E180: Phil Leahy Talks about Retail Global Las Vegas

I always look forward to joining ecommerce conferences. It’s a great place to meet up with old friends and network with new people. Many of those I’ve met at these events have become guests on this podcast. Phil Leahy is no different.

An ecommerce veteran, he built one of the largest eBay businesses retailing CDs & DVDs. He was the #1 eBay seller in Australia for a number of years. Somewhere along the way, he founded the Retail Global conference. Today, his company Retail Global Events is hosting these conferences in Australia and the United States.

Phil and I met at the Global Sources Summit in Hong Kong. He approached me after my presentation and invited me to come and speak at Retail Global Las Vegas next month. In turn, I’ve asked him to come on the show to give us information about this much-awaited gathering of ecommerce influencers, sellers, and online marketplace representatives.

With that, here are some takeaways from the talk that we had.

How did Retail Global start?

Retail Global, formerly known as The Internet Conference, started around 13 years ago to address the need of having a local conference in Australia where online sellers can share information freely. Its initial aim was to help people sell successfully on eBay but has since morphed into ecommerce, eventually including discussions and workshops for today’s biggest marketplace, Amazon. It wasn’t until four years ago that Phil was able to bring Retail Global to American shores. The year 2012 marked the first Retail Global Las Vegas conference.

Now more than a decade later, both Retail Global conferences in Australia and the United States are attended by hundreds of ecommerce entrepreneurs from across the globe. Some of the biggest industry influencers and ecommerce success stories will be speaking at these events.

Stats for Retail Global Las Vegas

  • 75 speakers
  • 50 exhibitors
  • 5 different sessions running concurrently
  • 2 marketplace streams centered around eBay and Amazon
  • Keynote speakers include Sean Dollinger, CEO of Namaste Technologies and Bob Schwartz, Founding President of Magento & Nordstrom.com, who will also serve as the conference MC
  • Amazon and eBay will be speaking at the event and will set up exhibition booths as well
  • 20% average increase in turnover for ecommerce sellers who have attended the event and used what they learned to scale their business

We wrap up this session with Phil offering listeners a simple but potent ecommerce tip. He urges other online sellers to include a small gift when shipping out a customer’s purchase. “Surprise, delight, aftersale and don’t advertise it,” he says.

Retail Global Las Vegas will be happening at Planet Hollywood on October 9-11. Use the code for ECOM200 to get $200 off your ticket.

Other Useful Resources:

EcomCrew Premium

As always, thanks for listening to this episode! If you enjoyed listening and think this episode has been useful to you, please take a moment to leave us a review on iTunes.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. Happy selling!

Full Audio Transcript

Mike: This is Mike and welcome to episode number 180 of the EcomCrew Podcast. You can go to EcomCrew.com/180 to get to the show notes for this episode. Today I have Phil Leahy from Retail Global on the show with me. I'm going to be speaking at Retail Global coming up here in early October, along with the Rhodium weekend as well. I’ll also be speaking at that the same week in Las Vegas. So it's really convenient for me. It's kind of a homecoming for me. I used to live in Las Vegas. I mentioned that here in this episode, get to stay at some friend’s house instead of having to stay in hotel, and just in between the two shows I can hang out with them.

So I don't have to wait in a hotel room for time to go by, or even worse, end up at a blackjack table and lose a bunch of money as I'm waiting for time to go by. Typically when I — because I've lived in Vegas, when I'm there hanging out with friends, I never even go in a casino. That's the last thing on my mind. It's more about hanging out with them and go into some shows or go into a movie or just laying on the couch with them and watching TV or remember the good old days when I could just walk down the street and hang out with them, so definitely looking forward to that.

But yeah, there's a bunch of about Retail Global in this episode. Phil has also some tips. Stay tuned to the end. There's also a $200 discount code for Retail Global just for EcomCrew members. So, wait for that at the end. I mention the code there. And without further ado, let's hop right on into this episode.

Mike: Hey Phil, welcome to the EcomCrew Podcast man.

Phil: Hey Mike. How are you?

