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Shop.org's Larry Joseloff Discusses Innovation, Orlando, And Organizing The MultiChannel Retail Firm

At the end of January, Shop.org is running their spring Strategy And Innovation show in Orlando, Jan 22 through Jan 24, 2008. Like all Shop.org events, this promises to be a great conference. The agenda looks strong, and the Floridian venue appears idyllic. I'm a Shop.org fan. This post is an unabashed -- but unpaid and sincere -- plug for the event. From RKG, Ryan Gibson and I will be attending the show; give a call if you'd like to meet up. larry-joseloff.jpg Larry Joseloff, Shop.org's Senior Director of Content, is the web marketing mastermind responsible for programming the show. We caught up with Larry last week to hear more about Strategy And Innovation and get his thoughts on online retail. Listen to podcast: larry-joseloff-jan-04-2008.mp3

Larry Joseloff Transcript

Alan Rimm-Kaufman: This is Alan Rimm-Kaufman, and I’m here with Larry Joseloff, Senior Director of Content at Shop.org.

Larry Joseloff:Hello!

Alan: So thank you for taking the call with us today.

Larry: No problem. My pleasure.

Alan: So the Senior Director of Content, what do you do at Shop.org, and how did you get to Shop.org?

Larry: Yeah. Well, let’s see, Senior Director. That’s a fancy way of saying that I design the themes for our conferences, and I handle all speaker presentations and speaker logistics. So I’m basically the go to guy for all of our conferences that we run, and make sure that the content is right for the membership.

Alan: And before you got to Shop.org, you were in online retail?

Larry: I was actually. I started working in e-commerce in 1996 for an organization called Enews.com. And we were the first online retailers for big magazine subscriptions actually.

Alan: Wow.

Larry: It was a really great experience. Yeah, I was there for four years, and when I started there was five people, and when I left there was 250 people. So it was a really great experience to see an organization grow, and for someone fresh out of grad school, you know, it was a really wonderful experience. So after we were acquired by Barnes & Noble, I started working for Commission Junction, which is an affiliate provider. And I was running the affiliate programs for a number of different retailers. Expedia, Verizon Wireless and eBay were three of my clients. And that’s where I first heard about Shop.org because CJ is an associate member of Shop.org. And so that’s when I kinda – I don’t think I went to any events, but, you know, I’d heard the name being like spoken about. And then after CJ, I went to the Discovery Channel, and I was running the online marketing for the Discovery Channel, the affiliate programs, the portal, the shopping comparison engines, and they are also a member. So I went to a whole bunch of different Shop.org events, got to meet the Shop.org team, and realized, you know, I’d learned so much from these events and from the research, I thought it would be a great idea to join up. The rest is history.

Alan: For folks who aren’t familiar with Shop.org, what is it?

Larry: Well, we’re the largest association that is like dedicated to online and multi-channel retailing, and we’re the Internet arm of the National Retail Federation, so our membership includes retailers of all shapes and sizes. So we have retailers, and we also have associate members, which are from the solution provider community, or like vendors. And we have let’s see, well over 600 members at this time. So just to name a few of our members who are on the board of directors, JCPenney, The Gap, Petco, like Google and a lot of analysts, like Forrester Research for example. And there are many benefits to being a member. There are things that you get including research. “The state of retailing online” is one of our most popular pieces. We put that out every year. Kind’ve as the name suggests talks about what’s happening in the industry. But we also have four events every year. That’s kinda what I focus on. We have in January the strategy and innovation forum, which is just coming up in a few weeks. We’ll talk about that a bit later. We have the marketing workshop which happens in the spring, like a merchandising workshop in the summer, and then the annual summit, which is in the fall. That’s by far our largest event. Last year we had over 2,500 people at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. And by popular request, for some odd reason everyone loves Vegas, so we’re gonna go back there next year also.

Alan: Being there myself, that was a great show.

Larry: Thanks.

Alan: So you mentioned the Orlando show. That’s coming up in a couple of weeks. What’s that about? Orlando

Larry: Thanks for reminding me, Alan. In two weeks. Yikes, a lot to do. So the event will be from January 22nd to the 24th at the Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando. And this is our – actually it’s our inaugural strategy and innovation forum. We’ve always had an event in January, what used to be called First Look. I don’t know if you remember that, Alan.

Alan: Sure.

