Some Thoughts On FiftyOne's Acquisition Of Borderfree

FiftyOne, the company that provides globalization and international logistics services to US-based online retailers such as Gap, Pottery Barn, and Crate & Barrel, announced today that it is acquiring Canada Post’s Borderfree unit. Borderfree, one of the first organizations to play a role in driving cross-border eCommerce, carved out a niche for itself helping US online retailers target online shoppers in Canada.  

A few observations:

The acquisition does not disrupt the landscape of solution providers. With this acquisition, FiftyOne boosts its Canadian offerings and takes a small competitor out of the market, but the acquisition does not counter any direct threat from another solution provider in the space. Other providers tend to focus on different market segments, for example, International Checkout counts hundreds of clients in the SMB space, while BorderJump focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean (For an outline of different vendors, clients can read our 2011 report on Using International Shipping To Reach Online Shoppers Around The Globe). Today FiftyOne does not face another rival with the same roster of large clients.

Canada will continue to be a key market for FiftyOne. Canada ranks as the largest market for FiftyOne’s clients, outpacing much larger eCommerce markets like the UK. Canadian shoppers frequently buy from US websites given the greater breadth and depth of online retailers south of the border. Indeed, a survey we conducted in Canada showed that 30% of all adults in Canada had ordered from a US online retailer in the past year. FiftyOne’s acquisition of Borderfree will supplement its offerings in Canada, reducing shipping costs for Canadian online shoppers and enabling large products such as furniture to be shipped cross-border.

Online retailers today want to blanket the globe with their products – not focus on a single country. Borderfree marketed itself as a specialist in the Canadian market, and indeed, there were no comparable players with this level of expertise in Canada. However, increasingly, large online retailers shipping internationally are looking to attract consumers from more than just a single country. FiftyOne offers online retailers the ability to reach consumers in 106 countries; some of the other providers promise upward of 200. US consumer brands are using international shipping as a way to gauge demand for their products in different countries – by shipping to multiple countries rather than focusing on just one, companies hope to get a relative sense of demand to help them prioritize different markets going forward.

Comments

Let me give you a Canadian

Let me give you a Canadian perspective on this acquisition.

You said: "With this acquisition, FiftyOne boosts its Canadian offerings and takes a small competitor out of the market, but the acquisition does not counter any direct threat from another solution provider in the space."

From the Canadian point of view, Borderfree was an entirely Canadian company and it provided great service to Canadians. It was not "a small competitor", as you say, it was all that we had! Now, we no longer control our main portal into the US market. I doubt that this will protect Canadians best interests. You can't talk about this subject without acknowledging Borderfrees relationship with Canada Post. Borderfree was a business unit of Canada Post (a federal Crown Corporation) so I have to question the current Canadian governments sanity in selling-off a profitable Canadian-based service that put Canadians first. I suspect that once the current Harper government is sent packing after the next election, we will see Canada Post (a key element in the FiftyOne business process) revert back to offering a Canadian-based Borderfree service.