Mike: I'm doing great. This is a weird. This is the only the second time that I've had to restart a podcast ever. We are like 175 episodes into this thing, and I just — I realized how thirsty I was, I couldn’t even say the word Ecom without stuttering, so it was kind of weird. But I'm doing good. I'm just getting over a cold which is probably the reason, more reason why than anything. But feeling much better now and really looking forward to speaking at Retail Global this year.

Phil: We're looking forward to having you.

Mike: So we first met at Global Sources, I kind of think we met at Global Sources and in Hong Kong. I had…

Phil: In Hong Kong.

Mike: Yeah, I just got done speaking and before I could even get to the back of the room, you walked up to me and introduced yourself. You were like I need you to come speak at Retail Global, so that's how it all happened.

Phil: Yeah, well we go far and wide looking for our speakers that's for sure.

Mike: Well, now you reached the end of the earth to the point where you're looking for me. But yeah, let's — I think that we try to get everyone on. When I go speak at events, we try to get those people on and talk about their events. And obviously I heard a lot of really great things about Retail Global. So I wanted to give you an opportunity to come chat about that. And we'll save this to the end. But we have a special $200 off gift card as well or discount code, whatever you want to call it. So, we'll share that at the end. So anybody that's interested in coming to Retail Global, if you use our code, you'll get 200 bucks off the admission price. So that's pretty cool. So I appreciate you doing that for our community. But let's just start off by talking about you. What is Retail Global? Why did you start it and what's it all about?

Phil: So, Retail Global started actually in Australia around seven years ago. And I was a marketplace seller. I was selling products, so media products on eBay. I was the number one eBay seller in Australia out of all categories and a top five Amazon seller. I think I was one of the first Australian Amazon sellers to sell into the UK. So, there were no conferences at the time. I had to come to America to learn and network with other sellers to get information, and that's what really helped me scale my business.

So, I launched the event back then to help others who were sort of trying to sell on eBay. And then over the years, it's morphed into e commerce and direct to anyone website. And about four years ago, we launched Retail Global Las Vegas due to demand from basically our speakers and others who came out from the US saying that we should replicate what we had in Australia. So that's how it started.

Mike: Cool. So you do two of these a year then, right? You do like about six months apart, one in Australia, one in Vegas?

Phil: That's correct. Yes. So we do our show in Australia in May. And this is the Las Vegas show coming up on October 9 to 11.

Mike: Perfect, awesome. And so I mean, it sounds like you've been around forever. Because I also sold on eBay in the early days, which I mean I'm embarrassed. It's going to date both of us. But it was like 1996, I believe. So I mean, is that when you started Retail Global Australian, is it that long or when did you get started with that?

Phil: You are early. I started in 2001.

Mike: Okay.

Phil: Yeah, in November 2001.

Mike: Interesting. And then what about Retail Global, when did that fire up in the Australia version of it?

Phil: Well, I think it was around 2005, we kicked it off. And it kicked off as an eBay summit if you like. And then over the years, it morphed. We came up with the name Retail Global about three years ago and changed our name to that. We used to be the internet conference before that.

Mike: Got you.

Phil: Yeah, so that's the history.

Mike: And I'm just curious like how many people are you expecting for like attendees in the Vegas session in October?

Mike: So we are around 800 people. It's a good size group, so everyone can really connect and we have around 50 exhibitors at the show. So and they've really handpicked the exhibitors who are really most relevant for marketplace sellers.

Mike: Got you and those 800 people, are they all in one room at one time the entire event, or do you have breakout sessions and things of that nature?

Phil: Yeah we split it out. We've got five different sessions running concurrently. We have two marketplace streams which is really around the Amazon eBay ecosystems with some others from Bonanza and some other discussions. And then we have a cross border expert spotlight stream which is encouraging US retailers to look for new markets and how to do that. And then we have a stream dedicated to tools, so what do we have available in the marketplace to help sellers scale their business and automate. And then we have a marketing and social stream dedicated to driving traffic to one's website.

Mike: Got you. Okay. And then do you have keynotes as well where everyone does come into one room at a certain point, or is it all in these different streams?

