The Ecommerce Evolution Is Finally Here & CoolMarket is Leading The Charge

By Kadia Francis | October 28, 2019 | 5 Min Read

Image courtesy of Coolmarket

The CoolMarket team showed up and showed out in a big way last Wednesday at the inaugural staging of their Connectecom E-Commerce Conference & Expo at the Jamaica Pegasus. The now signature event has established Coolmarket as a major voice and advocate for digital Jamaica.

Billed as a high end event and featuring a diverse cast of speakers, it promised to be an evolved conversation about the rapid growth of the global digital marketplace and how Jamaicans can go about carving out opportunities for themselves in that space.

I can honestly say that if the conference accomplished nothing else, it was successfully able to do just that. Mrs. Vivienne Reynolds, Managing Director of coolmarket.com and her team delivered.

Admittedly, I had my reservations about the speaker line-up, particularly the non-Jamaican presenters. It wasn’t a question of if they are qualified, they are some of the best in their fields. My concern was of value, absent an intimate knowledge of Jamaica and Jamaicans what if anything could they add to this conversation?

I have used my platform as a soapbox to advocate for the (paid) inclusion and centering of local expertise in these kinds of conversations. I will continue to insist that anyone seeking or being invited to engage in a discussion on the digital future of Jamaica should at least have an elementary understanding of how Jamaicans actually use technology and concomitantly, how we behave in the digital space.

Otherwise, it’s a meaningless endeavour and frankly a waste of money and time. Well, for the participants anyway.

Thankfully, Coolmarket had the good sense to avoid the cliches, producing what I would consider a quality event by any reasonable standard.

Quality Production

I got the distinct impression that some real effort went into the whole production, especially when choosing the speakers. Something I brought up in a tete-a- tete with Mrs. Vivenne Reynolds, after the event. I explained to her my misgivings and asked her what she did differently.

She explained that her team was very careful in how they chose presenters in general, making sure that everyone invited understood exactly what was needed and could in their own way elevate the conversation.

That they did, there was no gushing of useless statistics, insights or other irrelevant information. Instead, what the participants got was important foundational, best practice opinions, information, tips and resources grounded in solid expertise and years of experience from some of the best at it.

The Speakers Brought The Sauce

In fact all the speakers I saw (I was late), were great in that regard, no flair no excitement just straight forward, clear, succinct presentation of the information.

Thanks to the Cool team I had an opportunity to talk with them after and found them even more forthcoming and engaging with their knowledge. Read on for my brief overview of their presentations and to watch the interviews.

Warning the ambient noise is loud so you may want to listen with a head phone so you don’t miss what they’re saying.

Barrington McIntosh, Digital Trading Coach & Amazon Expert
Image courtesy of Coolmarket
A quick confession, I initially thought Barrington McIntosh was an American, in my defence this conference was the first time Mr. McIntosh was actually sharing his story with a live audience locally.

About 9 years ago Barrington and his wife started a business basically selling Jamaica online. In that relatively short period of time, they have turned their passion for all things local into a multi-million dollar business.

They are now in the top 25% of sellers on the Amazon platform. So much so that they get flewed out every year to speak at Amazon’s annual conference.

It can be done, right here in Jamaica

Mr McIntosh had one simple message for the CoolMarket audience, it is possible, it can be done and you don’t have to leave Jamaica to do it. His presentation was equal parts inspirational, educational and practical.

In my talk with Mr McIntosh he gave this brilliant analogy about what the online space is.

” Think about it this way, I live in Mandeville, before we had to drive through Old Harbor where the roads were bad. Now we have the toll, and the roads are nice and smooth and you’re able to get there much faster. That’s how the internet is …”
You can watch my interview with Mr. McIntosh below and find him online here.
Scott Wilson, SEO & Google Expert
Image courtesy of Coolmarket
Scott is the principal behind Geek Certified, experts in SEO, ECommerce and Youtube optimization. He gave a very succinct but engrossing presentation on SEO and Google resources such as Schema, Google Trends, Analytics & Search Console. All free tools you can use to make ranking your website with that platform easier.
Pluto was right, and then some

During his presentation Scott shared a quote from Pluto with an addendum that I thought was brilliant. Pluto said, those who tell the stories rule society. Scott added, those who tell the stories rule the market share and he’s so right.

In our conversation after his presentation, he elaborated further on that as well as shared why he believes businesses should invest in the digital space.

There’s a year over year shift of people purchasing from brick and mortar retail to purchasing online and that shift continues to grow and so what we’re seeing is a future where there won’t be brick and mortar stores any more. People will make their decisions online and have their product shipped directly to their home.”
You can watch my interview with Scott below and find him online here.
Dept. Supt. Warren Williams, Digital Communications & Cyber Security Expert
Image courtesy of Coolmarket
Dept. Supt. Williams official title is Head of the Communications Forensic and Cyber Crimes Division of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Williams delivered a jaw dropping, mind boggling presentation which really served to drive home the point about how absolutely diabolic people can be online. And, how easy we make it for them to either steal our identity, money or reputation, just by how careless we are with the information we share online.

