It’s been a busy week, so I’m only now getting a chance to update my blog. The Etail conference ended a few days ago. People I bump into ask me how the show went. Here’s my take on it:
- There were some FANTASTIC sessions by retailers, such as QVC and REI.
- There were some HORRIBLE sessions that were really only thinly veiled sales pitches by vendors, such as Bill Me Later. Bill Me Later actually kicked off the conference, preceeding the Day 1 keynote from Land’s End with a 10 minute infomercial complete with a 3-minute video containing customer testimonials. I heard a LOT of retailer attendees grumbling about this particular session. Doesn’t the guy know that the softer the sell, and the more information-packed the session, the more he WILL sell? Granted he probably spent $50 or $100 grand for that sponsorship spot, but it doesn’t mean he should subject paying attendees to an offensive sales pitch just to get his “money’s-worth.”
- Retailers I spoke to felt bombarded by vendors throughout most of the conference. Vendors outnumbered retailers by about 3 to 1. There were some retailer-only get-togethers at Etail that offered retailers a needed escape, but those were few and far between.
- Overall, this Etail was bigger and better than the last Etail in Florida, in my opinion.
- But how does Etail rate in comparison to other, similar conferences? Personally, I’m glad I went. My company (Netconcepts) was a sponsor and I’ll probably end up ponying up even more sponsorship dollars for the next show, because it does deliver a favorable ROI in the end. But that’s just MY opinion. I heard, and overheard, differing opinions from other attendees. For instance, comments from retailers included: “Shop.org is a better conference – more senior people and less blatent selling.” Comments from vendors included: “I don’t like the way things are run here and the extortionist prices, but frankly it pays off, so I keep coming back.” WBR faces new competition, with Internet Retailer magazine now in the conference game. The Internet Retailer conference takes place June 7-8 in Chicago. And of course there’s also the Annual Catalog Conference (jointly produced by Catalog Age and the DMA) and the Shop.org Annual Summit — both are EXCELLENT events that could very well chip away at future Etail conference attendance. (I read Shop.org’s proclamation on their site as a jab at their competitor, Etail: “Objectivity is first and foremost in Shop.org conference content. We NEVER sell speaking slots or allow them to be influenced by sponsors.”)
I wish the conference organizers luck with future Etail events, and if they listen to and act on conference feedback, they shouldn’t have any trouble maintaining their position as a leading conference for online retailers.