Phil: Yeah, we have keynotes from day one, two, and three in the main room. So we bring everyone into the main room for those sessions. We also have in the main room a thing we call A pitch which is an interesting session where we have five vendors spend five minutes pitching their product or service. It's sort of a game show style 45 minute session. And then we have the audience pick a winner out of that. So, that's a great education piece to see what's out there as well.

Mike: Got you. Cool. And then I mean for those keynotes, who's going to be some of the people keynoting in the Vegas session?

Phil: Yeah, so some of the keynotes, we've still got some announcements to come which is exciting. We've got Lee McCabe who's the vice president North America from the Alibaba Group; we have Sean Dollinger who is from Namaste Technologies which is an interesting story. Namaste started off as a vape company, they’re one of the largest in the world. They have been acquiring vape businesses round around the world. And now they're leading the charge in Canada on pot distribution so an interesting story. They floated on the New York Stock Exchange in December for around 26 cents. And I looked last night, I haven't looked today, but it's around $2.40 trading and not a year yet, a great story.

Mike: 10x.

Phil: Yeah, 10x. I think market cap of about 800 mil in May. And so, these guys came from the trenches, from selling on eBay and Amazon and now they're running close to being dollar companies. And a bunch of others, Nicole Reyhle who was on the [inaudible 00:09:09] number three in the world for retail influences, yeah and a bunch of ours which we will announce in the coming days.

Mike: I didn't hear my name on that list, so before we can get that going and I submitted in May.

Phil: Yeah, yeah. Well, we got you on the strain, that just shows how powerful you are, the man that we’ve got, our MC of the event. Just to give you credibility in the background of the amazing people we've got, we've got Bob Schwartz, who is the founder of Nordstrom.com and the founding president of Magenta. So, we're lucky to have such talent in one place.

Mike: Very cool. Yeah, I'm definitely like — one of the things that's my favorite thing why I like to come speak at these events is to meet people like you and all the other speakers. So I mean at Global Sources a perfect example, I was able to meet you there and I met 20 other people that a lot of them became podcast guests, and it's just the same thing in like Ecommerce Fuel and Sellers Summit where I speak and Ecommerce All Stars, Ezra’s event. And you just meet all these amazing smart people that are there and it's just a great networking opportunity.

Phil: Yeah it is. It really does help you take your business further when you get to share information and stories with these sort of people.

Mike: Yeah no doubt about it. So, let's try to sell our audience on Retail Global. It's a month away. It's in Las Vegas. This is — our audience is pretty wide variety shockingly. We've been able to do some research at this point just from talking to people, and also we have our premium membership now where we can talk to people a lot more. And it really runs the gamut of people who literally haven't sold anything online yet. They're just getting started, they're kind of a budding entrepreneur, budding online seller to some people that we work with are larger than we are. They're eight figure sellers. So, obviously a wide range there, but people that are listening this podcast, why should they come to Retail Global? What are they going to get out of it?

Phil: Well, Retail Global is built on the foundation of sharing information without fear. And we really work hard to get business owners and people are actually at the coalface of selling online to put them on stage and have them share their stories and do it without fear, because in order to receive you got to give. And my experience from — and one of the reasons I got into this business was that I know what a great benefit it is attending these events. When I first started going to conferences, I knew nothing, or basically knew shit. And I actually took pride in trying to be the dumbest person in the room. And I think that that's the best way to learn.

Sometimes you get to — especially when you're starting out, you might walk in, and you just can be overwhelmed with the information. But that's incredibly important. You can save so much time by learning from others and listening to others and also networking, and building relationships with people who are in the industry. So that's the number one reason. And also to get away from your business for three days to work on it, to think about it and to come up with lists of priorities that you want to implement and then going away and implementing those things for the benefit of your business and everyone, your employee, I guess.

Mike: Yeah, and it really only takes one big takeaway from an event to really make it worthwhile. I found that every single event that I've been to even ones that I thought weren't as good as others, I've been able to take away at least one thing that's made a massive impact on our business. And obviously, as we get larger, that impact is even bigger, because it's just 10% of 100,000, a lot less than 10% of 10 million, right? So as you get bigger, it can make a big difference.

