Internet Week NY notes and thoughts

In my final day in New York, I slipped off to check out some of the sessions at the Internet Week headquarters. I’ve got some great thoughts and takeaways from my day.

Cindy Chen and B. Bonin Bough interviewed by Sydney Ember

B. Bonin Bough and Cindy Chen are the senior team behind Mondelēz's e-commerce business. They had quite a few interesting points about the future of e-commerce, FMCG and the intersection between branding, digital and sales.

  • Mondelēz decided to combine media and e-commerce into the one unit (spearheaded by Bonin). It’s a way of managing the whole process from hearing about the product through consuming it.
  • One of the issues currently is that businesses usually see digital as a marketing channel, not a business in its own right. eCommerce is not a channel - it’s a new way of buying.
  • Bonin sees four fundamental futures for ecommerce:
    • A subscription model, which moves the business to guaranteed revenue, and represents a fundamental shift in business.
    • An affiliate marketing model, where users are incentivised to promote your product
    • Mondelez’s media/ecommerce model, where every interaction can lead to a purchase
    • An experiential model, where users can ‘buy the taste’ of an experience they had today. This one’s quite interesting - the example he gives is of a World Cup conversation on social media. Based on tweets or Facebook posts, the company could conceivably come up with a flavour for a snack or some sort of personalised product that encapsulates a sense of that experience.
  • You can’t control the whole ecosystem yourself.
    • First, you have to understand the whole ecosystem from one end to the other. Typically, this takes something like two years to do.
    • Second, you need to make sure the ecosystem flows smoothly from one end to the other
    • To do all this, you need to work with agencies, with partners, with vendors, and across the whole organisation,

Getting Smarter, not Bigger Panel.

There was a great panel discussion, Getting Smarter, not Bigger, on how to get to understand customers and find new ways to reach them. Some of the points made:

  • Sean Callahan: ‘Little’ data is still incredibly useful. The amount of information you can gather from cookies and Google Analytics should not be discounted.
  • Darren Clark: At some point, consumers will have obvious clear control of what data they’re sharing and how. Use of data will have to become more transparent to reflect this.
  • Claudia Perlich: There’s a very fine line between using data to deliver value to the consumer, to delivering value to someone else, such as the business, at the expense of the consumer.
  • CP: ‘Big data’ and data mining in general only works when you ‘flip it around to start with what decision you wish to make’, then mining the data to understand the best option.
  • John Caine: Don’t keep the data you do collect in an executive silo. It works best when your team has access to it. They’ll have ideas you wouldn’t think of. [I have personal experience of this, and can attest to it.]
  • CP: It can take three to five years (depending on the size of the organisation) to work out how to do this effectively.

Looking back over my notes from this session, it was really interesting to note that there was a strong undercurrent around ensuring to maintain a trustworthy relationship with consumers. Unfortunately, it looks like very few companies are doing this effectively currently.

Gary Vaynerchuk, as always, was entertaining. I have a LOT of notes from his short but broad interview with Jeremy Smerd. Some of his more interesting points:

  • If you’re not an extroverted person, don’t force yourself to become one. Instead of fixing your weaknesses, play to your strengths
  • Pinterest is a great google images-like platform for direct response and branding. Similarly, Periscope or Meerkat has the opportunity for a QVC-type show for sales.
  • There’s a reckoning on the horizon for startups. The businesses that survive will be the ‘real operators … building businesses that aren’t predicated on raising the next round.’
  • True entrepreneurs can filter advice that’s best in their interest. It’s useful to keep in mind that VCs are searching for unicorns and managing their own portfolios, and their advice will tend to be in their own best interest.
  • Attention is the asset of the moment. If you can play the attention graph, you win.
  • Facebook is the number one under-rated platform for content. Instagram is interesting in terms of depth of attention. Pinterest is incredible, but it’s more about brand marketing over sales.
  • Every morning, Gary reviews the Top 100 apps in the iTunes/iOS App store. If a new app is there for a few days, he starts to play with it and then considers investing in it if there’s merit.

Hiring for Diversity - the "Being Conscious of the Unconscious Bias" panelAnother great panel was around hiring for diversity. Three points from this session stuck in my head:

  • Kirk McDonald: A homogeneous team tends to think and act like a herd, which bakes out the innovation
  • Sloane Barbour: Building a diversity (hiring) program is an opportunity cost. You need to make an effort to recruit from colleges that have diverse populations.
  • KM: You need to train hiring managers to ensure diversity from the screening category stage. If you set up the pool to for any job so that it is diverse, then you can interview and hire from the best. Otherwise, if you try to diversify the interview pool at a later stage, it becomes a dishonest or forced process

It was such a great experience to listen to these speakers. If I get the opportunity, I’ll see if I can get there for the whole week next time. Even better, I'll see if I can grab them for a one-one.

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