Google’s Retail Summit

I was really pleased to be invited to moderate a discussion at the Google Retail Summit – on “eCommerce Excellent – winning this Christmas”.

The event brought the great and good together to hear from Google and each other and followed the successful and enjoyable inaugural event last year (Google’s site, my blog post).

On my panel I was joined – with great humour and good will – by Steve Robinson, CEO, M&M Direct, Nick Lansley, Head of Innovation and R&D, Tesco and John Hinchcliffe, CMO, N Brown Group. We’d decided beforehand that we’d avoid the blander approaches one sometimes gets at industry events and try to deal head on with some of the hard choices and real differences this Christmas. I was really pleased that they entered into this and can’t remember chuckling so much during a panel before ๐Ÿ˜‰ Hats off to Steve, Nick and John.

Here’s the eminent Peter Fitzgerald of Google opening proceedings: note the Lolo colours, courtesy of ToyCamera iPhone app

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The next panel was on KPIs and featured Michael Ross of eCommera (@manross) in fine form on his pet topic – KPIs. I won’t quote some of his excellent one-liners since not only would that be ‘goal-poaching’, but because Michael’s doing an article for November’s Internet Retailing magazine and I don’t want to scoop ourselves. Watch this space.

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Finally on the photo front, here’s the lab squad (or some other name) of Google engineers around to answer questions. All good fun.

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I understand that the event was filmed and so – if our panel session makes it past the censor’s cuts for language, sarcasm and career-limited comments – I’ll post the link.

Google’s “Survival of the Fastest”: my video contribution on YouTube

A couple of months ago the folk at Google asked if I’d contribute to a YouTube channel they were creating, soliciting input from a range of practitioners, thinkers and leaders in eCommerce on the subject of how best to survive the economic downturn.

I agreed (very pleased to have been asked) and then immediately regretted it (a combination of _hating_ being filmed and a bit of a panic attack that I’d have nothing to say in such august company).

Both of these concerns were well founded and the first attempt was utterly awful. Google kindly allowed me to hit the virtual ‘delete’ button and re-shoot. I (and all viewers) owe them a debt of gratitude ๐Ÿ˜‰

The format was a difficult one: a straight-to-camera piece on a topic. This requires more skill and preparation that I had understood. I generally prefer a ‘Q&A’ approach – being interviewed by someone else makes it easier to keep on topic and respond to a lead.

That said, I’m really pleased that I’ve had this experience. At InternetRetailing we’re starting our video podcasting programme in June and going through this experience has been a timely shock that I hope will improve our approach.

In the meantime you can find me burbling and only loosely in charge of a Welsh accent here:

In fact, this piece was a ‘version’ of my ‘profit per pixel second‘ metric provocation that I’ve been covering in print. It’s an area in which I’m interested, but I think it suffers here from being too long (maybe I’m too used to giving this as part of a presentation?).

All of this goes to prove Mark Twain’s (well, Blaise Pascal) thought: “I have only made this [letter] longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter”. The same seems true of videos ๐Ÿ˜‰

You’ll see in the linked videos some very impressive (and more succinct!) contributions from a great range of people – from Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and Martin Sorrell of WPP to numerous leading academics and practitioners.

I’m pleased to be in illustrious company (even if as the slight splotch on the otherwise immaculate canvas) and I’ve learned some good lessons about video presentation.

You can see the whole channel here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/survivalofthefastest

Google Mobile App – clever convergence of data, directory categorisation, location and interface

As the regular reader will know I’m a bigย  believer that the convergence of location-based information, structured data, inferred/contextual relationships and a slick relevant interface will change our world and start delivering the sort of “future” interactions that we had in the 1960s’ SciFi.

Google’s Mobile App is a step closer.

I won’t rehash the explanatory video – it’s, er, self-explanatory – but the really interesting part for me isn’t the voice recognition but rather the emerging “common sense” in the google results. Note that there’s now an interpretive layer that’s interception calculations, directory-type enquiries (eg film listings, nearby restaurants) and informational or evaluative requests.

This is a major step forward for something that we tend to think of as a text-indexing service.

I’m a great fan of knowledge systems like TrueKnowledge (that has an inference engine built upon structured facts, questions and relationships – wonderful) – but it seems that Google’s slowly but surely adding equivalent capabilities by stealth and in parts.

Let’s start counting the days until this is seen as “just normal”…

UPDATE: been playing this morning at a client’s (different voices, male/female, Northern, Welsh, Australian) and we’re getting a one in five success rate. Still, that it even works 20% of the time is amazing and I’m sure it’ll train me to get clearer ๐Ÿ˜‰

BBC NEWS | Technology | Search site aims to rival Google

BBC NEWS | Technology | Search site aims to rival Google

How lovely. On a hot and humid summer’s day we have someone claiming to take on google at search. Enter Cuil (pronounced “Cool” – how convenient), produced by some ex-Google staffers (although, Google’s now so big that saying “ex-google” is about as meaningful as saying “ex-schoolchild”. Still, I digress. Heat, humidity, etc).

Well, I had a quick play, and it’s certainly pretty and I like the magazine layout (in the same way I like the look of Magnolia, but still use delicious).

Unfortunately, Cuil doesn’t as yet have the skinny on search. Concepts are a neat idea (although if I were in that sort of mood I’d just fire up TouchGraph and use that as a visualisation tool on top of the google index). However, these additional facets aren’t that useful when the 120bn web-pages they’ve indexed seem not to cover the web.

In a rather painful and blunt example, dear reader, I find that I no longer exist!

No ian jindal

Leaving that dent to my ego aside (sob) there were a number of other areas that seemed to be peculiarly skewed or absent.

This shows on the one hand how heavy web users have become habituated to Google’s way of doing things. We amend our search strings for weight, or refine as we learn jargon in a given domain or based upon initial results. I haven’t got the energy to relearn this for a “solution” that’s at best simple ‘different’ and at worst has gaps.

The challenge issued to google also forgets that the big G is no longer ‘just’ a search engine: it’s a behavioural and intelligence linking monster. From the search and click-through activity, from my google documents, notes, custom search engines, google checkout and adword activity, Google is a closed loop system of information, behaviour and commerce.

The two ways to compete imho are to wait until google implodes (in the great history of global giants, or on a 20 year cycle) or be better at something. Clearly, the latter is preferable to the former, but if you’ve deep pockets and are under 40 years old then don’t totally disgregard the first option ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m no longer enamoured of Google, but in the age of the commercial web they are the benchmark. One way not to compete, I’d suggest, would be to issue a challenge and not deliver.

Google Retail Summit – moderating “Scaling and Managing the $1bn Online Business”

Retail Summit

Google UK have convenened an interesting and senior morning on etail and ecommerce. You can see the list of speakers at the website – quite a gathering.

I’m pleased to be moderating a session on “Scaling and Managing the $1bn Online Business”. I do this with some humility since the last ecommerce business I ran (while Group eCommerce Director at Littlewoods Shop Direct) was “only” £405million. The current £:$ rate is flattering of my efforts though – $800m sounds like a lot more – but failing a slump in the value of the dollar (!) I currently do not qualify for membership of the $1bn-club. Not yet, at least ๐Ÿ˜‰

The panellist will include Bruce Fair (MD, Kelkoo), Matthew Hardcastle (MD, Shopping.com) and Peter Fitzgerald (Retail Industry Leader, Google UK).