And that's definitely been the thing for me. It's just a matter of picking and choosing wisely, because I think that you can only physically attend so many of these things. There's so many different conferences out there. And one of the reason I'm excited to speak at Retail Global; I've heard just such awesome things about it. I mean, it's one of the ones that's like kind of premier conferences that I've always been looking forward to speaking at. So I'm pretty excited.

Phil: Yeah. It can be a one percenter or it can be a 10 percenter and you never know it could be higher than that. We’ve researched, we've done some research survey work with some of our past attendees and we get an average when we ask them what in terms of turnover, how much would you attribute to attending the conference? And we get an average of around 19% say increase in turnover, which is incredible. Some people say, well, too big to quantify, over 100%, some people say 5%, some people say 2%, but to have an average of around 20% is pretty phenomenal.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. That's awesome. So I'm curious because I again, I don't know a lot of the details of your conference to compare to some of the others. Do you guys have workshops and stuff like that as well, or is it mostly just keynotes and breakout sessions?

Phil: Yeah, we do run a number of workshops. And workshops are great because they're five hour intensive and you can really drill down to a given subject. So just say you'd really want to know more about Facebook marketing that was not your strongest card, we've got a workshop you with John Lawson doing that. If you're an Amazon seller wanting to really understand eBay, well there we've got an eBay session with two experts, Tim Davies and Kathy Terrill who are just amazing in the space. And then we've got a couple of some focused on Amazon, so high level Amazon. Also one which is basically on importing and going into China and looking for new suppliers, so an intensive on that and then another workshop around private label.

So there's lots going on and we encourage people to get in there for the first day and take advantage of those workshops because they're great and intensive and we get great responses from the teachers we’ve selected for these workshops.

Mike: All right cool. So it sounds like the event is three days long, that the first day is going to be just workshops and then the other two days are talks. Is that the way the format of it works?

Phil: Pretty much. We kick off the first day with workshops in the morning, and then the first keynote start around 3:30 on that first day. So, we introduce a few of our keynotes. And then we have a welcome reception and some finger food in the exhibition hall following those keynotes.

Mike: Excellent, I'll make sure I'm there for that.

Phil: Yeah.

Mike: So the way that the tickets work then, are the workshops like an add on like an extra cost, or is everything all inclusive under one roof? How does that work?

Phil: Yeah, the workshops would be on the add ons. So if you want to take those intensives, they’re an extra charge but everything else is included, so you get complete access to all the agenda over the three days.

Mike: Got you. And it sounds like just based on the schedule here that you can only pick one workshop, that it wouldn't be physically possible to be in two different workshops?

Phil: No, no, there's too much choice and that's one of the complaints we get.

Mike: Got you okay cool. So the dates again were the 9th, 10th, and 11th in Las Vegas. We didn't talk about the venue yet, so you want to talk about that just a little bit?

Phil: Sure, we're at Planet Hollywood with last year at Rio for a couple of years, and before that we kicked off at Flamingo. So, it's great to have a — it's a beautiful venue, it's close to everything. So, you don't have to stay at Planet Hollywood of course, but it's on the monorail line so you can actually stay anywhere and get to it pretty easily.

Mike: Yeah. I used to live in Las Vegas, a little known trivia fact for me. Planet Hollywood is definitely the nicest of those others three and it's really centrally located. Again, as you said, it is right on the monorail so you can stay at one of the cheaper hotels if you're on a budget and just monorail down for like five bucks or whatever it is.

Phil: And if you're a high flyer like some of our speakers, they tend to like the cosmopolitan across the road, then you can walk straight across.

Mike: and the Cosmo in the area is definitely my favorite place. But I'm lucky. I get to stay at a friend's house. I’m actually looking forward to it. So good excuse for us to go to Vegas and hang out with them because like I said, we lived there for a number of years. And Vegas is kind of a second home for us still in some ways, because we have so many friends there. So for me, it's like it works out great.

Phil: Brilliant.

Mike: Cool, so any other any other things to talk about? I think maybe a really cool thing here if you have some stuff up top your head is just some of the maybe three to five popular topics, like things that seem to be kind of really resonated right now with people that are looking forward to come into this thing.

