Advertising master: China to rule e-commerce

By Ted Fackler (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-02-01 07:33

E-commerce is about to explode in China, Eric Buskirk says. And he wants to help lead the change.

He relocated his company, which coordinates Internet advertising, to Beijing about a year and a half ago after starting in California and Nevada.

But succeeding in the China market isn't quite the walk in the park that some Western businesses think.

In the past year, industry juggernauts such as Yahoo and eBay have handed their operations over to Chinese partners. The most notably was eBay, which affiliated with Tom Online in December.

But where US industry titans have failed, Buskirk sees hope. And part of the key is helping China find the way.

"Chinese computer engineers can code circles around you," said Buskirk, referring to his 20-plus Beijing employees at Verican Inc. But communication is very difficult. Yet perhaps the greatest difficulty is instructing his new employees on how he thinks e-commerce ought to operate.

In Beijing, e-commerce is still in an embryonic stage, Buskirk said.

"E-commerce in Beijing is where you purchase a book over the Internet, then some kid puts that book on his bike and shows up with at your front door with an invoice for 50 yuan ($6.41)," Buskirk said.

He added that it's stimulating to be able to tell Chinese consumers where they will be in 12 months.

With the introduction of new technology into China, the possibilities of e-commerce are endless, said Buskirk.

"When I think of the new iPhone, I think very pragmatically," Buskirk said. "How can (newspaper) stories be delivered to your iPhone with advertisements?" For instance, he said, a restaurant could have messages sent out at 2 pm every day advertising a 25 percent discount."

This is where the iPhone and e-commerce can merge to create up-to-the-minute advertisements. Soon, any foreigner can be notified about events at, and get discounts to, a favorite restaurant, shopping mall or nightclub.

Buskirk's interest in the China market began as a passion for travel from Kenya to Indonesia to the United Kingdom and it mushroomed into a profitable business.

Now his travel is less about leisure and more about establishing business partnerships. In the past 18 months, Buskirk, an Arizona native, has made nine flights back and forth between San Francisco, Verican's base city, and Beijing.

"I always wanted to work outside the US," he said, smiling. "I always wanted to expand outside of the West."

In an age where Time Magazine named You as its Person of the Year, it's obvious to Buskirk that consumer demands and innovations will have far more influence than any multinational company.

(China Daily 02/01/2007 page5)

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