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Insights and Update from SCOE – A Conference for the Serious Web Retailer

By Cliff Ennico

I had the privilege last week of speaking at The Seller’s Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

This event, formerly known as the Seller’s Conference for Online Entrepreneurs (SCOE), was and has always been the leading U.S. conference for people who sell merchandise on Amazon.com. But last week’s event demonstrates how a virtual team headed by event organizer Rhonda Schneider has successfully adapted to change in this marketplace.

First, the event is no longer just for Amazon sellers. The majority of programs at the event focused on tools for selling across multiple platforms (eBay, Amazon, etsy and so forth) and challenged attendees to explore relatively new venues such as jet.com and Google Shopping.

Second, the event is no longer just for West Coast people. Originally an annual event held in Seattle, Washington, The Sellers Conference now is held twice a year – once in the spring in Philadelphia, and again in the fall in Seattle.

But most importantly, the event’s organizers have made the entrepreneurial decision – an extremely brave one – not to try to be “all things to all people.”

When it comes to conferences for Internet retailers, there are two basic flavors:

  • Large-scale events such as the Internet Retailers Conference and Exposition (www.irce.com), held in Chicago each June, which offers dozens of programs for sellers at all experience levels and which frankly can be a bit overwhelming, and
  • Smaller-scale events such as eBay Open, held in Las Vegas each July, which focuses strictly on eBay selling and targets primarily “newbies” and early stage sellers.

Looking at this landscape, Ms. Schneider and her team realized that there was no event for serious intermediate or advanced sellers with annual sales in the six or seven figures (or beyond). Taking a gamble, they rebranded SCOE as “The Seller’s Conference” and targeted high-end sellers by imposing a $699 per person fee for the three-day event.

As a result, only about 100 people attended the Philadelphia conference, but from what I heard, no one was complaining. Most of the speakers, exhibitors and event sponsors I spoke to said they were delighted at the quality of the attendees, while one exhibitor said, “Ot’s a pleasure to speak only to people who can actually use our services and understand what we’re about without a lot of explanation.”

Some of the program titles demonstrated the event’s focus on sophisticated sellers, such as:

  • “Flywheels and Feedback Loops” (if you have to ask what these are, you probably didn’t belong at the conference) by e-marketing consulting firm Efficient Era (www.efficientera.com),
  • “How to Plan for a Winning Exit with Your e-Commerce Business”, by London-based business brokerage firm FE International,
  • “Trademark Law for e-Tailers” by attorney C. J. Rosenbaum (amazonsellerslawyer.com), author of the “Amazon Law Library” series of legal guides,
  • “Expanding Internationally” by Gianni Munday, founder of Extra Direct UK Ltd., and
  • “Stop Making Private Labels; Make Private Products!” by Tim Jordan, co-founder of Hickory Flats, a firm that helps U.S.-based Web retailers source product in China and elsewhere in Asia.

Speaking of private labeling (buying generic merchandise and putting your trademarked brand on them) — a major topic at the conference – the following advice was offered by branding consultant Anthony P. Fichera (www.theprivatelabelteam.com): “When starting white label/private label product projects, regardless of the channel you choose to sell on, start with a reasonable, low exposure quantity, 24-96 units. Secondly, have a plan in place to differentiate your product great images, excellent well thought out bullets and content/description. Think about a creative, easily printed label (with your logo!) that you can apply to the box and upload as a secondary image. Create instructions or an insert that also has your brand logo applied, have a clean photo of that, and use that as one of your images. Creating a value-added document that you upload as an additional image, recipes, tips on how it may be used to get the best value. A short ‘eBook’ pdf that is offered as a follow-up to purchases, always with your brand logo included on them and emailed to the buyer after purchase.”

As for me, I spoke on “Legal and Tax Issues for Web Retainers” and focused specifically on dealing with accusations that your firm is selling counterfeit merchandise online. In many cases, these letters are sent by product manufacturers (or their attorneys) who are upset you are selling their – quite legitimate – merchandise outside of their authorized chain of distributors.

A 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case – Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. – gives Web retailers broad defenses against such claims, and very often if a seller asserts its rights under the Kirtsaeng case the offending letter simply goes away.

The Sellers Conference is now positioned as the “must attend” event for advanced and professional Web retailers. Congratulations to Rhonda Schneider and her team on a job well done.

• • •

Cliff Ennico (cennico@legalcareer.com) is a syndicated columnist, author, and host of the PBS television series “Money Hunt.” This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2017 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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