Phil: Sure. Well, I think one of the big things at the moment is tax implications for the online seller community. There is — it's sort of basically the announcement has thrown everyone into a spin; we’re actually running two stations on that with some experts, Michael Fleming who's an accountant, Paul Rafelson. We've got service providers also at the show offering solutions to help automate this process. So, that's been a big topic for sellers this year. And then again chat bots is another area of marketing, which is presenting a great opportunity. We've had some great responses to the content we've put out around that.

So, yeah, they're two of the subjects and then of course really try to understand the international opportunity. We have a number of sessions around that where we put panels together for sellers who are actually doing it, yeah, a bunch of other topics. I think we've got over 75 speakers on the agenda with five streams. So it's quite intensive the amount of topics we've got. That's the great thing about it. The biggest complaint we do have is that, hey, there were two things on during the same time I wanted to see, but I can only choose one. So we try to make that plenty of choice for sellers to choose a topic, and yeah plenty of content to choose from.

Mike: Yeah very cool. And obviously like my talk will incorporate the chat bot portion of it. I talk about the trifecta on our podcast all the time getting people on Facebook Messenger list, getting them pixelled, getting their email address and then marketing to them over a longer period of time. So that's one of the things that I’ll be speaking about in my talk. So I think that again Facebook Messenger, Facebook bots are a big key thing. You also mentioned international selling opportunities. I'm curious to break into that a little bit because that's something else we've talked about on the podcast quite a bit. So I mean, is that basically geared towards US based sellers getting into marketplaces like the UK, Canada, Australia, or is there a different angle to it than that?

Phil: Yeah, that's absolutely the case and using marketplaces to acquire new customers, and also to test new markets. We find that to be the best strategy, especially for smaller sellers wanting to test their products or have a look at those opportunities. So, that's exactly what we espouse. And also the opportunity brands have in selling into China and other places like that as well in a more technical and challenging environment.

Mike: Yeah, very cool. Excellent, so I mentioned at the beginning of the show here that we have a $200 discount for anybody that attends. So the code is Ecom200, E-C-O-M-2-0-0, so just put that in a checkout. That will take 200 bucks off your ticket. And of course, I'll be there and anybody that’s from EcomCrew land that wants to hang out with me for lunch or dinner, or something, I'll be in Vegas that whole week hanging out with other friends. So, it'll be easy for me to pop down at any time and grab lunch or dinner with anybody in the audience that wants to catch up. But before we sign off, Phil, I want to put you on the spot here real quick. I hope you don't mind.

Phil: Sure. Just before, I also thought to mention that we've got Amazon exhibiting and speaking at the show, and also eBay. So you'll be able to connect directly with the marketplaces on the floor at the event.

Mike: Very cool. Yeah, I'm personally looking forward to shaking someone from Amazon's hand and at least expressing my concern. And I don't know if they'll listen, but I definitely have some things to say to them. And cordially obviously but there's definitely things that I wish that they would get from a seller points of view. And it's not just me as a seller, but lots of other people that I know. So it'll be I think an amazing opportunity for people to have that contact.

Phil: Yeah, totally. I mean having a personal relationship with some of those companies can be phenomenal, and at the very least at least getting your feedback back to the company.

Mike: Yeah no doubt, no doubt. Cool. All right so the top three on the spot here because we always like to provide value to our audience and at least give them something to take away here from besides the fact that they should come to Retail Global, hang out with me, hang out with you and all the other 74 other amazing speakers, that sounds like a 75 total. So I think it obviously is going to be a great event. I’m looking forward to that. But if you have one tip that you would give from an e-commerce point of view or maybe a personal point of view to sellers, people listening to the podcast, what do you have for us?

Phil: One two okay surprise and delight after sale value add. And what I mean by that, I heard a story about a — some years back I heard a story about a car salesman who during the process of the sale would ask the customer key questions about their likes and what they did on the weekend. And after the sale, the salesman would leave a gift in the trunk of the car, and it might be a packet of golf balls so that the person would pick up their new purchase, drive away and then later on, open the boot and find a present in that boot with a personalized note. That is a great way to surprise and delight your customers.