The Jamaican whitehat expert

As Jamaicans would say, it was a proper drape up, a slap in the face, a ‘am I getting through to you yet’? Kinda presentation that left some people legit scared. But, cybersecurity is a serious issue and an integral part of any digital conversation.

The more we become technologically and digitally integrated the more exposed we can become. But, as far as Dept. Supt. Williams is concerned that threat shouldn’t be a reason to delay the inevitable march towards a digital future.

“… I just want every person to understand that they need to use technology responsibly. Come to forums like these so you can learn how to empower yourself so you know the dos and the don’t. But, have fun with the technology …”
You can watch my interview with Dept. Supt. Williams below.
Astha Kalbag, Facebook Ads Expert & Blogger at Mooketing.com
Image courtesy of Coolmarket
Astha is the Principal at Mooketing.com a digital marketing blog with readership in over 130 countries. She is also Facebook’s Marketing Science Expert.

Astha’s presentation though short was focused on what’s necessary for successfully marketing on Facebook. This was particularly useful because Facebook is the most used social platform in Jamaica. And, if digital marketing is about meeting people where they are online, that’s a good place to start.

The two ingredients necessary for a successful marketing campaign on Facebook

However, it’s not just bout posting random things and hoping something sticks, according to Astha there are two things that you must pay attention to.

” … I think the most important pillars in terms of what is the right mix of ingredients to get something right is two things, it is the creative and the audience …”
You can watch my interview with Astha below and find him online here.
Coolmarket Leading The Conversation
Image courtesy of Coolmarket
“allies and advocates aren’t always going to act out of altruism, more often than not they have a dog in the fight.”
For some time now Caribben states have been engaged in what feels like a protracted conversation about the digital economy with no real actions being taken to get the citizens of our small island states up to speed.

This conference for me felt like the first time Jamaicans had a serious conversation about the digital economy and what exactly are the opportunities that await us if we should engage in it.

Nevertheless, they do have a bigger platform (and a bigger budget, clearly) and that in and of itself makes them more effective that any one person in pushing the conversation forward and for that they have my support.
If that sounds hyperbolic it is intentional, as someone who has been on that soapbox for a while now I was very pleased to see big business getting on board and leading that conversation for a change.

Sure, it is self-serving, Coolmarket is after all a business trying to establish itself as the Amazon of Jamaica, so anything they do is with that intention. However, allies/advocates aren’t always going to act out of altruism, more often than not they have a dog in the fight.

So What About the Expo?
OK, the event wasn’t ALL great and before I get carried away on just how awesome the conference was, there is one and two things I really hope the organizers get right next year. It may have just been me, but it felt as though the expo was an afterthought, like a late addition to the program almost.

What’s interesting was that I was actually looking forward to the expo, I figured if the conference turned out to be a dud (as I had feared) at least I could discover some new digital Jamaican businesses and people to support.

That did not happen, certainly there were really great booths there but nothing of the sort you would expect to see at a cutting edge e-commerce event. That and it felt a bit ‘itch up’ as Jamaicans would say, there wasn’t enough space to really take in a booth and interact without bundling and bumping into other people.

So, to the organizers if you’re going to make the expo a part of the event next year (and I really hope you do), then it really deserves the same bashment treatment and attention to detail the conference itself got.

An e-commerce expo, billed the right way and given the same amount of hype and shine would be a crowd puller in and of itself. It didn’t quite get there this time, but maybe next year? We shall see.

Big topics need full ventilation

It is my humble opinion that a conference of this magnitude needs more room to expand and fully ventilate the conversation on digital Jamaica and everything that that concerns.

Any significant move away from the traditional systems to tech and digital integrated systems will affect just about everything. Therefore, a more robust discussion is needed to fully ventilate all the topical issues such as:

  • Legal and policy framework surrounding data collection, protection and mining
  • Taxation on digital trading
  • Distribution & Customer Service
  • Digital Currency, Cryptocurrency
  • Digital Education in Schools
  • Banking
  • Infrastructure
This is just the tip of the iceberg, because we have yet to talk about the core factors that can really ground any progress in this regard like mindset and cultural shifts.

In a podcast conversation I had recently with Matthew Cowen, Digital Transformation Strategist he shared that one of the reasons why people are reluctant to embrace the tech and digital space is the fast pace at which things change and the displacement that can cause.

I would suggest maybe a two-day event next year with more speakers who can address the nuances and diversity that accompanies such a grand conversation.

A great show overall

That said, congratulations are in order to Mrs. Reynolds and her team for a great first-staging and I look forward to an even bigger engagement next year.

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