ICYMI: Catalyst Day 3 — Connected E-Commerce

March 9, 2017

Another Catalyst has come and gone.


attendees line dancing at the Catalyst 2017 party at the Wild Horse Saloon
Its not a Nashville honky tonk without some line dancing

The third and final morning of Catalyst 2017 got off to a great start. After a delicious breakfast that was abuzz with talk from Tuesday night’s party at the iconic Wild Horse Saloon, attendees filed into the grand ballroom to hear from e-commerce heavyweights Google, Alibaba and Walmart before dispersing into the final breakout sessions.


“30% of all searches will happen without a screen by 2020.”

Rob Rekrutiak, Group Product Manager at Google, introduced some of the new things Google and YouTube are working on before sitting down with Link Walls, VP of Product Management at ChannelAdvisor for a fireside chat about the future of search, the evolution of the shopping experience and, you guessed it, the continued growth of mobile.

If you’re still trying to wrap your head (and your strategies) around mobile, there’s actually a new buzzword that you’ll be hearing about a lot very soon: Voice. Link and Rob talked quite a bit about the emergence of voice technology (popularized by Google Home, Amazon Echo, Siri, etc.) as key drivers for creating the next generation of shopping experiences.

See, the advertising space is changing dramatically — the modern consumer no longer wants to see ads in the traditional sense. Advertisers have to make their ads relevant their audiences. That means creating ads that do more than just sell a product, but rather that help said consumers do what they’re trying to get done, faster.

Rob used YouTube as an example. Specifically, the rise of shopping ads, and the fact that people actually like those ads since they’re relevant to their interests. For example, if a person is about to watch a makeup tutorial, they’ll most likely get served an ad for a very relevant beauty product.  

Another running theme throughout Catalyst: Consumers are king. Google is keenly aware of this, and the features and products they introduce are based around a more efficient shopping, searching and learning experience.  “It’s all about how we can help consumers complete tasks,” said Rob.

“Individuals are participating in globalization now more than ever.”

Next up was Lee McCabe, VP of North America at Alibaba Group. His message was clear: “You have to have a China strategy.”

Why? Because China is your biggest opportunity for growth, due to the sheer size of the population. Wrap your head around this: there are only 10 cities in the United States with a population of over a million people. In China, there are 143.

And, as populations do, that number is only going to grow.

While currently, only about half of the 1.3 billion person strong Chinese population has internet access, the population’s impact on e-commerce is immense. As reliable internet becomes increasingly available (especially via mobile devices), it’s predicted that China will have 891 million online shoppers by 2020 — compared to the projected 270 million in the US. That means that China could very well be the largest cross-border B2C market in just under two years.

And we can’t talk about the Chinese e-commerce market without talking about mobile, considering China leads the world in mobile commerce, making it the world’s beta group for the “mobile first” culture that’s making its way around the world.

By 2020, it is projected that more people will have mobile phones than electricity at home. That means more signals that will supply more data to retailers and brands who should be using this data to reach real people — not email addresses or account numbers — and gain deeper understanding of their intentions. Big data is allowing us to pinpoint, almost to a science, who we want to reach and when we need to reach them. The businesses who do this right are the ones who will continue to see tremendous results.

In summary, Lee attributes three essential factors for success for retailers and brands of the future:

  • Convergence – The many consumer touch points are merging together (again: “mobile”)
  • Contact – It’s all about the consumer experience
  • Context – Leveraging data to measure success

“Retailers with innovative omni-channel capabilities and innovative shopper experiences will capture the widest range of customer segments.”

The last keynote of the morning was led by Michael Tremblay, VP of partner programs at Walmart eCommerce. Michael’s session was geared toward the changing retail landscape, and the need for retailers to provide consumers with large selections, availability and flexible and fast pickup and delivery. Convenience is key.

Not unlike the other keynotes of the week, Michael reminded the audience the importance of investing time into creating quality content in order to draw in the right customers in an increasingly competitive environment. “Consumers influence consumers,” said Michael. We couldn’t agree more.

To add to that competitive landscape, while consumers are shopping more online (U.S. e-commerce is expected to grow by 60% over the next five years) they’re using fewer retail channels to do so.

Walmart has been working hard to make sure that shoppers have the products they’re looking for at their [literal] fingertips. With a growing customer base of up to 100 million monthly visitors, 26 million active users on their mobile app and an increasing network of e-commerce channels (Walmart recently acquired Moosejaw.com, a leading outdoor retailer), Walmart is making the right moves to capture the right audience.

“Every time you search on Google, you improve Google.”  

Closing out Catalyst was Scott Galloway, founder and chairman of L2. Scott has built quite a following on YouTube for his trademark combination of wit and wisdom, and his energy was just what attendees needed after an exhausting two and a half days.

Scott delivered a series of rapid-fire industry insights — some hilarious, some brutal, but all fascinating. They were high-level predictions about major players like Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook and more.

It was an interesting snapshot at what the landscape looks like today and what it may look like in the months and years to come. We laughed a lot, some may have cried a little (after all, Prof G did say he would show ‘no mercy’ in his analysis) but everyone walked away with a renewed vision of how the e-commerce ecosystem could play out over the next few years.

And There Were Awards!

This year marked the return of the ChannelAdvisor customer awards, and we wanted to take this moment to congratulate the customers who have been crushing it in their respective efforts to take their e-commerce businesses to the next level.

2017 ChannelAdvisor Customer Award Winners:

Y’all Come Back Now

A new city, new speakers and exciting new strategies, but still the same great Catalyst.

From what we heard, folks left Nashville energized by new ideas and armed with fresh strategies for smarter, stronger and more connected e-commerce.

Thank you to all of the attendees, sponsors, partners and speakers who helped make Catalyst 2017 a success. We’ll see you next year!