And taking that into an online example would be to also use gifts as value adds. One of the things we did when I was selling DVDs and CDs is in every package. We included a chocolate, a nut free chocolate of course to make sure that we didn’t kill anyone. [inaudible 00:24:58] if you like in each DVD case or in each package. And we got so many comics about the fact that we included the chocolate in the gift that it was phenomenal. So, in terms of we didn't advertise that fact, we just did it. You got to show the customer some love. So, including a sample of another product or finding some sort of a gifting closing inclusion into the packaging can be great.

I know with Amazon it's a bit harder with that but certainly with your own website and certainly with eBay it is a great way to also get them to go direct to you and to look at your offering on your website. So that's my good tip. Surprise delight after sale and don't advertise it.

Mike: Yeah, I love it. I mean, and it's amazing how if you think about someone just buy a $30,000 car or whatever the purchase is and the sales guy leaves a $10 sleeve of golf balls in the trunk. And that's the thing that the guy probably remembers that bought the car and not everything else because this type of thing is so unusual especially in today's day and age, people going the extra mile or writing a handwritten note or thinking about something personal like that. And really it can make a huge impact, I mean like a massive impact on somebody. And the next time they're looking to buy a car, they're probably going to go back to that same guy because it's something that they will remember and think that that guy cares that much more about him, is looking out for him than the next.

It's just a small investment in your future. And the same thing like for more repetitive purchases like CDs or DVDs back when those things were actually relevant. It's funny that you sold DVDs. That's actually what I sold as well on eBay. I sold out of print DVD. So what I did was I found things that were being discontinued and I'd go out and buy all the supply of them as they were being discontinued and then I’d hold on them for six to 12 months and then sell them for two to three x what I paid for them. And it worked out really well, but it's a $20 item and throwing a six cent piece of chocolate in there like you were saying or whatever, again, something special that people don't think about.

And we've done that recently with a couple of things here. We actually had a guy change a one star review to a five star review for us just in the last week because of something personal like this where I wrote him a note and apologized and kind of went above and beyond to fit unannounced or anything. We didn't ask his permission or ask him to update the review or do anything like that. It just people are so surprised when people go out of their way nowadays to do that stuff. I think it can make a massive difference.

Phil: Yeah, I agree totally.

Mike: So awesome.

Phil: Show them you love them.

Mike: Exactly. Cool Phil. Well, we have come to the end of our 30 minute episode here. I appreciate you coming on and doing this today. I appreciate you again having faith in me to come speak there at Retail Global, and I look forward to making this a regular thing and possibly coming over to Australia later next year and speaking over there as well.

Phil: Fantastic. And thank you for your time and thanks for inviting me on the show.

Mike: Of course, travel safe over to the side of the pond and I'll see you soon.

Phil: See you soon.

Mike: And that's a wrap folks. I want to thank Phil Leahy again for coming on the EcomCrew Podcast, so excited to be speaking at Retail Global. Again I've heard really great things about Retail Global. It's one of the premier events in all of e-commerce. It's a large event, so there’s just like so much stuff to pick from. There's going to be a lot of people that I know there, both speaking and attending in the audience, so looking forward to catching up with them in an awesome place like Vegas where we can enjoy a bunch of good meals.

And as I mentioned, if you're an EcomCrew listener and you're going to be in town, let me know. I'll hop out from our a friend’s house over there and I come grab a meal with you, some coffee, whatever it might be, but I’d be definitely good to catch up with EcomCrew community in Las Vegas. So, the code for that $200 off again is ECOM200, Ecom200. That’ll get you 200 bucks off your ticket to Retail Global, which is an amazing savings. And I look forward to seeing you guys there. And until then, happy selling and we'll talk to you soon.

Michael Jackness

Michael started his first business when he was 18 and is a serial entrepreneur. He got his start in the online world way back in 2004 as an affiliate marketer. From there he grew as an SEO expert and has transitioned into ecommerce, running several sites that bring in a total of 7-figures of revenue each year.
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