Firms Need to Expand Consumer Conversation

Jeff Max capped the day by hosting an open discussion with attendees and peppering the conversation with his own takeaways.

Jeff Max, chief executive officer of Venda Inc., capped the day by hosting an open discussion with attendees and peppering the conversation with his own takeaways.

This story first appeared in the June 9, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“We’re entering really the next era of e-commerce,” said Max, whose company provides e-commerce platforms to online sellers. “Those are the notes that I took, because we’re moving into an environment where we all have the e-commerce sites and we all have the mechanisms to capture customers that want our products and to drive revenue in that way.”


Max moderated as audience members discussed topics ranging from the specific (How many country-tailored Facebook pages should global brands maintain?) to the broad (How much effort to devote to driving traffic to your own site versus your social media presence?).

“I think that may be aspirational: leaving your own universe and your own identity,” Max said of the notion that brands could focus solely on social media. “Because the messaging is out in the community and now the suggestion is, ‘Well, let all of the transactions take place in the community, too, and let the friends influence the friends to drive the revenues.’ I think that can be a scary, undocumented kind of approach.”

Still, Max was quick to point out companies that provide services to e-commerce sites and those that create social media portals would have to cooperate or face extinction.

“The platforms — whether they are presently or not — to survive they’re going to need to open up their platforms and their partners’ products to these channels,” he said. “From a technical perspective, it’s not hard. The shopping destinations take product feeds, you saw it here with Facebook with Levi’s. Technically, it’s very simple. Sometimes there’s reluctance to give up control.”

Ultimately, Max said he was energized by how social media facilitated dialogue between companies and consumers.

“What’s really exciting and what’s really revolutionary here is the way we’re starting to interact with them, the way they’re starting to interact with us, the way there’s a conversation going on…” he said. “It’s our job to provide more technologies to make this easier, to facilitate the ways in which you can reach out to them.”