidly changing trends in order to stay competitive.
Jon Whaley, The Barn Door Hardware Store: "Multi-Platform Ecommerce"
Founder of the Barn Door Hardware Store, Jon Whaley, told attendees that they key to success is not being afraid to fail. If you haven't failed, he told them, you're not doing enough. He discussed selling on Amazon and Etsy, as well as his own website. He noted that having a plan and good people behind your marketing strategy is key, especially when you engage in paid online advertising initiatives.
Solution Provider Speaker Panel
Don Mueser, UPS: "UPS Exports: Your World Runs on Logistics"
Sales manager for UPS, Don Mueser, discussed focusing on leveraging the power of logistics and expanding your marketplace by partnering with a logistics professional that can help meet your company's global shipping needs, including package and freight.
Matthew Wiertel, Velocity Network: "The Internet of ECommerce"
Ecommerce require speed and the right equipment. CEO of Velocity Network, Matt Wiertel, advised attendees to invest smart in technology in order to ensure their ecommerce endeavors are successful. Site selection for startups and growing firms depends on internet infrastructure - it's as critical as electricity.
Mat Silva, RendrFX: "Adapting video content strategies for social media"
Communicating with customers via video packs more context into the same read-time of one article. Chief technology officer at RendrFX, Mat Silva, discussed the huge content potential of online video, and how the companies who use it successfully to market and sell products have an edge over competition - even when market share is tight.
Jeff McCullor, Werkbot: "Optimizing Product Pages – make it easy for humans and search engines alike."
Before you optimize anything, you have to know your audience, Jeff McCullor told attendees. The account manager at Werkbot Studios, owner of Erie Ale Works and certified Google Analytics professional explained how websites need to make it easy for both customers and search engines (in that order) to find the information they need quickly and easily.
Educational Speaker Sessions
Tawnee Steinke, iGlobal Stores: “Facilitate Growth and Global expansion: International customers experience and how a business can increase their conversions by making that customers process easier”
During her educational speaker session. Tawnee told attendees that cross-border ecommerce is booming, and that by 2020, more than 900 million customers - or 45% of all online shoppers - will purchase products from another country besides their own. With cross-border ecommerce comes a myriad of concerns business owners selling online need to take into consideration, including international shipping policies, duties and taxes, international messaging, and even fraud.
Tara Ronel, SnapRetail: "Ecommerce: 4 Steps to Start Selling Online"
Successfully selling products and services online isn't rocket science - but it does take a plan and some serious dedication. In her educational session, Tara covered four critical steps to selling online, including defining goals, deciding how to sell, establishing policies and processes, and creating a budget to cover marketing and advertising, as well as staff time.
Bruce Burkley, YourErie: "What is GEO Fencing, GEO Targeting on mobile and How Can it Help Businesses Drive Sales? Are you ready for Digital Mirroring?"
Digital specialist for YourErie, Bruce Burkley, covered GEO fencing and GEO targeting during his educational session. He explained how these location-based marketing tactics can help businesses drive sales, especially mobile sales, which are growing each year.
Funding Speaker Panel
Kris Wheaton, QuickStarter
QuickStarter uses reward model crowdfunding to help local creative people get projects funded and businesses get off the ground. The company identifies creators, puts together a support team, plans and executes campaigns, and helps creators take projects to the next level.
TJ King, Bridgeway Capital
Bridgeway Capital provids funding to low-income communities; minorities, women, and veteran owned businesses; businesses ill-suited for conventional lending; and projects that improve quality of life in the region. It offers small business lending, community development lending and grands, business education services and nonprofit organziation lending.
Maggie Horne, SBDC for the Erie Technology Incubator
The Erie Technology Incubator works with public, private and startup businesses. It's supported by Gannon University and is co-located with the SBDC and Dahlkemper School of Business. Open to startup and early state technology-enabled businesses that develop/leverage technology to grow, it provides professional mentor teams, coaching opportunities, and action items/to-do lists to help companies achieve success.
Brian Slawin, Ben Franklin Technology Partners CNP
Ben Franklin Technology Partners invests in tech-based startups and small manufacturers in PA. It provides business support services, technical assistance & entrepreneurial training, and marketing seminars. BF funds can be used for new and innovative products or processes, salaries dedicated to the projects, research and development costs, prototype materials and supplies, and marketing & sales.