Eva Johnson

Marketing / eCommerce forum 2021: “The money is in the popcorn”

AdvantageCS recently held a virtual Marketing and eCommerce Forum providing clients with an exciting opportunity to discuss industry trends and learn from each other, primarily focusing on the rapid shift to eCommerce. As the forum got underway, Philippe van Mastrigt, Director of AdvantageCS European Operations, shared this quote from Kristin Skogen, CEO of Schibsted, as a way to imagine and design an organization’s eCommerce strategy: “It is the movie that draws the crowd, but the money is in the popcorn,” conveying that an organization’s successful eCommerce initiative should not only initially attract customers but offer an optimized user experience and desirable product offerings, which ultimately creates ongoing customer loyalty.  

Dan Heffernan, Vice President & Chief Product Manager, enthusiastically welcomed the group, which comprised 30+ attendees from all over the world, and thanked them for attending. He also strongly encouraged them to join in, ask questions and share amongst each other. 

The format of the forum was structured around four eCommerce topics to jumpstart discussions: 

  1. Trends: recent industry changes and developments.
  2. Players: leading eCommerce vendors and marketplace platforms.
  3. Concerns: transactional security, data privacy and software/technology options.
  4. Threats: competition, market shifts and cost/pricing strategies. 

AdvantageCS’s Chief Solutions Architect, John Sheehy, introduced each topic with a view from the industry. Philippe followed up each topic with a presentation of compiled questionnaire responses from the attendees. After each topic opening, attendees were then invited to discuss, ask questions, present ideas, or share successful and/or unsuccessful organizational eCommerce initiatives.

John opened the first “Trends” topic, explaining that many of the eCommerce developments were driven by the pandemic, which accelerated market shifts and innovations. Some of the trends he presented were the transformative nature of moving the business-to-business model online for self-service offerings, attaching services to products, multi-channel commerce, increased digital wallet payment possibilities, recurring revenue models and financial payment services for fraud protection/security. The attendees’ responses echoed John’s noted trends. 

During the follow-up discussion regarding trends, a few attendees shared that their respective organizations have found great success by expanding into new product sectors while continuing to offer their flagship print and digital publications. While they have experienced increased revenue, Oili Kalm-Parantainen (A-lehdet Oy Finland) also cautioned, “The right content won’t necessarily create sales. There’s a lot of hard work involved before you get satisfactory results.” Another attendee, Gert-Jan Lasterie (Mediahuis Netherlands) credited their eCommerce success to offering products that instruct and inspire, while also providing knowledgeable customer service personnel. He emphasized that: “We want customers to have a great experience when they call customer service and make the experience as valuable as possible. Even when we field complaints, we take the time to solve, rather than to just put out fires.”

As the subsequent topics of players, concerns and threats were introduced, they generated a wide variety of responses from the attendees. Several had broad concerns regarding competition, brand identity, marketplace changes, security/privacy, user experience and their organization’s overall “technical stack.” Amazon was mentioned frequently by both the presenters and the attendees. While most organizations realize that they cannot directly compete with a juggernaut like Amazon--which one attendee referred to as their organization’s “biggest frenemy”--they did disclose a few successful strategies they’ve implemented in order to distinguish their offerings and retain their brand identity. Michael Blumberg (Wolters Kluwer Health US) added: “We focus on doing our stuff well and creating unique user experiences, using eCommerce and product, that give users a really good reason to buy directly from us.”

As the forum’s discussion continued, attendees inquired about Advantage’s role as the “Heart of eCommerce.” John pointed out that Advantage positions itself to fit within each organization’s unique technical ‘ecosystem,’ meaning that Advantage’s intention is to offer an integrated solution. He also highlighted examples of specific features, such as Advantage’s REST API and Workflow Events, that facilitate inbound/outbound integration between systems, allowing them to all “play nicely with others.”  

Finally, Dan concluded the forum with an upbeat Advantage “Road Map,” highlighting AdvantageCS’s latest Research & Development projects, as well as new technology updates. He made sure to point out, “We’re always shifting/changing because taking care of your needs comes first.” He then thanked all the attendees for their attendance and participation, and requested them to, as always, “Keep the ideas coming!”

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