Catalyst Connect 2016: Recap and Highlights from Google, eBay and Amazon

April 28, 2016

Last week, hundreds of retailers, branded manufacturers and e-commerce enthusiasts joined us in London for our Catalyst Connect event. In one jam-packed day, we had inspirational and insightful sessions from speakers such as eBay, Google, Whirlpool, Amazon, Ogilvy and more. If you missed out on the day, here are just some of the highlights and takeaways.

Opening Keynote: David Spitz

After dishing out an Apple Watch to three lucky audience members, David focused on technology’s rapid rate of change in today’s world — and that rate of change goes way beyond e-commerce. Check out our blog post about David’s keynote here.


CAT 088 (1)Know Search, Know People was the theme of the keynote presentation from Jeremy Morris, industry head, Retail and Technology at Google. Jeremy kicked off the presentation by recapping the start of Google Search 18 years ago. Fast-forward to today, when 16% of all searches are new.

Jeremy shared that there are trillions of searches each year. They are driven by intent. At the very core of search is intent – where to go, what to buy? Do you need an umbrella or want to find a good film to watch?

Marketers can use demographics to target campaigns, but without understanding search, retailers may be missing the right markets. For example, 40% of baby product purchasers live in households without children. Not the target audience you were expecting. Search allows you to look outside your expectations. According to Jeremy, brands that show up in moments of intent see an 8% increase in mind awareness and a 3% boost in perception of being a market leader. But intent is just the beginning.

To succeed, brands need to be personal. Consumers want personalisation and relevance. According to Google, 52% of consumers rank relevance as the number one reason to engage with ads. And 74% get frustrated with ads that have no relevance and think that more ads need personalisation.

Retailers and brands need to provide information quickly and easily, as speed matters. Additionally, brands need to get people through the customer journey as quickly as possible. Jeremy offered the following advice for brands and retailers on Google:

Be actionable: Consumers want actionable information, and they want it fast. According to Google, 29% of smartphone users will switch from a site or app if it doesn’t satisfy their needs. Generate impact with engaging, action­-oriented ad formats and by creating frictionless user experiences on your brand assets. Provide lots of options for customers, such as sitelinks and call extensions to make your site as interactive and user-friendly as possible.

Be measured: Consumers want connected experiences – both on and offline. Jeremy shared that 40% of online shoppers research on mobile then purchase on a computer/tablet. And 50% who conduct a local search on mobile visit a store within a day. In other words, the customer journey involves many devices. What’s more, 90% of consumers use multiple screens sequentially to accomplish a task over time, but many advertisers still optimise to last click. Retailers could drive better business results by using sophisticated cross­-device and cross-channel measurement tools. Jeremy said that advertisers using cross-device insights measure up to 16% more conversions.

Be personal: Reach more qualified users in intent­-rich moments with relevant answers based on contextual and audience signals from search. Identify the content and answers most relevant to your consumer, and you will succeed, stressed Jeremy.

Jeremy’s conclusion? Through better knowledge of your consumer and the ability to target ads based on their personal needs — via multiple devices — retailers and brands can take their search to the next level.


CAT 183Andy Lippert, senior director, Seller Growth team at eBay, took to the stage to discuss the latest updates from eBay. Andy kicked off by talking about the concept of disruption, a buzzword that can have  have negative connotations. Andy said eBay looks at the word slightly differently.

When eBay was created in 1995, the retail world as we know it was unrecognisable. In 1995, only 60 million PCs were sold globally, and the pace of the internet was still slow. People weren’t used to trading online – retail happened nearly completely offline. Andy pointed out that marketplaces like eBay helped create the online retail world we enjoy in 2016. Today, eBay is not only connecting buyers and sellers via a large variety of mobile channels, but is also bringing buyers and sellers together across all country borders. So how did the e-commerce market develop with eBay’s help?

Andy shared that since the start of the 21st century, buyers and sellers have traded goods worth around 660 billion USD on the global eBay marketplace. During its history, 240 million pairs of shoes were sold on eBay. And remarkably, since the introduction of eBay’s mobile app in 2008, it’s been downloaded 279 million times. Today, 157 million buyers and 25 million sellers are active on eBay’s global marketplace, and at any given time, there are more than 800 million items available on its sites.

Looking to the future, Andy said that eBay’s aspiration is to be the most vibrant marketplace for discovering great value and unique selection. Andy looked to the pace of change in the e-commerce industry. On the one hand, the change in the retail environment is driven by the ever-increasing pace of technological innovation and development. On the other hand, evolving customer expectations and behaviours have huge influence on retail and the players in the market. With the immense new technological opportunities, consumer expectations have also significantly changed.

