Larry Joseloff on the Shop.org Annual Summit – Podcast Transcript

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Shaun Ryan:  [0:05] Hi, I’m Shaun Ryan from SLI Systems, and this is the Ecommerce Podcast. Today I am talking to Larry Joseloff, VP of Content from Shop.org. Welcome, Larry.

Larry Joseloff:  [0:15] Thank you very much for having me. This is my second year in a row. It’s my encore performance here.

Shaun:  [0:20] Yes. I mean to say, welcome back. Now, I have this traditional first question about what you first bought online. But I looked back and it was the Sports Illustrated, I believe, online, subscription a long time ago. [0:32] So, what was the most recent thing you bought online?

Larry:  [0:36] Well, my wife finally told me that my shoes were getting a little worn out. So, I went to an online shoe retailer, and I was able to buy my new pair of sporting dress shoes that I will be featuring at the annual summit this year.

Shaun:  [0:50] Oh.

Larry:  [0:51] So, a new pair of shoes.

Shaun:  [0:53] So, everyone keep an eye out for that, and compliment Larry on his shoes if you happen to see them. [laughter]

[0:58] So where did you buy those from?

Larry:  [1:02] I don’t want to, say, give loyally to a specific retailer. But I will say it’s a retailer that specializes in footwear.

Shaun:  [1:09] OK. And was it a good shopping experience for you?

Larry:  [1:13] Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I am a big proponent of online shopping, as you can well imagine. [laughter]

Shaun:  [1:20] I hope so. And it’s funny, I think I buy shoes….or I have the same sort of stimulus to buy shoes, is when my wife tells me I need to buy them. So I can understand that. [laughter]

[1:32] I think that actually can be very common. So, today I really want to talk about the annual summit that is coming up. And this year, I believe it is being held in Dallas.

Larry:  [1:45] Yeah, it’s in Dallas. We were in Las Vegas for the last three years, and the last four out of five years actually were in Vegas. So we’re excited to try a brand new place. It’s the Gaylord in Dallas, and it’s great. I mean, the property is wonderful because everything is very self‑contained, so it can keep the community feel, which makes Shop.org very special. Yet, it’s large enough to have a lot of restaurant options, great conference space. [2:11] And there’s a lot of retail in Dallas. I mean, that’s one thing which Las Vegas didn’t have. So, we’ve actually had a very positive response from the members.

Shaun:  [2:22] Great. I think it’s really good to mix it up a little bit and go somewhere different. Dallas should be great. So, this year, how does the conference compare in size compared to last year?

Larry:  [2:38] The last year was actually our highest attendance of any Shop.org event, with over 2,600 attendees. And we are trending to be even stronger. So far, the numbers are looking very good. We’re very excited about it.

Shaun:  [2:57] That’s great with a new location, where there’s sort of no downside, in terms of attendees. Which, that’s fantastic to hear. So, what are going to be the hot topics at Shop.org this year?

Larry:  [3:11] Well, mobile is very hot right now. I think there are definitely retailers that are thirsty for knowledge. It kind of reminds me of what social media was like a few years ago, where retailers understand that this is something that they need to learn about. Whether they are going to embrace it or not, I think it depends on each retailer, and their business model, and their priorities. But I think there is a lot of need for knowledge in what retailers are doing now and what the future will hold. [3:41] So, that’s going to be featured very prominently. We have a mobile track in the afternoon, each afternoon. And we also have some proponents of mobile in the morning keynotes also.

Shaun:  [3:55] Great. So who’s going to be keynoting and talking about mobile?

Larry:  [3:59] Well, there’s no specific mobile presentation with keynote, but they are going to be kind of sprinkled throughout. So, Glenn Sank, he’s the CEO from Urban Outfitters, they are going to be talking about new technologies, including mobile. Mitch Joel, who is an author, and he’s a social media expert. He’s also somebody who is pretty bullish on mobile and see it as an extension of new customer trends, a new mobile customer. So, that’s going to be talked about significantly also. [4:30] And Josh Goldman, who is also one of our keynote speakers, he’s actually a VC. And so, he’s somebody that has really recently been very active in Shop.org. It’s great getting the VC perspective. He’s going to share the stage in a fireside chat of some disruptive business models. And mobile will be very prominently featured in that road also.

Shaun:  [4:54] Yes, mobile is everywhere. So it’s understandable you’ve got tracks. And probably, a lot of your speakers are going to be touching on it, I imagine, even if the focus isn’t on mobile. [5:05] So, what are the other tracks that you have in the summit this year?

