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2017 Ecomm Forum... As it Happened

  • 7 min
  • October 17, 2017

The third annual Ecomm Forum was held on Thursday, October 5th at Aria in Downtown Minneapolis. The event brought together owners of small and large businesses, ecommerce industry professionals, and advocates of the local tech and entrepreneurial scene in the Twin Cities.

Ecomm Forum was started by Irish Titan in 2015 as a reaction to the rapidly expanding ecommerce landscape in the Twin Cities. The goal of the 2017 event was to examine how this new era of technological advancements impacts businesses and consumers before, during and after every ecommerce experience. With Fortune 100s like 3M, Target, and Best Buy based out of Minnesota, it’s easy to see how prevalent ecommerce is in the Twin Cities. But there’s more than that – from to I See Me! to Colored Organics to BiPro USA. As a region we should be capitalizing on the knowledge we have of ecommerce while continuing to build on emerging trends and expand the strong presence that we already own. (And have some fun doing it!) Hopefully, this year’s forum prompted further conversations between local ecommerce companies and created some high anticipation for next year’s event.

This year, Ecomm Forum featured an entertaining keynote presentation, two spotlight speakers, and a panel discussion with leaders in the ecommerce scene.


Keynote Speaker

Mike Veeck: Founder of Fun Is Good and Owner of the St. Paul Saints

Mike Veeck kicked off the event with a highly entertaining and inspirational keynote presentation. He focused on discussing how he got where he is today through an unapologetically unconventional approach to business. He stressed the importance of hiring passionate people while making sure they have fun. Veeck‘s top four factors that influence job satisfaction were loyalty, flexible hours, a mentor as soon as they join, and an environment where manners are stressed. Veeck is a firm believer that small business owners and entrepreneurs are the soul of this country. In an increasingly digital business world, he still manages to keep a personal touch with his clients and St. Paul Saints fans by writing them thank you notes after every game with the motto: “Service drives the experience which drives the memory.”


Spotlight Presentations

Tink Taylor: President & Founder at dotmailer

Tink Taylor from dotmailer was our first Spotlight Speaker. He focused his presentation on personalization, landing pages, surveys/forms, and analytics. Some of his major points included:

Future of Ecommerce

By 2019, B2B commerce will be worth more than a trillion dollars, which is double what B2C is worth. What comes with this is the challenge of finding what motivates the decision makers behind the companies. Many of these owners are operating in B2B environments the same way that they have in B2C life, and being shaped by the technologies that helped B2C. So how do we combat this? By targeting the most relevant channel which leads us onto personalization and email. 

Personalization and Email

A whopping 95% of marketers say that email is a critical part of their strategy for both B2B and B2C consumers. Going along with this, consumers love email and prefer it 2 to 1 over any other channel. Millennials in particular use email as a way to maintain relationships with brands. So why is email falling so short of the mark? Despite brands having the ability now, more than ever before, to gain insight on their consumer, 85% of consumers say that more than half of the emails they get are irrelevant and 42% of marketers agree by saying that very few or none of their emails are relevant.  


On average, people look at their phone 150-200 times per day and the number one activity is looking at email. Through a study dotmailer did called Hitting the Mark, they found that 71% of brands have capitalized on the major shift to mobile by using mobile friendly alternative payments. 70% of all ecommerce transactions will be made on a mobile device by 2017, according to the Criteo 2016 State of Commerce report

Small Business

So how can small businesses compete with the top brands on the market? By sorting out a strategy before tech. Contrary to popular belief, top brands are not crushing it but small business can by ignoring the shiny new aspects of marketing and instead focusing on the fundamentals. Small business can compete with big businesses by being human and personalizing emails instead of using a generic, one email fits all solution. Tink left us with this insight; start small with one thing you can solve today, tomorrow or this week, and scale quickly. 


