Last week, Greg Fulton, Eric Nash and myself traveled to Nashville to attend Marketing United, a conference hosted by the wonderful folks at Emma.

The conference attendees we encountered were a fantastic mix of marketers that Silicon Valley rarely sees or even thinks about. Many of these guys and girls are running successful business both on- and off- line, with no venture capital financing.

This group represents a cornerstone of the SMB market – a market that some of the largest and most cherished marketing companies were built up to serve. Emma, MailChimp – and in many ways, AdRoll – were founded to build products that would work for small and medium-sized businesses. But it was clear from this conference that there is still so much more that we can build to solve the problems that marketers today are facing.

But one company is a sleeping giant in helping such businesses.

The most interesting thing I learned last week was during a session with Rachel Valosik, Director of eCommerce at Griffin Technologies, who spoke about the fine art of eCommerce and selling online. She explained what a juggernaut Amazon has become as a point of discovery for shoppers. A recent WSJ article cited,

In the third quarter [of 2014], 39% of U.S. online shoppers began researching their purchases on Amazon and only 11% started on search engines like Google, according to Forrester Research. That’s a reversal from 2009, when 24% started on search engines and 18% on Amazon.

Specifically, Rachel discussed how it isn’t worth “fighting” Amazon with your own eCommerce store. Instead, let Amazon sell your product, and then figure out ways to drive subsequent business from your own store. Amazon brought you the new customer – you focus on keeping them and bringing them back to your site. You can leverage physical marketing, for example, perhaps including a coupon within the product that Amazon sells and ships.

The only thing more interesting than this clever marketing strategy is the macro trend happening right now: As consumers migrate to mobile devices, Amazon’s foothold in eCommerce actually becomes increasingly potent. Amazon has one coherent mobile shopping experience, from search through to purchase, whereas Google must attempt to drag the entire web towards that great mobile experience.

This paradigm is identical to how all mobile applications have matured over the past few years: a battle of Native versus Web. One favors user experience, the other favors the long tail and being open.

Overall, it was an inspired week in Nashville. Beyond the conference, we were fortunate enough to see Bobby Osbourne perform, and I ate six burgers in four days.


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