Google, My Sick Dog, Barnes & Noble and Bloomberg TV

My dog was sick (again!) in the middle of the night.  Jennifer was great and took her out! I had an interview this morning.  Google trying to strike at Amazon.  Drama on a Friday!  Let’s get to it.

Big headline: Google continues to go after Amazon in a big way with their new partnership with Barnes & Noble.  This morning I appeared on Bloomberg’s In the Loop segment with Betty Liu (@BettyInTheLoop) to talk about their new initiatives.

Some links about this:

Small headline:

Google is losing share of retail searches to Amazon.  In some general merchandise categories, Amazon is up to 20% of “where I search first” in the United States.  That may not seem like a lot, but it’s huge progress for Amazon.

For Barnes & Noble this is a no-brainer.  Why not try to get more sales to transfer from online to the stores?

A few underlying trends.  Mobile is an angle here.  If you search for a book on your tablet or phone, Google knows where you are and you want immediate gratification.  Amazon has an advantage in books but not all segments of books are heading digital as quickly.  To give you some idea, here are some industry stats.  In cookbooks for instance, 60% of people prefer physical to 15% digital.  Not sure what the other 25% prefer, perhaps Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Romance and thriller is another story, however :-)

What It’s Like Going on Bloomberg:

Nerve-wracking in general!  I’ve done 3 segments now, all for different Bloomberg programs (Surveillance, West, and In the Loop).

A few points:

  • It’s always iive.
  • I’m generally called only a day or two before the show runs.
  • Usually I get about a sentence of information regarding the topic.  That’s it.  For today’s program on Google, I got a 20 minute call yesterday by Paris @ Bloomberg and felt super-prepared!  Thanks Paris!
  • I arrive about 30 minutes before the program. Make-up happens 10 minutes before.  3 minutes before, I get mic’ed up, and I sit down with the anchor (if they are in the studio) about 2 minutes before live airtime.

  That’s it.  In one, I was sitting around a desk with 4 other people.  In another, I was the only person in the studio staring at a camera.  This morning, I was sitting directly across from the host, Betty Liu.

I’ve always enjoyed speaking so it’s a fun experience.

Happy Friday!

Back in the Saddle

Well that was an interesting 6 months!  It feels that long since I’ve popped my head up here.

If you’ve followed me, here’s what I’ve been up to recently…. perhaps in the style you’re used to from me. That is to say, long-winded?

1 - I’ve moved on from Barnes & Noble’s ECommerce team.
I moved to NY in part for a greater pool of opportunities and Barnes & Noble was a great option at the time I moved.  Serving as GM of their Marketplace initiative taught me a lot about many different new things:

  1. Leading large cross-functional teams.
  2. Being the place where the “buck stops”.
  3. Seeing how a large retailer works from the inside.
  4. Getting a complete picture about how an online marketplace works.
  5. Learning more about working inside of a larger company.

I decided to move on to a different type of challenge, but having gained a lot in the process.  My best wishes to the B&N team as they continue to execute on all their digital initiatives.

2 - I’ve gotten divorced.
After 12 years of marriage, I’ve recently gotten divorced.  It’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make and feel like I’ve grown a lot in the process.

This was an especially tough decision for me having grown up Catholic, and having such great parents that are still together, combined with grandparents that had been together 50+ years as fantastic role models.

No one goes into any marriage expecting it to end, least of all me.  I tend to think I can fix any situation but ultimately decided that I had to move on with my life.

Getting used to this single thing has been a great new experience as well — it’s going well so far and I’m dating a great girl.  Looking forward to a lot of new experiences.  

3 - I’m still in New York!

This may seem like a surprise but given the divorce, I wasn’t tied to any particular location and seriously considered moving to the San Francisco Bay area as part of looking for a new job.

I expect to be in New York for a long while now, where a long while for me means that I’m prepared to be here 10 years.  It’s kind of my default horizon.

I’m very happy with my decision to move to New York, am starting to develop a good network of friends, and it’s safe to say there will always be a lot of opportunity here.

From my reckoning, the ECommerce and technology market in New York is about 2-3x smaller than the San Francisco Bay area, but it’s also pretty clear to me that in terms of “opportunity pools for ECommerce”, NY is #2 in the United States.  That’s a pretty good place to be.

And it’s on the rise.  NY has not always been known for technology firms and Ecommerce — instead being known more for finance, fashion, and advertising.  Technology and ecommerce is growing rapidly in NY, however.  It was about 3 years ago I noticed a definite explosion of startups in the NY area that wasn’t as noticeable even 5 years ago.

It’s one of the things I liked when I first moved to the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina in 1998, but a lot of company density has migrated to Pharma and Biotech away from Technology firms — of course the old standbys like SAS, IBM/Lenovo continue to grow.  NC is still a great area of the country with a fantastic quality of life.

4 - I’ve joined Merchantry!

What’s that?  It’s a startup based in New York that builds online marketplace software for retailers and media companies.

Well, I can’t seem to get Marketplaces off the brain.  Let’s recap:

Now I’m VP Operations for Merchantry.  Operations is a bit of a catch-all title but essentially it means delivering on what the company promises and making sure the company is doing all the right things as we scale the business.  It’s a fun role for me since at Barnes & Noble I was an operationally-oriented GM.