Larry:  [5:09] We have the customer experience, which is a track that deals with websites. Basically, how the customer experience is on the website and how different technological advances can enhance the customer experience. [5:24] We have one cross‑channel strategy, which is interesting, because the whole need for cross‑channel has been talked about for years. But I really noticed, in the last year or so, a definitely increased excitement by some cross‑channel retailers and how they both internally structured, and also how they are communicating to the customer.

[5:44] I mean one very mature cross‑channel retailer was very excited that they finally cracked the code of cross‑channel. So, we are going to be talking about some innovation in that regard.

[5:55] And the final track is on tactics, which is something that there is a huge portion of the Shop.org audience that comes for tactics. They want specific practical knowledge they can take back to the office and implement right away.

[6:08] We have a boot camp, which I am really excited about. I want to talk about that, but that’s on the 27th of September. That’s going to be very, very difficult. We also have the “40 things you can do next week to make more money” session, which is very unique, very popular, which is also part of the tactics track.

Shaun:  [6:29] Yeah, they sound great, because it means people are going to come away with things they can start doing the next week and start to make a difference, start to improve, however that be, of their ecommerce site.

Larry:  [6:44] Yeah. So, if it’s OK with you, I will just briefly talk about that. It’s a really unique session. It’s structure is, basically, speakers speak for seven minutes each. And in that seven minutes they are required to give at least three tactics that can be implemented very quickly, can be implemented basically for free, and can have the potential to actually earn more money right away. [7:14] So, those are kind of the three requirements of the tactics. It involves search, email, site design. It can involve a whole variety of marketing and merchandising channels, but it’s extremely practical tactical information.

Shaun:  [7:27] Excellent. I mean that sounds like it will be a fantastically valuable camp to be part of. So that’s the boot camp. Now that’s on the 27th of September. When’s the summit itself start?

Larry:  [7:42] Well, so to clarify, the “40 things” is actually part of the tactics track on the 28th of September. The boot camp is on the 27th. And what that is is, that’s split in half between search and [inaudible 07:56] . It’s actually interactive. We’re going to have wireless in the room and you will be able to bring your laptop into the room. And so, you will actually be able to bring your laptop into the room. And so you will actually be able to do things. Not just listen, you will actually be able to do things as the speaker will show it online. [8:12] So he will maybe provide you tips on how to include your SEO rankings, or tips to find things that are making you down in SEO, and you can actually do it on your website as he’s talking about it.

[8:22] So that is new for us for the boot camp, and it’s really interactive. We’re excited about that.

Shaun:  [8:29] Fantastic. Now, you also have an exhibit hall as part of the summit. How many exhibitors are you going to have there this year?

Larry:  [8:40] We are sold out. We are very excited to announce that our expo hall is sold out. We are over budget on sponsors. We are sold out. Our expo hall, we have nearly 200 exhibitors.

Shaun:  [8:52] Oh, congratulations.

Larry:  [8:54] Thank you.

Shaun:  [8:55] So, there’s going to be a lot of sources for information for the attendees. They have the boot camp, the summit itself, the exhibit hall. And then, of course, one of the most valuable, the networking with the other attendees. [9:08] What sort of networking events do you have planned for the summit?

Larry:  [9:13] A few more, actually, kinds of [inaudible 09:10] I want to talk about, and then we’ll talk about networking. One is round‑tables, which kind of has a networking aspect to it, too. Each day, we will have a set of round‑tables where you can dig deeper into some of the topics that the speaker has presented about. [9:27] And the second thing is called “The Doctor is In”. And that is one on one site critiques that you can sign up for in advance. These always sell out. This allows you to sit down with an industry expert. They will look your site, specifically look at it and say… And they’ll actually do homework beforehand. Then you can sit down with them for a 20 minute period and say, “Having trouble with this. This is challenging.” And they will actually provide advice directly to you on a one‑on‑one basis.

[9:55] So, in the sense of networking, we have our opening reception on Monday Night, the 27th, which kicks off the summit. It’s in the expo hall. We have a newcomer’s reception, also on Monday afternoon. So, if you are new to Shop.org, you can enjoy the newcomer’s reception.

Shaun:  [10:14] And so, I believe you also have an exhibit hall as part of this? How many exhibitors are you going to have this year?

Larry:  [10:21] Well, our expo hall is actually completely sold out. I want to thank SLI Systems, too, for their support with that. We are going to have nearly 200 exhibitors. Our exhibitors, again, are exhibiting. Our expo hall is totally sold out, and our sponsorship is looking very nice also. So, we are in very strong shape there.

