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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Trends In India's eCommerce Market

Together with our colleague Manish Bahl in Forrester’s New Delhi office, we just published our first report analyzing the eCommerce landscape in India. The report looks at the changing demands of the online shopper in India and the way in which companies in India are adapting to meet these demands. 

In this report, we note that:

India’s eCommerce market is at an early stage. India’s eCommerce market today is small but growing rapidly. From a revenue perspective, India is on par with other early stage eCommerce markets such as Mexico, while substantially smaller than more mature online retail markets such as Brazil and China.

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Forrester Publishes Its New Online Retail Forecast For Latin America

We just published our new Latin American Online Retail Forecast, 2012-2017 which forecasts growth in Brazil, Mexico and, for the first time, Argentina. In the report, we analyze the B2C and C2C online retail markets in these three countries, and note that:

Brazil remains the largest eCommerce market in Latin America by a wide margin. Despite the economic slowdown in Brazil, eCommerce continues to charge ahead in the country, surpassing USD 12 Billion this year. Unlike the other two markets we forecast in the region, Brazil’s eCommerce market is heavily driven by mass-market consumers: Our surveys indicate that over half of metropolitan online users whose monthly income is less than BRL 4,000 (around USD 2,000) shop online in Brazil. Online shoppers in Brazil are also starting to diversify their purchases beyond early adopter categories such as books and media, consumer electronics and computer hardware.

eCommerce revenues in Mexico are growing rapidly off a small base. In contrast to Brazil, eCommerce in Mexico remains at an early stage, with small but growing revenues. Online buyers tend to be relatively affluent, but per capita online spending remains quite low. As the online buying population expands and starts to encompass a broader demographic, eBusinesses will need to take into account the large percentage of consumers in Mexico who do not have credit cards and who access the Internet outside the home or office.

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How eCommerce Markets Evolve

One of the topics I’ve spoken about at recent industry events is how global eCommerce markets evolve – more specifically, how markets shift from an early stage to one in which consumers spend lavishly online and buy across a wide variety of categories.

After interviewing dozens of companies about their experience expanding into different global markets, and after reviewing internal and external data, we’ve noted that markets tend to go through four phases as they reach the stage of well developed eCommerce. We identify these four phases as the following:

Phase 1: Connecting and Entertaining. In this phase, consumers are starting to go online and connecting with others through the online channel. Some 10-15 years ago, consumers were likely to go online and engage through email or chat; today, social networking has joined the ranks of one of the early activities of online users. Socialbakers’ estimates of Facebook users by country indicate that the network’s top five markets outside the US are Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey – in such markets, the number of Facebook users today often surpasses the total number of online users just five years ago.

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Observations About eCommerce In Peru

To conduct our global eBusiness research at Forrester, we rely heavily on support from our multilingual group of Research Associates and Researchers. Recently, one of our Research Associates, Lily Varon — whose family originates from Peru — spent two weeks in the country and emailed us with her take on the state of eCommerce. Given that an increasing number of our clients are eyeing the online retail markets of Latin America, I thought it would be interesting to hear Lily’s observations of what’s happening in the region’s sixth-largest economy.

“Here are a few high-level findings from my travels:

Consumer adoption of online shopping in Peru remains low. The lack of online shopping is largely due to the fact that it’s just not customary, but also due slightly to the fear of putting personal financial information on the web. Retailers are encouraging consumers to overcome these barriers by prominently displaying payment and security information on the website, as well as educational information such as FAQs, step-by-step shopping, and payment instructions or YouTube videos explaining the shopping and checkout processes.

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