In 2000, online shopping meant shopping from desktops. Today, consumers expect a seamless experience via all their devices – from desktop to tablet to smartphone. As Jeremy also noted in his keynote, shoppers  want to shop anytime and anywhere.

In 2000, the selection of items sold online was standard and limited. This changed tremendously over the years. Today, online selection is essentially unlimited. More or less everything that one can imagine can be discovered easily through strong search capabilities.  At the same time, online shopping has become much more inspirational and is serving both practical and emotional needs.

Also, consumer expectations for the ease and convenience of online shopping have changed dramatically. Services like free and fast delivery, easy returns, and a smooth checkout experience were not yet very high on consumers’ minds. Fast-forward to today, when consumers expect choice and speed when it comes to delivery; a frictionless, smooth shopping experience; and low-cost or free shipping and returns.

Building on this theme of delivery trends, Andy touched on Click & Collect and how that programme has revolutionised delivery for eBay customers. Since its launch in 2013, eBay’s Click & Collect partnership with Argos has developed enormously, with 200,000 sellers now offering this delivery option via Argos. Since launch, 2.5 million eBay purchases passed through the eBay and Argos Click & Collect programme.

Andy closed the presentation by looking at the ways eBay is empowering retailers and brands to grow their businesses and how it’s supporting ever-changing consumer trends.


CAT 347Amazon’s Simon Johnson, director of Seller Services, joined Mike Shapaker, ChannelAdvisor’s managing director for EMEA, on the Catalyst Connect stage for a fireside chat about the latest Amazon trends and updates.

Mike kicked off by asking Simon how important third-party sellers are to Amazon. With 47% of Amazon sales coming from third-party sellers in 2015, Simon stressed that sellers are extremely important to Amazon. Simon then asked the audience how many different products are sold on Amazon. The answer? “We have over 450 million products. We don’t select them — we depend on our sellers to create the vast array. They also provide us with high quality and innovation.”

Simon carried on to say that Amazon’s job is to help sellers get more great products on Amazon. This helps customers as well, by giving them a wider selection of items to choose from. Simon stressed that Amazon’s job is to figure out how to help sellers. For example, the Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) programme was set up to help sellers become more successful with logistics.

Carrying on from that, Simon and Mike spoke about the benefits of FBA, talking about the access sellers have to robust logistics via 450 fulfilment centres around the world. As part of the programme, Amazon will pick, pack, ship and offer world-class customer service in multiple languages.

Mike then quizzed Simon on what initiatives Amazon is focusing on for Europe. Simon delved into Amazon Prime, which is an important programme for Amazon. Prime Now, which was introduced in 2015 in the UK, has just extended to Leeds. Additionally, Black Friday is a day Amazon brought to the UK and invited third-party sellers to join in. FBA grew 79% year on year on Black Friday. So one of Amazon’s main initiatives is investing in improving Prime.

Turning to international expansion, Simon stressed that cross-border trade (CBT) is crucially important to Amazon, as they want to make it easy to sell internationally, to the US, to India. Simon noted that if you add up the populations of the UK, Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands, there are 350 million people – more than the US, and that’s just a fraction of Europe. Amazon has a European fulfilment network with customer service in lots of languages, making the journey from UK seller to global seller as easy as possible. And it seems to be working: Over 100 million units were exported from UK sellers last year.

Mike and Simon then discussed Amazon Sponsored Products, which ChannelAdvisor announced European support for at Catalyst Connect. Sponsored Products is a great way to get increased visibility for products on Amazon. This is a CPC-based ad model, which is both measurable and fine-tunable. The advertising is relevant with ads surfacing next to natural search on page one. Simon stressed that sellers can use the programme to expand and build brand equity in new markets, with product ads now available on 10 marketplaces.  

The fireside chat concluded with a look to Amazon’s future. Simon joked that while he can’t discuss Jeremy Clarkson and the ad campaign, he can talk about a new programme, ‘Amazon FBA small and light’. It’s for fast-moving, light products and enables Prime customers to get products quickly and cost effectively. Amazon stripped costs out from the FBA model for fulfilment of small items like batteries.

Those were just some of the highlights from the e-commerce channels at Catalyst. We also had expert roundtables, a retail panel and sessions from Payoneer, Whirlpool and more. Thank you to all the attendees, sponsors and partners that helped make the event such a success!

If you can’t wait until our next event, why not subscribe to our ECOMmunicator newsletter to have more e-commerce insights delivered to your inbox monthly?