ECF II – October 2008

This article appeared in the March 2009 edition of InternetRetailing magazine, by Ian Jindal.

European eCommerce Forum: Place, proximity and space in eCommerce

As we plan for the third European eCommerce Forum (ECF) meeting in June 2009, Ian Jindal looks back on a stimulating second gathering of the ECF in London last October

Following the inaugural session in Amsterdam in April (under the theme of “Data-driven insights”, where we’d considered the role of data mining, ethnographic research and category management upon online selling) we decided to take a more complete view of the ‘online shop’ and so focused on what we could learn from our offline colleague’s “use of space”.
We were privileged therefore to hear first from Baptise Brayé, CEO of and Visiting Scholar at Harvard School of Design. Baptiste’s expertise is in locating stores geographically, and via his exceptional presentation and in-depth studies of the changing urban retail geography, Baptiste posed a challenging question to the group: what’s the correlative of “proximity” for online retailers?

Having explained to us how competitors cluster in the real world (eg the electronics district, or fashionable streets) he questioned whether there was an analog to this online. We considered aggregators, affiliates, portals… Without doubt the question challenged the established views of separate ecommerce marketing channels and how we might work with competitors.

Before we could draw breath Ernst Consenheim, Retail Director at shared his research into space allocation and shop planning – how customers circulate through your shop space and the arrangement of shelves, islands and display areas that maximise profits.

Much as category management planning challenged us at ECF1 to reconsider our own planning, so Ernst’s session made us question the way we lay out our sites and our expectations of a standardised customer journey through the ‘sales funnel’.

After lunch we upped the pace with a “7 by 7” format: seven speakers, each with 7 minutes to speak and 7 minutes for questions, tasked with offering to the group some insights, learnings since the last ECF or a provocation with which to challenge the group. Such was the energy from this session that it was only the greatest effort that pulled delegates apart and into the break for tea.

The Forum closed with Michael Ross of sharing a new version of his “10 Ps of eCommerce” (published previously in this magazine, and covered too at IR2008 conference), updated with insights from the Category Management presentation, and metrics from retailers. Michael’s session elicited great excitement and showed well how inspirations and insights at the ECF could inform best practice.

Michel Lieffering, Managing Director of Conrad Electronic Benelux BV commented that “the ECF convention was again very inspiring, because we are confronted with very successful and proven concepts from the brick and mortar world.” Peter Callaway, eCommerce Director at House of Fraser noted that the ‘whole day was excellent and provided a good mix but the highlight for me was the “7-minute” wonders session for the sheer number of great ideas proposed”.

Michael Ross noted “I think the ECF should truly be a think tank of peers who can discuss – at a detail level – the knotty issues of ecommerce and be inspired by experts from other industries.” On that note we’re planning for ECFIII to engage with notions of retail theatre and ‘persuasion architecture’ – how we can learn from the offline world how to engender desire, increase conversion, excite a memorable customer experience and differentiate ourselves from me-too competitors.


Internet Retailing is grateful to Joris Beckers and Fredhopper for their selfless support in making this important forum a reality, and we’ll be reporting from ECFIII in a future issue of the Magazine.

About the ECF
The ECF was co-founded by Ian Jindal of Internet Retailing and Joris Beckers, CEO of and remains a sponsorship- and sales-free confidential forum. ECF is an invite-only group of European etailers with online sales in excess of €70million or whose expertise makes their business of particular interest. Joris comments that “the ECF … tries to bring the best minds in e-commerce together. Our goal is to build the strongest intellectual network in Ecommerce and act like a Think Tank, rather than a conference or networking event. We do this out of passion for what we do and because we are truly interested to explore the future and learn how we can do things better”.

Attendees included those from the following companies:
Apple, B&Q, BAA, Boden, Castorama, Clarks, Conrad Electronics, eCommera, Harrods, Harvard University, House of Fraser, ING Bank, Lakeland, Lands’ End UK , Liberty,, Mydeco, Neckermann, OSOYOU, Otto UK,, Quelle, Redcats International,, TomTom, Unic.

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