Notes from the November 1st Built In Chicago Digital Leaders Lunch

November 3, 2011

One of the many ways we are trying to bring the digital community closer together is to hold events that give people an opportunity to get to to know their peers and then use those events as a vehicle to encourage connections with the broader community.  This activity is consistent with our mission to connect, educate and promote the digital community in Chicago. 


In this spirit back in August we organized an event for digital CEOs/founders and venture capitalists. We invited about 150 people and had 100+ people attend.  Many of the attendees have never met each other and the feedback was very positive. So we decided to make the gathering a quarterly event.  Curating these kind of events can be challenging.  We wanted to keep it interesting and fresh so with our second one, held this week, we decided to address the often heard feedback that there need to better connections between the larger corporations in Chicago and the early and later stage digital companies. 


To this end we targeted the eCommerce leaders from five of Chicago's leading companies and they all agreed to attend, present and hopefully become a permanent part of the group.   I took a few notes and we had someone taking pictures and I thought I would share both. Thank you to all the presenters.  We deeply appreciate you taking the time and all of us welcome the chance to build a larger and more successful digital community with you. 


World Business Chicago - Michael Sacks, Vice Chairman

  • Appointment to this role by Mayor Emanuel
  • Has put together an incredible board 
  • Putting together a economic development plan for the city
  • Focused on making Chicago a global magnet for business
  • Views technology and entrepreneurship as critical to our success
  • Is actively engaging the digital technology community in his efforts


Discover Financial Services -  Mike Boush - VP of e-Business

  • 32 million log ins a month
  • They send 1 million e-mails a day
  • 1 in 4 households have a Discover card
  • Both banking and payments are rapidly evolving and Discover is at the center of both
  • Discover has 1900 technical people and more than 200 dedicated to eCommerce
  • Focused on M&A: looking for platforms they can leverage in the payments space


Walgreens - Sona Chawla, President of eCommerce

  • Founded in 1901 with 7,700 stores
  • 2/3 of Americans live within 4 miles of a Walgreens
  • $72 billion in revenue (wow!)
  • Move from traditional retail to retail health and daily living
  • They look at eCommerce as both a business and a platform
  • Their acquisition of more than doubled their digital staff
  • 500+ people on the eCommerce team 
  • Mobile is huge for them.  Big area of focus
  • They just launched web to store pick up


Hyatt - Bill Bernahl - VP of eCommerce

  • 450 hotels
  • Digital is helping drive distribution costs down
  • They have about 2 million transactions a year through
  • 7 million vistors each month 
  • $500 million in revenue
  • Social/Local/Mobile plays very well into their strengths
  • Investing in Mobile, Social and Global
  • Mobile: Customer Experience-emphasis on contextual experience while traveling. 
  • Launching an iPhone app any day 
  • Social: See conversation tools to build rich FB presence, currently 9 Brand FB presence with 200 hotel offerings? 
  • Global: Working with Adobe- Hyatt info in 7 different languages 


Crate & Barrel - John Seebeck, VP of eCommerce 

  • 50 years old
  • They help transform the house into a home
  • And help people create something beautiful
  • 32% of their sales are eCommerce.  Will be 40% in two years
  • They have made eCommerce an operating division rather than part of marketing
  • In 2012 they are upping their investment in analytics and insight
  • Just one test last year yielded a 6% increase in check out conversion 
  • SEO, On site search and 3D technologies are on tap for 2012
  • They will be trying out some social/group buying ideas next year



 United - Scott Wilson , Managing Director for eCommerce

  • 90+ years old but they think of themselves as an IT company with wings
  • 400,000 passengers a day
  • Interact with each one 7x via digital touch points every time they fly
  • 99% of their check ins are digital
  • They are really focused on improving the customer experience vs montization or cost reduction


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