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Internet Commerce Entrepreneurs Group Forms

New industry trade association will focus on independent online merchants.

When they work, trade associations are fantastic. The association’s mission is effectively promoted, its membership base is growing, and the opportunities for education and professional meetings are many.

Unfortunately, the prominent groups representing e-merchants such as the Professional eBay Sellers Alliance (PeSA) and its sister organization, the eCommerce Merchants Trade Association (ECMTA), are no longer the thriving entities they once were. (Consider, for example, that PeSA’s website features “news” stories on its home page that are more than a year old.)

It’s no wonder that in the last few months, members of Facebook’s eCommerce Group have been lamenting the loss of opportunities to get together and talk shop with other merchants. On July 4, two of the most familiar and well-connected people in e-commerce, John Lawson and Brandon Dupsky, announced they’ve joined forces to launch the Internet Commerce Entrepreneurs (ICE) organization.

We caught up with Dupsky to learn more about ICE, why he and Lawson are launching it and what their goals are for it. As Dupsky has had deep ties with other organizations, we began there.

Schepp: So, what about ECMTA? Are you still affiliated with that group?

“ICE is all about selling over the Internet and, primarily, over your own online storefronts”

Dupsky: As you may know, I was elected to the board of directors for the Professional eBay Sellers Alliance (PESA) in early 2005 as well as having served as managing director for the Ecommerce Merchants Trade Association (ECMTA). In April 2010, I stepped down from both positions to pursue other interests.

Schepp: How will ICE differ from PeSA and ECMTA?

Dupsky: ICE is—and will be—different than PESA or ECMTA in many ways. PESA and ECMTA were always heavily weighted as a resource for the marketplace seller on eBay with PESA or Amazon with ECMTA. ICE is all about selling over the Internet and, primarily, over your own online storefronts. ICE is also focused on the top-level view of running an Internet business, where only the business owner, CEO, founder or general manager are able to join.

One of the benefits of becoming a member of ICE is once a year you can request a panel of experts (which we will announce soon) to review your website across multiple disciplines such as SEO, merchandising, navigation, customer service and social marketing.

Schepp: There’s been a lot of discussion on Facebook about how merchants aren’t getting together enough. Did this concern play into your decision to create ICE?

Dupsky: PESA and ECMTA are well known for their Seller Summits; however, since my departure, there has not been another event in the U.S. I started getting emails and phone calls from e-commerce friends saying something needs to be done; we need an event. I was at the point of inviting as many e-commerce friends as possible to my home in Nebraska for some backyard grilling and chilling but decided to go all in with the formation of ICE in joint partnership with John.

Schepp: What are your goals for the group’s first year?

Dupsky: Our goals are simple: Organize a way for sellers to connect with other online sellers but with deeper connections than ever before. We also wish to reduce the noise coming from marketplaces and service providers, and increase the volume from the sellers. Nobody knows better how to sell online successfully than the people who have been doing it year after year. We also hope to accelerate the flow of communication with online tools and local events. We know at local events when sellers are sitting face to face with other sellers, the willingness to share ideas and experiences is overwhelming. We don’t expect to host one single, large event, but to keep things smaller and more frequent. Things change very quickly in this space and the communication process needs to keep pace.

There is synergy in numbers. As a group, sellers can get deeper discounts on services and supplies than they can independently. We will be focused on negotiating the best deals possible as a collective group to offer members the lowest shipping rates, the lowest credit card fees, as well as other services and supplies typical of an online business.
“Amplifying the voice of the seller and reducing the noise coming from the marketplaces is our first objective”

Our last big goal is to build cooperative marketing opportunities where members can cross-promote other members’ items without the fear of competition. Members will be grouped by target customer market and then be allowed to participate in marketing projects that introduce each other to new customers.

For example, I primarily sell to families with young children and I’m happy to introduce my customers to other ICE members’ websites that target a similar audience during the final stages of the order process such as inserts inside the box or emails sent after the item is received.

Schepp: What sort of meet-ups are you envisioning?

Dupsky: As mentioned, amplifying the voice of the seller and reducing the dependence on the noise coming from the marketplaces is our first objective. This is done by having fewer speakers talking in one direction to the members, and instead giving members the microphone to talk to each other. At our events, you’ll notice far fewer speakers and classroom-style activities, and far more round tables with seller-to-seller communication.

For example, sellers want help with shipping globally. Traditionally they could listen to a single shipping company that might be sponsoring or speaking at an event. At ICE events, if a seller has a question about shipping globally, they will have the opportunity to ask everyone in the room how to best solve their shipping needs.

Schepp: Anything else you want to be sure to tell The Online Seller’s readers?

Dupsky: If you’re selling online and feel like you’re all alone, or that the experts you’re talking to don’t really understand your business, with ICE you’re not alone any longer. There are thousands of online sellers in the same situation as you. Some are steps ahead of you; some are steps behind you. In most cases, there is no thread of competition between ICE members but bundles of opportunity to work together, share ideas and solve problems together.

The difference between ICE and free resources is the level of experience and expertise you get answers from. You get the answers to your questions when you are ready to work on the subject at hand, not when they decide it’s time to write an article about a subject you’re ready to explore.

John Lawson’s 7 Cool Reasons to Become a Member of ICE

  1. You will increase your new business opportunities.
  2. You will receive a free six-point site review ($599 value) from industry experts on SEO, page conversion, site design, CRM and multi-channel opportunities.
  3. You will become a more efficient and better-run business, through access to the latest industry resources and education.
  4. Your business will stand out from the crowd with our gold-standard qualification member branding for your Web properties.
  5. You will have access to discounted industry services at preferential rates.
  6. Members benefit from our networking events.
  7. Peer-to-peer mentoring at the ICE Mastermind roundtables.
    Source: Internet Commerce Entrepreneurs

    About the author

    Brad & Debra Schepp
    Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The Official Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book is How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Brad is also a literary agent for Waterside Productions. For further information, visit the couple's website, Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

    • Not

      Lowest credit card fees? Credit Card processing fees are based on individual businesses, risk, credit history, type of business and what bank and underwriters are willing to risk. Joining a “trade association” won’t help you save money there. Sounds like someone wants to be important and make money, off the backs of online sellers.

    • Anonymous

      $297 a year!!! I don’t see the value. The whole six point review is reminiscent of those other offers where they sell you up additional services. Lawson and Dupsky are good guys but they are not $297 worth of good guys. This is too much money for a start up, I would rather attend the conference in ATL and see what these guys are all about than just hand over the $297 for a membership. I met Lawson at ebay on location in ORL in 2011. He was a nice enough guy but $297 is still $297. It doesn’t change the fact that these guys want $297 for a review of your site and a cute logo…….Did I mention that joining is $297 a year! 

    • The super stores can well afford $297, but they really don’t need the help. We smaller sellers who DO need the help are tired of everyone grabbing into our pockets! With credit card processing fees, selling fees, shipping costs, inventory and everything else, the last thing we need is someone else grabbing chunks out of our bottom line. I’m sure ICE has value, but it’s not going to do us any good if we can’t afford to join! can pay it; my little, 300-item store can’t. But hey, thanks for thinking of us!

    • There are plenty of places to seek out other people in the business, or in other businesses, without a hefty fee. That’s ridiculous.

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