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Internet Retailer Conference Thoughts – A Wake up Call for eBay Live?

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Every year June is flat out nutty because we have our biggest two shows of the year: Internet Retailer (IRCE) and eBay Live! (EL)  Historically IRCE was attended by Internet Retailers, both name brand and smaller, that are interested in our paid-search and comparison shopping engine solutions.  EL of course was dominated by eBay sellers looking to take their businesses to the next level with our Merchant and Pro solutions for eBay sellers.

This year, I felt like things were totally turned on their heads.  First, the IRCE has grown tremendously (seems to be doubling in attendance each year) and this year they reported 4,300 attendees.  The content at IRCE is very rich and there’s something for the Walmart.com and target.com folks all the way to the smaller retailers.  What surprised me the most working the booth was the number of eBay seller-types that were at this show.  While I didn’t do a formal count and obviously didn’t meet everyone, I’d have to say at least 400 if not 600+ of the attendees got their start in ecommerce via eBay.  The eBay-selling crowd were veraciously absorbing information about other channels and were extremely interested in our CA Complete platform that would allow them to manage their existing eBay business while growing their off-ebay sales via paid-search, natural and CSE.

I asked every single one of them, “Will you be at eBay Live next week?”. Down to the last one, the answer was ‘no’.  Even some of the vendors have left EL, preferring to invest in the IRCE attendees.  BuySafe’s Jeff Grass did a good analysis of what’s going on here in his blog.

I’ve heard rumblings that the EL attendance will be down significantly from the 15k (some are saying 8k or less in Boston) than previous years, but I don’t think we’ll know until we get there and can see what the on-site attendance comes in at.  Some are attributing the fall-off to the less-than central Boston location and the cost of staying in Boston.

I did ask many of the sellers why they weren’t going to EL and ever single one of them cited the carnival/wacky atmosphere of EL and lack of advanced classes for larger sellers.  I have to admit the carnival thing is getting kind of old, but to their credit, I think the EL content this year is stepping up some, with classes on paid-search, shopping.com and other advanced topics. You can see the classes here.  Heck, I’m giving two advanced classes that I don’t even understand 😉

Conclusion:  I’m heading into EL07 with the feeling that 2007 will mark the year that eBay felt the same crossroads at EL that it feels as a company – You can’t be wacky/fun and about Taking Care of Business (TCB for you Elvis fans) at the same time and you’re going to have to choose one or the other.  I do know one thing, it’s going to be a bummer not seeing a big chunk of our eBay customers at EL this year, but at least we got to hang out at IRCE.

More on this topic next week.

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