More Global Themes From Recent Events

The past few weeks have involved travel to a few different events, ranging from eTail Latin America in Miami to Internet Retailer Conference & Expo in Chicago to the Goldman Sachs dotCommerce Day in New York. Rather than summarize the events, all of which were incredibly valuable, I wanted to highlight some themes from conversations I had at these events with brands looking to expand into new markets.

Leading global brands are increasingly aware they need to vary their approach globally. A common assertion in articles about localization is that companies erroneously view Europe or Asia as “one country” and fail to take into account key differences between countries. My experience is that global brands have largely moved beyond this phase: The brands I spoke with are keenly aware that each market is different, and are anxious to understand how they’ll need to adapt their online offering. They may not understand all of the differences inherent in each market, but they know — or are learning — the right questions to ask. The challenge for brands is understanding which parts of their offering really need to change to meet local expectations (and therefore merit the investment required to make the shift) and which offerings will still resonate even if they differ from those provided by local players.

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Welcome Ken Calhoon to Forrester

I am incredibly excited to announce that Ken Calhoon joins Forrester today in our eBusiness consulting practice. Ken has a fantastic background working with different organizations expanding internationally: Most recently he ran his own consulting firm focused on global expansion; prior to that, he spent seven years at eBay in different positions including VP, International Headquarters and VP, International Trust and Safety.

Ken is well known for his insights and thought leadership in the global eCommerce space: I highly recommend reading his recent Harvard Business Review blog post on What US eCommerce Can Learn From Its Global Copycats.

Some additional highlights from Ken’s background:

  • He's worked internationally for twenty years - in twenty countries - and has developed a great network of business experts around the world.
  • He's worked on growth initiatives not only with large companies such as eBay, Mitsubishi, and PayPal, but also smaller ones such as Ancestry.com, Art.com and Blurb.
  • He's helped many companies with strategy and operations, based in the US and the UK, as a Bain & Company consultant.

We are thrilled to have Ken on board!

Non-US Marketplaces For Brands

I’m currently finishing up my presentation for the Internet Retailer Conference & Expo in June: I’ll be presenting on the non-US marketplace options for brands as part of the global eCommerce track. In preparation for the session, I’ve had a chance to catch up with a number of established global online marketplaces for brands as well as agencies helping to develop some of the marketplace storefronts. 

While many North American and European brands are familiar with local marketplace players, it’s worthwhile highlighting just a few key marketplace options originating outside of these two regions:

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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.

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Some global themes from recent events

Over the past month, I’ve had the great fortune of taking part in three fantastic events: Forrester’s own Marketing & Strategy Summit in Shanghai, Demandware’s XChange Conference in Las Vegas, and Borderfree’s (formerly FiftyOne) Global eCommerce Forum here in New York. Several themes around global eCommerce came up in conversations at all three events:

Consumer online spending is driven by more than price in emerging eCommerce markets. In markets like China, it’s well established that consumers use the online channel to bargain-hunt. Yet there’s much discussion of the fact that consumers are moving beyond chasing the lowest prices online – instead, they are looking to trusted online retailers that provide a superior customer experience and guarantee authenticity.

International expansion involves a mix and match of different approaches. It’s now common to see companies taking a variety of approaches to global markets. Brands may operate a series of country-specific websites with local fulfillment, offer a branded store on a marketplace such as Tmall in China, and serve a large number of other markets through an international shipping model.  The one-size-fits-all approach has given way to a more complex set of different global options.

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On Building A Global Digital Team

Executives at digital businesses cite a wide variety of challenges when expanding globally, but “finding the right talent to run our organization” inevitably factors high on their lists.  Yet despite the extensive preparation that goes into international expansion efforts, it’s rare to find companies staffing up far in advance of these initiatives. Some thoughts for digital organizations with increasingly global aspirations:

Think international – even before you are. It’s common to hear of multinational corporations thinking globally when creating content. For example, by avoiding website or marketing content that includes numerous local references, it becomes easier to translate that content into other languages. Executives need to extend this idea of early preparation from content to people as they staff up their teams: If digital leaders know they want to operate in multiple markets going forward, they need to start building teams with global knowledge well before they start their international expansion.

Hire candidates with international experience across the organization. Companies do not need to hire global talent with the sole purpose of contributing to international expansion. To the contrary: Many digital businesses bring in employees with strong language skills and knowledge of different global markets to work in a wide variety of capacities within the organization. A more globally experienced workforce can provide more diverse insights – additionally, as international markets rise in importance, those organizations that have hired and mentored employees with knowledge of these markets will be better positioned for success later. Some smaller vendors, for example, were able to establish a foothold in emerging markets relatively quickly by relying on executives with existing knowledge of these countries to guide their market entry strategies.

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The Globalization of eCommerce in 2013

In 2012, online retailers continued to expand into new geographic areas, with many eyeing eCommerce markets beyond those of North America and Europe. Local partnerships and adaptations were key: In China, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, and eBay all invested in or partnered with local players to expand their footprint in the market. In India, Amazon launched with Junglee, an online shopping service adapted to comply with foreign direct investment restrictions – in Brazil, the company launched with e-books.

The next year will see eCommerce organizations continue their global initiatives. In 2013, we expect to see the following trends:

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Join Our eBusiness Team! We’re Hiring A Principal/Senior Analyst Focused On eCommerce Technology

eCommerce technology is a fast-growing, rapidly evolving industry – we’re looking for a Principal/Senior Analyst to help build our coverage of this incredibly dynamic area. 

Here’s a quick snapshot from the job description:

The Principal/Senior Analyst will write for, present to, and advise eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals in the retail, wholesale, and CPG industries to help guide their eCommerce and other multichannel commerce technology decisions. He/she will need a strong understanding of the business and technology issues facing eBusiness executives today and an appetite for conducting and writing research to stay abreast of the issues.

If this is you, we’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out directly to me at zwigder at forrester dot com or submit via the job posting

The End Of A Long Week In eBusiness In New York

My colleague Patti Freeman Evans put up a great blog post yesterday about eBusiness efforts post-Sandy. I wanted to finish off the week with a snapshot of the ATM screen I took about 10 minutes ago at my local Chase branch - amazing what a multi-touchpoint world we now live in (I count up to six in this one message alone!).

Wishing everyone a safe weekend.

On eCommerce In South Africa And Beyond

I recently had a chance to catch up with another global eCommerce enthusiast: Hendrik Laubscher works for PriceCheck, a price comparison site in South Africa owned by MIH Internet Africa. He and I sat down for a coffee to talk all things developing eCommerce markets. A few things that came out of our conversation:

In South Africa, payments and broadband connectivity remain hurdles to eCommerce adoption. South Africa, the continent’s largest eCommerce market, remains at a relatively early stage, with several inhibitors preventing the market from truly flourishing.  Although credit and debit card usage is growing, overall penetration remains low, even in comparison to other large emerging markets. PayPal offerings have been a challenge, as well — currency issues and restrictions that required users to be registered FNB online banking customers prevented many from taking advantage of this payment method.  Additionally, the country’s low overall Internet penetration — in particular, broadband penetration — also presents hurdles. The CEO of Woolworths in South Africa recently said that faster, cheaper broadband was essential for eCommerce to flourish, but estimated that this scenario remained “about four years off.”

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