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Boston’s e-commerce boom

Posted by Chad O'Connor  January 24, 2013 11:00 AM

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A New Year is always a good time to look ahead and make some predictions about the future. So here’s mine: Greater Boston will become the e-commerce innovation capital of the world in 2013. Wait. What?

E-commerce is on fire, Cyber Monday this past holiday season put up record numbers of online shoppers. As the percentage of people with smartphones and tablets is continuously rising from big to giant, mobile commerce is also becoming a key factor in sales for many companies. In fact, Boston-based online retailer RueLaLa said that more than 40% of their sales come from mobile.

Here in Boston, we are seeing enormous growth and innovation come from our e-commerce companies. Whether it’s exciting home grown technology companies with expert e-commerce approaches such as Demandware, Zmags, LiquidPixels, Akamai, Criteo, Optaros, and Sapient or outposts from the big boys, such as Apple and Amazon opening offices in Kendall Square, it seems like we’ve got ourselves a mini cluster forming.

Large companies have made acquisitions in the space to create growth and end-to-end solutions for online selling. IBM’s Smarter Commerce group, in Littleton MA, is developing software that’s powering major transformations in how companies do business online. As well, Oracle has made several purchases in Boston, buying up Mass-based e-commerce tech companies like ATG and Endeca. As part of Oracle now, these firms continue to create new ways to make e-commerce faster and better.

Our e-retailers are top notch – doing an enormous amount of business online – such as Staples.com (the number 2 e-commerce site in the world), PUMA.com and BJ’s Wholesale right here in our backyard.

We’ve got incredibly innovative pure-plays too. They are breaking the rules and creating awesome experiences for their customers that keep them coming back for more. Think Wayfair, Gemvara, Rue La La, Olejo, and Karmaloop. These companies have tried some crazy promotional stuff, created intense algorithms to foster recommendation and unreal SEO results, developed new personalization strategies that have resulted in completely original business models, found new ways to engage customers and provide amazing shopping experiences – this is tough technical and sometimes unsexy stuff, yet they’ve found ways to make it so. This is true Boston innovation.

There are startups galore, pursing interesting new ways to help make shopping and buying more fun and exciting. Daily Grommet, Ministry of Supply, Modalyst, Bow & Drape – upstarts that are changing the game. The possibilities are endless.

The truth is that any company selling anything these days is becoming an e-commerce company. Between acquisition strategies to get customers to your site and the ability to sell more 24/7, there isn’t a company I can think of that shouldn’t be paying attention to the innovations in the e-commerce world. Their online strategies are going to lead change in just about every business.

How does all of this affect Massachusetts? With some of the best and brightest young minds in the world right here in the Hub, you should expect to see much of the future of e-commerce developed at home.

Want a sneak peek yourself? Find out what’s next on February 1st at MITX’s e-Commerce Summit at the Microsoft New England R&D Center in Cambridge. We’ll have some of the top local names in the industry there to discuss the biggest trends and key topics such as customer experience, conversion, personalization and of course, mobile. More information can be found here.

Debi Kleiman is President of Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange (MITX), the premier Internet business and marketing association in New England.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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