Former Vice President Al Gore presented a 30-minute keynote address earlier this month at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago, topping off what was an excellent show. As a long-time champion of e-Commerce, Mr. Gore’s appearance at IRCE 2013 marks his continued passion for the industry and a globalized economy. At the heart of Mr. Gore’s speech was his conviction that eCommerce is poised to experience tremendous growth because of two driving forces: 1) The decline of the “dumb phone” and the accelerated proliferation of smartphones and mobile devices around the world that are connected to the Internet 2) The growing middle class, globally Mr. Gore provided the IRCE crowd with a good idea of exactly how large the global network of smartphones and mobile devices is and how much it’s expected to grow. The explosion in the number of people that use Internet-enabled mobile devices is significant in many ways, not the least of which Mr. Gore pointed out can be explained by Metcalfe’s law – that the value of a network increases by the square of the people connected to it. So if you double the connectivity of people in any given place, the network receives four times the benefit. The implication for eTailers is clear: doubling the size of Internet-enabled shoppers has the potential to more than double eCommerce sales. Mr. Gore also spoke at length about the growing global middle class, and according to his research, this growing number of people holds the buying power that will drive eCommerce. Mr. Gore estimated the global middle class presently accounts for two billion of the seven billion people on Earth. His expectation is that this middle class will double to four billion people in the next 10 years! Finally, and most importantly for U.S.-based eTailers, Mr. Gore told retailers that their customers are looking to them to be socially and environmentally conscious and that consumers will buy more from retailers that have a similar value system to them. According to Mr. Gore, connecting more deeply with customers is key to future success, and he is convinced that obtaining, converting and retaining customers would be significantly enhanced using this approach. It is an exciting time in eCommerce. Not only is the number of possible customers around the world exploding, presenting new, untapped markets with money to spend, but even within the home markets in developed countries, eTailers are well-situated to deepen customer relationships through responsible business practices.