I went to Berlin to visit the eCommerce expo last week. I wanted to get the feel of the tech sector in the city. Here’s what surprised me…
Clusters of similarity
First what I found on the expo was that there’s a number of products that are similar and cluster into groups. So there was a few eCommerce platforms, there was a few solutions for logistics, fulfilment and packaging, etc. There was a number of traffic, content and SEO tools also competing with each other. There were integrated all-in-one solutions as well as very simple, plug&play tools for grabbing client attention and so on.
It’s interesting to see how companies take different approaches to the same topic. Some of them go for as many features as possible and try to serve everyone. Others are focused on purely one thing.
One thing that I found particularly interesting was Pixico - a tool for generating product photographs out of 3D models of objects. It’s especially useful for furniture which can come in many different colours and variants. They are usually bulky, heavy and it’s costs a lot to take real and professional pictures of them. Now it turns out that the technology advanced so far that you don’t have to shoot them all anymore because those photos can be computer-generated. This is an example of a technology at its best, delivering 10x the results!
A furniture photo shoot can easily cost more than a 100 000 dollars if you consider you need to have a nice interior rented out, transport all the furniture, have a number of staff to test different arrangements. And only then on top of that comes the photographer renumeration, the gear rentals for multiple lightings, etc.
On one hand product photographers could be upset by this solution taking away their jobs. At the same time I sense that product photographers aren’t usually passionate about what they do. Especially in areas like furniture photography when it gets boring after photographing a few dozens of couches… So in a sense the less work in product photography will
force free them to move to different areas.
Moreover the technology enables things previously impossible. Imagine you have a highly configurable product that can come in 10000 variants. It would be impossible to make pictures of all of them. But for the computer, once the models are there it’s a piece of cake.
So this is an easy to understand example of a technology that saves work, money and enables new things.
Technology + understanding your customer
Another well thought-out offer I found was a marketing automation platform Related Digital. Now, there probably nothing new in terms of features of their solution. In marketing automation tools if you seen one, you seen them all. In their case I can appreciate what they did, because I’ve seen marketing automation implementations from the inside. I know how painful they can be - after 2 years of trying there was only email module implemented and a new dedicated team was formed to finally push it to the finish. That’s because marketing automation touches a lot of areas in a company that are typically managed by different departments: marketing, sales, technology, etc.
So what Related Digital guys did well is that they have not only the software product but also a dedicated agency that helps implementing their solution. It works in couple of modes depending on the size of the client, their proficiency with these kind of tools, the time they can devote to a project and so on. This is really clever thinking about how to make the client get the value of marketing automation, which very few companies implement successfully.
Dinosaurs aren’t dead
I was surprised to see that plenty of companies still promote and use things like Magento and other old-school technologies. I didn’t observe ecommerce space recently but I thought that with Shopifys and Squarespaces we moved on from the do-it-yourself kind of approach. Apparently not.
The rest of exhibitors didn’t seem to have as clear cut benefit to their offers (or I wasn’t in the target group enough to understand their offers). My impression is that most of them enabled incremental, small improvements or savings or required a lot of work in order to switch to their solution. Walking around and talking to other exhibitors I didn’t have a “wow, that’s clever” impression.
This was a very good event: venue, organisation, everything. eCommerce Expo Berlin reminded me how fun and how productive is to talk to so many knowledgeable people at the same time.