It’s really a lot of fun seeing a marketplace business from so many angles.

RE: Merchantry…. Tommaso Trionfi, the CEO there is a great guy I’ve known for a number of years now and made the transition a no-brainer.  The team is energetic, very experienced with marketplaces, and we’re starting to get traction in a developing market.

All the usual startup caveats apply but all the indicators are headed in the right direction meaning it should be a fun ride.  Truly looking forward to this.

If you are one of the literally dozens of people that I talked with during my recent job search, I cannot thank you enough.

5 - My speaking schedule has picked up.
Being at a major retailer makes it easier to kickstart speaking opportunities.  In the retail industry, retailers are most interested in most hearing from other retailers.

Earlier this year, I spoke at ETail West in Palm Springs, as well as at the E-Commerce Summit in Barcelona.  

Last month, I spoke at a panel in NY hosted by J.H. Cohn about ECommerce investments and strategy.

Last week, I hosted a roundtable at 2012 about Launching an Online Marketplace, co-hosted with Merchantry customer Jerome Mercier, CEO of BorderLinx, which recently launched a new Marketplace called OneWorldAvenue focused on helping international markets get better access to mainstream US/UK brands.  They are always looking for new suppliers so check it out particularly if you are a high-end brand — they’ve signed some interesting co-marketing deals with major credit card companies.

In the next few months, things seem to pick up even more.

  • September 29: I’m speaking at Product Camp NYC on ECommerce Strategy.  It’s the same topic as my ETail West presentation.
  • October 5-6: I’m speaking at the I.C.E. EBusiness Conference.  A good friend of mine, my boy John Lawson @ ColderICE, is putting on a great show primarily directed at small to mid-sized eCommerce maniacs.  Should be a fun time.  Still figuring out what I will speak about here :-)
  • October 24th: I’m speaking at a Danish ECommerce Conference and Exhibition in Copenhagen, Denmark about running a Third-Party Marketplace.  I got the speaking invitation based on my talk in Barcelona where the event organizers happened to listen in on my presentation.  I don’t believe I’ve ever been to Copenhagen.

Whew — as I said it’s been an interesting and productive 6 months. And it definitely explains why my time has gotten shorter in terms of blogging, tweeting, LinkedIning, etc.

- Rick

Mixing up my blogging research

Mixing it up

An attachment set for a mixer I don’t own.

Well heck.  Blogging is becoming expensive.  

About a month or so ago I wrote an entry about eBay search where I said that on there were 85 results for mixers and on eBay there were thousands… well apparently as part of that research I put a mixer attachment in a shopping cart at Amazon.  Then I went back there to buy something else (for real) and bought it at the same time without realizing it.

Grr.  $50 I’ll never get back.  Probably donate it someplace or give it to a friend — I don’t think I’ve ever returned a single item online.  Hassle.

This leads me to wonder what % of online purchases are accidental.  I’ve prevented myself at the last second from doing this once or twice before, so it must happen to others as well?

I don’t think I’ve ever actually used a mixer.

The New eBay As Retail Leader, not Secondary Market

One of the reasons I enjoy blogging is I really enjoy thought experiments on businesses.  This is another one of those.  I choose eBay/Amazon a lot because they are both commerce leaders, visible/transparent, and so they set the standard in some ways for the industry.

One of these kids is doing his own thing

One of these kids is doing his own thing, come on can you tell which one?

The proposal: 

The site and brand should become mainline retail as the primary focus and optimize around that.  Liquidations and collectibles would be relegated to a sub-brand and separate experience (much like an offline retail company might do — think “Ann Taylor” and “Ann Taylor Loft”, there are literally hundreds of examples.)

Read More

Ricky Christina Barcelona? Woody Allen Does Marketplaces

Ok I’m headed to Barcelona and it should be a lot of fun.

Gaudi makes no straight lines

Gaudi.  All that. 

Why does an ECommerce nut get to go to Barcelona?  Well to talk about Marketplaces of course!

Conference: E-Commerce Summit 2012 Barcelona

Dates: June 4-6, 2012 (soon!)

Topic: Is Running a Marketplace Right for Me?

A topic near to my heart.  The theme of the conference is primarily European retailers getting to hear what’s going on in the United States.  I have the Marketplace session. It’s obviously a trend.  I’ve been on both sides of the fence — helping retailers succeed on Marketplaces, as well as building a Marketplace at Barnes & Noble.

The things I’ll talk about — I’ve not seen them before, and you will likely never hear again.  Not in this detail.

If you’ve never heard me speak before — I’m pretty transparent.  I will lay out step by step my decision points coming into Barnes & Noble, what we considered, why we did it, how we did it, and most importantly if you’re a large retailer: does it make sense for you to do the same thing?

My presentation is laid out in my head already, but if you have any questions in particular you’d like me to answer, let me know and I’ll include them.  After the conference, I’m happy to post the slides to Slideshare.

Folks that follow me in Europe?  Feel free to drop by — I’ll be in Barcelona all week so would love to catch up.


- Rick