Shaun:  [10:42] That’s fantastic. So, what other activities do you have around the summit?

Larry:  [10:50] So there’s a couple things I want to mention. One was the round‑tables, which is something that we are going to have each afternoon. Where you are going to be able, as an attendee, to kind of dig deeper in small group discussions on some of the topics that were covered throughout the rest of the afternoon. There will be a list you will be able to get when you get to the summit. [11:09] And also, we have the “Doctor is In”, which is something very exciting. It’s one on one site critiques. So, you will be able to sit down with an industry expert. You can sign up online in advance. It is actually open right now. I would advise people, if they are interested, to sign up, because they always sell out.

[11:27] But you sit down with an industry expert, just the two of you, for 20 minutes. And you can ask them advice about your website, and they will actually give you customized tips to improve your conversion.

Shaun:  [11:44] Excellent. Yeah, that sounds great. And you’ve run those in the past, obviously.

Larry:  [11:51] Yeah. This is, I think, the third year we’ve done them. They are always very popular. They always sell out. You can sign them up in advance. And then when you do, the doctor does research beforehand, kind of looks at your site and comes up with some tips. People really appreciate the individual attention.

Shaun:  [12:07] Cool. So, there a lot of ways people are going to get value out of this summit. There’s the core sessions themselves, the boot camp before the summit, the round‑tables, there’s the keynotes, there’s the one on one’s, theirs the exhibit hall. And then, of course, there is networking with other attendees, with is always a valuable source of information as well.

Larry:  [12:30] Oh, yeah. So, we have the opening reception, which is the night of the 27th. And that kind of kicks off the summit in the expo hall, and the expo hall opens. And then, and this is really fun, the night of the 28th we are at the Dallas Cowboys football stadium. We are actually going to be there on the field, and there will be a whole array of fun activities around that. [12:54] It’s a state‑of‑the‑art stadium, it’s a billion dollars or something like that, and it’s brand new. I think this is the second or third year it’s been open. So we’re very excited about that.

Shaun:  [13:05] That sounds fantastic. So, for anyone that is listening, what sort of retailers are going to get value out of this show?

Larry:  [13:16] Basically, Shop.org… One thing I’ve learned since I’ve been here for the last four years, the diversity of retailers and the diversity of needs are growing rapidly. You’ve got retailers that are pure play, retailers that are cross‑channel, large size, mid‑size. People that want tactics, people that want high level strategy… [13:36] And we really make an effort at the annual summit to offer sessions that can hit everyone’s needs, that there is something, no matter what you are looking for.

[13:46] I urge anyone that is coming to the summit or thinking of it, call me. Let’s talk about what you are trying to get out of it and I will try to guide you throughout the three days and say, “If you are interested in customer experience, you should go into this. If you are interested in SEO tips, make sure you hit this session.”

[14:03] I have done that in the past, already this year, leading up to the summit. Let me have the opportunity to show potential attendees what they can get out of it, and what needs they have.

Shaun:  [14:16] Great. So, for someone that would like to talk to you, what’s the best way for them to get a hold of you?

Larry:  [14:21] My email is JoseloffL@shop.org. That’s also on the website, of course. That’s probably the best way, and we can set up a phone call.

Shaun:  [14:31] Fantastic. So, anyone with ecommerce as a significant part of their business should be taking a looking at Shop.org as a fantastic way to expand their business, to learn about… To come away with a few tips, and learn about what’s hot and what’s not.

Larry:  [14:51] Yeah. And, you know, I think an important point is… Yes, the annual summit is our largest show. It’s where the community comes together. But we are a 24 hour a day, 365 day per year community. We have webinars. We have other conferences. We have white paper libraries. We have a very active blog. We do research that is customized for Shop.org members. [15:16] So yes, the summit is the largest event, but that’s by no means all that Shop.org has to offer to make sure our retail members and our associate members succeed.

Shaun:  [15:27] And you can find all of this laid out at Shop.org?

Larry:  [15:32] Yep. Absolutely. Take a look around the website. Look at our research and resources section. Look at our events section. We are growing and expanding all the time, so I’d love to hear people’s thoughts, feedback, and new ideas that we can offer services for the membership.

Shaun:  [15:50] Excellent. I recommend you do that. Well Larry, thank you very much for taking some time to talk about the summit, and good luck. I hope it all goes well.

Larry:  [15:58] Thank you very much, and thank you for your support at SLI Systems.

Shaun:  [16:00] You are welcome. I’m Shaun Ryan from SLI. That was another episode of The Ecommerce Podcast. Tune in next time. [music]