NZ should learn from TradeMe - e-commerce expert

By Ben Chapman-Smith

David Selinger says TradeMe is recognised internationally for its success in the e-commerce market. Photo / Supplied
David Selinger says TradeMe is recognised internationally for its success in the e-commerce market. Photo / Supplied

New Zealand businesses feeling daunted by emerging technologies need look no further than the example of local "powerhouse" TradeMe, says a world-renowned expert in e-commerce.

David Selinger, chief executive and co-founder of US company RichRelevance, said businesses worldwide were being confronted by technological advances like big data, analytics, social media, and the cloud.

Business leaders needed to ditch old models and embrace technology as a core part of their strategy, rather than as something confined exclusively to the IT department, he said.

TradeMe was a perfect example of a local company which had profited from adopting a data-oriented mindset, Selinger said.

"If you're looking at the path of TradeMe, versus the ability of other retailers to tackle the internet, they've won to such a degree that it's hard to compete with them now," he said.

"TradeMe is one the true regional powerhouses, they're one of the biggest e-commerce anomalies in the world."

Traditional retailers which continued dealing with technology by having "a web guy" in the IT department tended to fail miserably, he said.

TradeMe showed the benefit of getting everyone in the business to understand things like consumer behaviour and how to optimise the digital experience, Selinger said.

"If you go in and talk to these types of business about Facebook, web browsers and Twitter, they don't consider those topics to be IT topics, they consider those business topics."

TradeMe had also demonstrated the skill of localisation, tailoring a business to meet the tastes and needs of a local market, he said.

"It has fewer features, its infrastructure is probably not as good as eBay, but they've created a local experience that's comfortable for kiwis and it's become the go-to."

Selinger is coming to New Zealand this month to speak at MindStorm 2013, a conference being held in Auckland to get kiwi businesses thinking about how they can benefit from innovations in technology.

Aside from delivering his message at the event, he would also be taking time "to meet with the TradeMe guys" and other businesses while in the country.

Selinger's RichRelevance provides technology to help retailers like Walmart, Sears, Marks & Spencer and John Lewis increase sales and customer engagement via their e-commerce channels.

The San Francisco-based company specialises in enabling retailers to track user behaviour, which means they can personalise their sites and recommend specific products to consumers.

While leading Amazon's Data Mining and Personalisation team he increased the company's profit by over $50 million.

"I had the opportunity 10 years ago to work at Amazon and be at the forefront of this transition and I think it's an amazing one that's affecting a lot of economies," Selinger said.

The challenge to kiwi businesses was to make the decision not to be intimidated by technology, he said.

"My uncle just turned 100 years-old and he uses the internet every single day. If he can make that decision to embrace technology, we all can."

MindStorm is being held at the Viaduct Events Centre on Thursday April 18. To win one of six tickets worth $495 each email your name and address to promotions@nzherald.co.nz

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