Presented by Chris Maguire, in his customarily jocular and slightly whimsical style, e-commerce live comprised a fairly typical mix of presentations and panels. Chris is the former Editor of Insider North West and has recently jumped ship to UKFast to front up a new marketing initiative for them in the form of a new magazine ‘Business Cloud’ which combines with events such as this to position UKFast as a significant voice in the Manchester tech scene.
Of the speakers, James Bilefield was both the most engaging in delivery and subject matter. He has an impressive resume having been at Skype from its start up and Conde Nast as Digital Division President along with other roles. He now serves on the UK Government’s Digital Advisory Board, the Enterprises Board of the Science Museum Group, the board of Teach First and is an active investor in various web based businesses.
James focused on digital disruptors with examples from his own experiences at Skype, who approached everything in their business and industry completely differently, and Conde Nast who had to react to a rapidly changing market in which traditional advertising revenues were falling off a cliff. “We took a 360 degree view of our customers. Conde Nast made sure that they were as strong on tablet, web mobile, social, and video as they were in print. Even moving into events.”
His sage advice was to focus on one or two things as a business – all the great internet companies started out, at least, doing just one thing really well – ‘take your core business and make it better’. Then to ‘use data to make better decisions’ and finally ‘think how you can automate more of your processes – What can’t you automate?’
He also cautioned us not to lose site of humanity “As you go through the process of getting online, don’t lose the human touch with your customers and your team.”
The last of the speakers was Lawrence Jones MBE, CEO and founder of UKFast – which must be what’s written on his birth certificate as he always seems to be referred to with the full hit either in print or introduction. He gave an insight into how he started up the business, which was almost by accident as he struggled to find a good host in the early days of the internet so identified a need and a gap in the market – which he’s now exploited to a fairly monumental degree. His talk was focused principally on speed as he believes it’s key to Google ranking and it’s clearly UKFast’s biggest USP [the clue’s in the title].
He also gave a fascinating insight to his success, perhaps accidentally, with an outrageous name drop: ‘I was talking with Richard Branson when we were last on Necker, and I had to advise him that I thought he was making a mistake…’ And then to illustrate a point about the speed and convenience of shopping online he gave an example: ‘I love the Bentley brand, and if I could just go online and order one rather than all the hassle of going to a showroom…’ I’m not quite sure we can all relate to that one, but if there’s one thing you actually do want to try before you buy, surely it’s a luxury car? Sink into the leather? See your reflection in the polished chrome? Take it for a test drive?