Larry: And, you know, what that used to focus on was what happened in the previous year and during the holiday season, so shopping trends, statistics, that kind of thing. But we’re hearing from our members that they were getting this information already from a lot of different sources, including our research. And that they were really struggling with the amount of innovations that they’re being faced with on a regular basis. And they’re struggling with making sense out of them. You know, which ones are just hype, and which ones, you know, how to separate hype from true revenue source. How to create a strategy around these innovations. We were listening to our members. And this year’s content follows on that theme, and touches on a number of different topics: Web 2.0 and like user-generated content. But not just talking about kinda what it is, ’cause I feel like we’ve done that a lot. But this is how do you draw a bridge between cool new feature and a possible part of your organization and your business. How do you track? How do you actually make money from these sources? We’re gonna talk about global and international expansion. This is something which is becoming more of an opportunity for our members. Twenty-first century email. Like widgets and gadgets. So those are a few of our topics that we’re going to cover.

Alan: Keynote will be?

Larry: Yes, we’ve got 4 keynotes. Andy Sernovitz. He was a author and the founder of WOMMA. We’ll be talking about the new ROI. That’s the name of its presentation. And that really hits home with the theme of this event, where he’s gonna say, as a retailer, how do you factor in all the social media and Web 2.0 when figuring out the ROI of your organization and the ROI of your efforts. Bob Myers from QVC is a senior vice president. He’s on the board of directors of Shop.org also. He’s gonna talk about some of his new Web 2.0 and interactive video that he’s implemented on his site, his thoughts behind it, his strategy behind that, and kinda the results. Patrick Gates from the Discovery Channel, he’s the president of commerce, is gonna talk about a very interesting strategy actually, because they’ve closed all of their brick and mortar stores.

Alan: Wow.

Larry: They were an organization, you know, as a retailer that used to be based on their brick and mortar stores. And when I was there, the brick and mortar stores were driving the online efforts. And in a very short amount of time, it’s gone so much to the other extreme that they’ve decided in 2007, earlier in 2007, to close all their brick and mortar stores. So he’s gonna share, you know, the strategy behind that and how – and this was a very successful year for them, and how that’s changed the customer perception. How that’s changed their corporate branding also. That’s a very important aspect.

Alan: Are there still seats available at the show?

Larry: There are, yes. There are definitely some seats available. And actually registration’s looking up. It seems like we’ve hit a nerve with some folks in our community. They’re really interested in some of this content.

Alan: That’s great. I’m looking forward to being there myself in a couple weeks; I think it’s going to be a great show.

Larry: So thanks.

Alan: You know, you’re in a pretty unique perspective in the industry. You’ve worked for a retailer. You’ve worked for a vendor. And now you’ve sit in a trade association. You talk to so many people: analysts, retailers, vendors. You see an awful lot where you are.

Larry: Yep.

Alan: From your position of insight from all these conversations, what would be your No. 1 single most important tip for online retailers going into 2008?

Larry: Wow, can I give four? Or two or three?

Alan: But what would be your No. 1?

Larry: Oh, okay. I think the – I know this topic has been talked about. I was actually talking to a CEO about this issue a few weeks ago, and he said that this is something that we’ve been talking about for many years but nobody has seemed to figure it out. And it’s basically how to staff, organize and run a functional multi channel organization. And that people are trying to figure out this like formula, but how do you actually – are successful in the multi channels from an internal organizational perspective. So I think if you can figure that out, make sure your channels are working together, make sure they’re integrated, make sure there’s no internal barriers or competition in the way of making it run very smoothly, I think that’s the really No. 1 tip to focus on.

Alan: Focusing on the people side of getting the multi-channel mix correct?

Larry: Yes. I think absolutely. How you’re internally staffed I think is really important. I hear from a lot of retailers, there’s still competition. There’s still folks that have blinders on with the channels. Folks that are from the brick and mortar community, and they still to this day think that online retailing is some crazy people in the corner in the back office that are doing their own thing. And they’re really working against each other. And if everyone was kind of set and staffed on the same team, and knew that the goals were the same, and set it up that the performance was based in the same way, you’d have a much smoother, more successful operation.

Alan: More important than the technology and the gadgets and the specifics, the people in the organization.

Larry: Yeah. I think that is the first step honestly to having a really functional organization across the channels. And I mean yeah, so.

Alan: Good stuff. Well, I’ll end with an unabashed plug for Shop.org. and the conference. If there’re folks listening that aren’t familiar with it, they should certainly check it out, and I think the Orlando show is gonna be great.

Larry:Thanks, Alan.

Listen to podcast: larry-joseloff-jan-04-2008.mp3

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