Francois and I have just come back from SpreeConf in New York.
My trip started with the great delight of meeting Francois in person for the first time, even though we've been working together for 3 years.
And thanks to NY's weather, I experienced the coldest conditions I've ever set foot in. At one point my weather app said "-12ºc, feels like -17ºc".
With my two first time experiences out of the way, SpreeConf kicked off. The conference was fairly small at around 300 attendees, but frankly that was an advantage. At large conferences it's easy to feel lost and disconnected. I felt neither here. Having just one track is really nice too. Everyone's seen the same talks so when it comes time to mingle there's lots of thoughts to share.
I really liked the balance of attendees too. Some store owners and some developers. This was reflected in the talks too. Talks such as Brian Quinn's "Backend Integrations with Spree" were technical while others such as Andy Dunn's "E-Commerce is a Bear" were business-focused.
Conveniently timed for the conference, Spree Commerce announced a 5 million investment and revealed that GoDaddy was using a modified version of Spree for their up and coming shopping cart product.
I did a lightning talk on Spree Product Recommendations (my slides are here). I spoke about how machine learning is heavily used by the big ecommerce players to display quality product recommendations to their customers but the technology itself is hard to reach for smaller stores.
One solution is Prediction.IO, an open source machine learning server that allows smaller businesses to get product recommendations at a low cost.
My favourite talk was "The Tyranny of Growth" from Amit Shah. Amit is an incredibly clear-thinking guy who was able to explain the thought process at each level of ecommerce from starting out on Etsy to running a full blown multi-million dollar custom store.
When you start out it's simple, but as you grow so do the challenges you're going to face. He outlines these items as things you'll ultimately end up dealing with:
- Social outreach: Twitter, Facebook, Email
- Website + Hosting + developers
- Payment processing
- Customer service: live chat, phone
- Shipping, returns and fraud
- Inventory management
While dealing with these challenges the best thing to focus on is actually your product. Thus making ecommerce a tricky balancing act as you grow.
We'll be back next year. Thanks to the fine folks at Spree Commerce for a great time.
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