This past weekend was the first annual Ecommerce Hack Day in New York organized by Dwolla and Etsy with support from many other companies. I was delighted to be a judge as there were a lot of talented folks working hard on building interesting ecommerce hacks. Here are some of my takeaways from the weekend.
First, there are tons of exciting APIs that people can use to build new ecommerce experiences. Marketplaces such as Etsy and eBay have APISs. So do ecommerce sites such as Amazon and Zappos. And of course payment providers including WePay and Dwolla. Of course there are the infrastructure API providers such as Iron.io and Twilio. And then there are the some highly specific APIs, such as Terapeak (price data) and Sincerely (send postcards). Many of the hacks combined multiple of these APIs in interesting ways.
Second, it really helps to have a designer on the team, especially if you are doing any consumer facing hack. ShopPapaya, the team that won second prize had used the Terapeak API to create a really compelling consumer experience for looking at price history for items. From nothing when they arrived on Saturday they created something that could be released into the wild (and hopefully will be).
Third, we are still at the beginning of the mobile revolution for ecommerce. At least half the hacks had a mobile component to them. The included the third prize winner Dollarly which showed using a Tweet reply to buy an item. As an aside, being able to project from a phone is pretty critical if you want to demo a mobile hack to a large audience — short of that it’s best to run an emulator and project that. As an other aside, clearly mobile development times are still longer than web where something like Bootstrap really gets things going quickly.
Fourth, it was great to see several people who created hacks that made it intentionally harder to buy things as opposed to easier. For instance, IWantIt let people make a downpayment that would get routed to charity if friends thought they did not really need this item (I think the incentives are off on that one but never mind, I applaud the creativity).
Finally, the winner MissNev tackled a problem that we all have: The dreaded UPS or FedEx slip on the door that shows you weren’t home when your much anticipated order arrived. What they hacked together was a system that lets me find nearby stores and restaurants that would accept the package in return for some payment (or purchase). Given how much more will be delivered in the future that seems like a need that will only go up.
All in all it seems like a great time was had by the participants. A big thank you to the organizers and sponsors (scroll to bottom of page)!