Almost 250 Monsoon Commerce customers, prospects, and partners traveled to Philadelphia last month for MonCon EAST 2012. This year, MonCon EAST combined the Monsoon and Stone Edge customer conferences to create an expanded event for online merchants, multi-channel retailers, and marketplace sellers. The purpose: Give e-commerce merchants an opportunity to network, learn, and have a good time doing it. Did we accomplish our mission? Based on customer feedback, we think so:
“It was in fact the most informative conference I have ever attended, providing us with invaluable information on everything from OM, to warehousing, logistics, multi channel and pricing. We were also able to make contacts who are already proving to be invaluable mentors.”
“It was SO helpful! …I now have a game plan for the next 12 months.”
As most of us know, what really creates the most value for conference attendees is content. MonCon EAST delivered with almost 40 different sessions including keynotes, general sessions, and breakout sessions ranging from best practices, big ideas, tips & tricks, product training, advanced strategies, and customer case studies. So with that said, here are a few of the highlights.
The Monsoon Commerce vision
Brian Elliott, Monsoon Commerce CEO, kicked off the conference with an overview of the current state of the industry, a discussion of key challenges, and insights into the Monsoon Commerce vision. Brian’s key theme was the struggle of mid-sized online merchants to manage an increasingly complex ecosystem including:
- Standalone or loosely integrated point solutions
- Challenging process of maintaining multiple technologies, channels, and disparate data
- Limited technical resources
- Complex logistical and back-end integration requirements
- Difficult to create intelligent insight into the online business and inform strategy
Julia Wilkinson from eCommerceBytes also interviewed Brian at the event, capturing more insights and details into his vision for the industry. You can read more in her article entitled, “Monsoon Commerce CEO Brian Elliott on Selling in the Future.”
Martin McClanan, CEO and President of Norm Thompson Outfitters kicked off the first night of the conference with a very iteresting e-commerce business insights that perfectly resonated with our online merchants. Martin shared his many successes (and some misfires) managing myriad brands, including Red Envelope and Sahalie, and addressed issues such as shopping cart abandonment, the challenges of marketing measurement, flash sales, and how to create engaging content that appeals to customers. It was great to meet Martin in person and we discovered we have many mutual acquaintances from my days at Epsilon and Abacus and working with multi-channel merchants such as Red Envelope, Sahalie, and Flax Art & Design.
Paula Rosenblum, an Industry Analyst at Retail Systems Research, spoke on “The 5 Cs of Any-Channel Retailing” based on a recent research into business and technology challenges facing the retail industry ecosystem. Paula also followed up the event with a brief sharing her experience, “MonCon East: A Glimpse into the Life of the Small to Mid-sized eCommerce Retailer.”
Greg Bell, author, speaker, and founder of Water the Bamboo Foundation kicked off the second day right, inspiring everyone to make the most of the conference, their business, and beyond. Greg shared the five principles of his Water the Bamboo philosophy: Exhibit Patience, Persistence, Self Discipline, Courage, and Belief, and your life and business will grow to new heights. My favorite part of Greg’s talk was the notion of when things don’t seem to be going well, ask yourself a very simple question; “What is going well today or in my life?” A very powerful notion, to be sure.
Jeff Moore of Amazon Services gave online sellers an overview of the benefits to leveraging Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), and discussed multiple programs Amazon offers third-party merchants including: Sell on Amazon, Amazon Webstore, Amazon Product Ads, Checkout by Amazon, and Amazon Prime on Your Site. Check out our recent FBA webinar featuring Jeff to learn more about the benefits of FBA for mid-sized merchants. You can also find out more about FBA on my recent blog post entitled, “Q&A about Fulfillment by Amazon.”
Breakout Sessions and Panels
With more than 30 breakout sessions and a number of panels over two days, MonCon EAST offered attendees extensive learning opportunities. A wide range of topics were covered, from product knowledge and best practices for Monsoon Pro/Edge and Stone Edge, to operational efficiency, marketplace selling, and re-pricing strategies. Product experts were on hand to deliver sessions and answer questions. Two of the most popular sessions included:
- The advantages of integrated marketplace selling and order management, “Monsoon Stone Edge and Monsoon Pro, Working Together for You”
- U-Spray Success Story, “Leveraging Pro Connector for Stone Edge”
We were also fortunate to have a terrific line up of partner speakers, including:
- Randy Smythe of Buy.com, “Enabling Merchants to Succeed Online”
- Michael Lambert of Merchant Advantage, “A-to-Z of Comparison Shopping Engines”
- Sam Wheeler of Kabbage, “The Online Credit Crunch”
- Bob Garcia of Webtrends, “Testing Your Way to a Better Website Experience”
- Jeff Carter of eMerchant, “Interchange Plus Pricing: What Every Merchant Should Know”
- Kestrel Lemen of Bronto, “Customer Lifecycle Messages to Drive Revenue”
- Myself and fell Monsooner Dorothy Davis, “Facebook & Pinterest Marketing for Merchants”
- Roxanne Brown of Professional Business Solutions 4 U, “Stone Edge and QuickBooks Integration”
More than 20 sponsors added enormous value to the conference, and a little fun, too. Our Platinum and Gold Sponsors (eMerchant, Altaireon, UniteU, Bronto, SearchFit, IBS, Kabbage), were given an opportunity to participate in “THE PITCH.” Loosely based on the popular Ignite presentation format, each representative was allotted five minutes and no more than 10 slides to give our audience their best sales pitch. Each did a fantastic job with Tom Martin of Altaireon taking home the Best PITCH Award and bragging rights until next year!
Our MonCon EAST Facebook Sweepstakes winner, Donald Basch, was on hand, having won airfare to Philadelphia, as well as hotel and MonCon admission. Congratulations to Donald and all of our MonCon winners, including Craig Kohner, Miles Abrams, Shawn Gargano, Bonnie Jemison, and Timothy Levine.
We look forward to seeing everyone at MonCon WEST in Portland, OR October 10-12, 2012!