The Global eCommerce Opportunity

At Forrester, we've recently launched playbooks on topics such as Agile Commerce, Retail eCommerce, and B2B eCommerce. We are now getting underway with an eCommerce globalization playbook: Our first report on The Global eCommerce Opportunity (subtitle Landscape: The eCommerce Globalization Playbook) just went live. In the report, we discuss topics such as:

Which regions of the world are top of mind for brands today. The idea of a globally connected world is appealing, yet we are very much at the early stages of international expansion when it comes to eCommerce.** We look at typical global expansion paths and which regions are seeing an influx of new eCommerce initiatives. US and European retailers have tended to expand into each other’s regions first with an eCommerce offering – increasingly, however, both US and European brands are taking a much more Asia-centric approach. Coach, for example, only offers eCommerce-enabled sites in the US, Canada, China, and Japan.

What drives brands to explore an increasing number of global markets. Global eCommerce expansion initiatives are driven by far more than just market size. Contributing to the decision are a variety of factors, including the maturity of the eCommerce ecosystem in each country. These ecosystems are developing rapidly: eCommerce solution providers are increasingly developing in-country expertise across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America; payment service providers are adding payment options for a growing number countries; logistics providers are boosting their ability to reach customers in different countries reliably and cost-effectively. The easier it is to identify trusted local partners, the less daunting the market entry.

How today’s approach to international expansion looks different than in the past. Last week in a blog post, I mentioned that there is much interest in targeting online shoppers around the globe with a variety of approaches, ranging from direct-to-consumer websites with local fulfillment to online marketplaces to international shipping. Other changes in approach include the migration to a single platform to power all global eCommerce sites and a shift in control of global sites to a centralized team (while ensuring local offices provide insights to mantain locally relevant offerings).

Which factors tend to trip up companies' global expansion efforts. Our survey of eBusiness professionals shows that the biggest challenge for B2C companies expanding internationally is a lack of technology partners to support them; for B2B companies, it’s difficulty getting budget for international initiatives. We identify some of the mistakes companies make when launching new global initiatives, such as assuming unrealistic – oftentimes less than one year – payback periods with these new offerings.

I welcome your thoughts on the shifting global eCommerce opportunity.

**Anyone interested in the actual pace of globalization would do well to read the research of Pankaj Ghemawat, who has challenged the notion that the world is as global as many of us would believe.