Jill Rose: Senior Director and General Manager of Mid-Market, North America at PayPal

In our second Spotlight presentation, PayPal’s Jill Rose addressed the future of commerce, mobile, millennials and how to stay ahead.  Some of her most notable points were:

Future of Commerce

Although retail spending is up, many retailers are closing their stores and struggling to grasp how the world is changing around them. In order to stay ahead of this, merchants are turning towards channel disruption and focusing on interacting with their consumers in a way they never have before. This is great for merchants of any size because it gives them the opportunity to reach out to consumers where they are engaged the most with products. An example of this that Jill gave was Uber. Uber is a less expensive, easier, and modernized version of the taxi. It shows that simplicity along with personalization can go a long way. By having the service all through an app without having to worry about carrying cash or a card, it’s simplicity at its finest. Netflix started out by mailing their customers DVD’s and since then have made the switch to streaming online and became one of the top streaming websites. 


In the United States, people touch their phones 2,617 times a day. The future is here and it is Mobile! We now have super computers capable or organizing and running our lives, just sitting in our pocket.


25% of the population in the United States are Millennials. That’s roughly 83 million people. Those 83 million people are spending $600 billion per year as consumers. In order for retailers to stay ahead, they must take into account millennials and contextual commerce. Contextual commerce is the potentially game-changing idea that retailers can seamlessly integrate purchases into everyday lives in a natural way. 

Staying Ahead

If you take a dated thing and put a modern/tech twist on it that’s cheaper, you’re always going to win. So compete fiercely, the world is yours to take advantage of. 


Panel Discussion

Ben Davis: Executive VP and Chief Digital Officer at Cambria

Robert Gilbreath: VP of Marketing & Partnerships at ShipStation

Marc Kermisch: Chief Information Officer, VP – The Garage at Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc.

Moderated by Irish Titan’s Darin Lynch, the panel discussion featured ecommerce experts from local and national companies. 


Ben Davis on Microservices

Cambria is a B2B2C company that is a producer of engineered quartz surfaces, and they are working toward being the Bentley or Louis Vuitton of stone countertops. Cambria is working on microservices and automation. Microservice architecture is a method of developing software applications as a suite of independently deployable, small, modular services. Each service runs a unique process and communicates through a well-defined, lightweight mechanism to serve a business goal. This then plugs into all enterprise systems that they work with. Ben’s best decision was embracing delivery strategy so they can introduce their products rapidly to partners. 


Robert Gilbreath on Branding

ShipStation is a web-based shipping solution for ecommerce retailers who work to streamline the fulfillment process and make tracking easily accessible. Many businesses, big or small, spend tons of money on branding and marketing yet neglect to brand their tracking and shipping page. By adding elements like branding to your tracking page, social following opportunities and a “people who bought this also bought this” section, you increase the number of touch points throughout the entire process. This inevitably increases customer engagement and sales. Robert’s best decision was being user/consumer influenced but not dictated. 


Marc Kermisch on Security

Red Wing Shoe Company is an American footwear company based out of Red Wing, Minnesota. For the past 110 years, they have been producing the highest quality footwear to protect workers in more than one hundred countries throughout the world. With all of the recent security outbreaks, Red Wing Shoe Company has managed to stay ahead and focus on a proactive approach instead of a reactive approach when it comes to security. They do this by:

  • Taking credit card information out of their systems, so the information goes straight to the bank instead of staying within the company.
  • Not collecting Social Security Numbers and
  • Using a third party software to manage all personal information from customers
  • Monitoring their network
  • Holding vendors accountable.

If Red Wing Shoes Company were to ever get in a security situation, they’ve also discussed as a company what their response would be so they could get a better outcome. Marc’s best decision was the relationship that he created with the Chief Marketing Officer to ensure that tech and marketing are going hand in hand with this journey.


We’re at a point where ecommerce is constantly changing, developing, and moving forward. If you attended the forum, we hope you left with new ideas and thoughts to bring to your business. See you at the 2018 Ecomm Forum!

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