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E-commerce pro sees focus shift to ROI

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Name: Joel Ronning
Title: CEO
Company: Digital River Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn.
As a University of Minnesota student, Joel Ronning had a reputation as an innovator and a competitor. Not only did he race sailboats, but he was also earning $15,000 a month from a software program he wrote to track down hard-to-find Mercedes-Benzes for dealers. When he isn’t at his latest venture, Digital River Inc., a provider of e-commerce solutions with clients such as 3M Co. and Hewlett-Packard Co., Ronning can be found in sailboat races on nearby Lake Minnetonka.

BtoB:What was the most significant trend in e-commerce this year?

Ronning: A huge shift to profitability... There’s a huge emphasis on ROI [return on investment]; a year ago, there was a huge emphasis on getting there and not being left behind. We’ve seen everybody being a little more thoughtful about how much they spend and how many partners they want engaged. It’s the first time in four years that we’ve heard that level of emphasis on ROI.

BtoB:What’s on the horizon in 2001?

Ronning: A lot more emphasis on e-marketing and a deeper integration into the enterprise. Up to now, companies have always thought of the marketing side as the tail end of the dog, and I think a lot are now starting to look at that as the dog. That’s what they concentrate on first rather than all of the aspects of the technology. We’re getting a lot of clients saying 'What is this campaign going to do for us?' versus 'How cool will this technology look?' Clients are really starting to understand that technology is just a tool and that the Internet is just a channel.

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