The Globalization of eCommerce in 2012

As we look back on the year 2011, eCommerce organizations continued to expand their global reach. A growing number of US and European retailers started shipping internationally. Brands enabled eCommerce on their own websites in new markets and launched online stores on marketplaces in multiple countries. Other companies with an interest in global eCommerce used the year to gain insights into new markets, determining which ones to prioritize in the years ahead. Rumors swirled about Amazon preparing to enter India. Or Brazil.

For many companies, however, the globalization process is still just beginning. Aside from a handful of companies that operate eCommerce sites around the world, few companies have a truly global online footprint. The growing number of US- and European-based companies that ship internationally will see revenues increase from these markets, but will start to hit a language ceiling: Close to two-thirds of online consumers in both France and Germany, for example, agreed with the statement, “I only shop from websites in my native language.” In the UK, the percentage is close to three-quarters.

2012 will not be the year that eCommerce organizations blanket the globe with localized offerings – they will, however, continue stepping into international waters. Next year we expect to see :

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Growing Momentum Around eCommerce In Brazil

Back in September, I wrote up a few of my findings from meetings with companies in the eCommerce space in Rio and São Paulo. We’re fielding an increasing number of questions about Brazil, and indeed, while eCommerce in Brazil today is still heavily dominated by local companies, the landscape is starting to include more international players:

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Some Observations On The Evolving eCommerce Landscape In China

Last week I joined a few of my colleagues in China to meet with a variety of eBusinesses in both Beijing and Shanghai. We met with online retailers, technology companies, and other players in industry. For those used to selling online in countries other than China, some of the takeaways included:

Multichannel remains in its infancy. With the leading online retailers in China being pureplays, multichannel remains at very early stages. In-store pickup or returns are not widespread – however, there are emerging multichannel initiatives. In a recent, high-profile online-to-offline expansion, for example, Taobao opened a new furniture showroom in Beijing to enable consumers to experience different furniture brands sold on the site. The furniture sellers rent out space in the showroom to display their products. We had an opportunity to visit the huge showroom, which was somewhat quiet when we were there – terminals stationed throughout the showroom (see below) enabled consumers to insert a card and select products online, then proceed to checkout to pay.

    

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Quick take on eCommerce in Brazil

I recently joined two of my analyst colleagues - Jennifer Belissent from Forrester's Vendor Strategy role and Jan Erik Aase in Sourcing & Vendor Management - in Brazil to speak with companies in our respective coverage areas. It was a fantastic trip: Well organized and incredibly useful in better understanding the business landscape.

On the eBusiness side, we had the opportunity to meet with a wide variety of companies in São Paulo and Rio, ranging from online retailers like Sacks and Comprafacil to eCommerce technology providers such as IBM and hybris to others like FedEx and Google. We also spoke at events organized by content optimization provider Arizona as well as Brazil’s eCommerce Committee.

We are working on a report that summarizes some of the key findings from those conversations – in the meantime, a handful of high-level takeaways from the trip:

Multichannel functionality has not arrived, but is coming. Multichannel came up in almost every conversation I had with companies in the online retail space in Brazil. While there are few options like in-store pickup or returns currently available on leading retailers’ eCommerce sites, the fact that many of the large traditional retailers are active in eCommerce means that multichannel functionality is poised to be a core area of investment going forward.

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Forrester Publishes Its First Online Retail Forecast For Brazil And Mexico

Over the past year, we’ve worked together with the forecast team at Forrester to help eBusiness professionals understand the size of different online retail markets around the globe. Last year we published our first look at the online retail markets in some of the major markets in Asia-Pacific — this year, we’ve just published our first forecast for two of the largest online retail markets in Latin America, Brazil and Mexico. Some findings from the report include:

  • Brazil is — and will remain — the powerhouse in the region. With more than 40% of the online users in the region and a steadily growing economy, it’s not surprising that Brazil’s eCommerce market will outpace all others by a wide margin. Brazil’s projected 2011 sales of almost $10B put it behind other major online retail markets like France and South Korea but ahead of smaller ones such as the Netherlands and Italy.
  • Mexico’s online retail market is small today — but growing by a CAGR of almost 20%. With less than half of the online users of Brazil and limited online spending, Mexico’s online retail market remains a small fraction of the size of Brazil’s. Average online spending per buyer will not increase significantly over the next five years, but the sheer number of online buyers will.
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The Globalization Of eCommerce In 2011

Nearly one year ago, I asserted that the global economic downturn had not slowed the international expansion of eCommerce initiatives. In 2010, online retailers continued their push into new global markets: Gap launched eCommerce sites in the UK and China while starting to ship internationally to other markets; Amazon launched its first new localized Web site in six years;  Zara went live with eCommerce sites in six European markets.

The push toward global expansion is poised to continue in 2011, with few companies suggesting that international markets will represent a decreasing percentage of revenues in the future. And while Canada and the UK still rank as the top destinations for US online retailers operating abroad, it’s not just the markets of North America and Europe that are attracting attention. Indeed, companies increasingly cite emerging markets as key to long-term growth. A survey of business executives just released in the McKinsey Quarterly indicates that more than 75% of those surveyed expect to see revenues from emerging markets within the next five years; more than one-third of companies expect those revenues to represent more than 25% of the total.

Looking forward to 2011, we expect to see the following trends:

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Amazon Follows Typical US Online Retailer Expansion Path With A New Site For Italy

Amazon today launched a localized site for Italy, its first new international offering since acquiring Joyo back in 2004 (Amazon’s UK and Germany sites were launched in 1998, France and Japan in 2000 -- the Canada site came in 2002. Full timeline available here). According to today's press release, the new offering has more categories than any new Amazon Web site has ever launched with -- not surprising given the six years that have elapsed since the last international launch.  

As part of its new offering, Amazon is pushing its selection of “hard-to-find Italian language items” to cater to local consumer needs -- indeed, Amazon has tended to excel in its localized offerings, ranging from its varied payment methods by country to its semi-localized categories (note the “Auto and Motorcycle” category on the German Web site or the “DIY” link on the UK one).  

Amazon’s choice of European markets mirrors many US online retailers’ expansion into Europe. Of the top 50 online retailers in the US, some 19 operate dedicated transactional Web sites for the UK, 14 operate sites for Germany, 12 for France and 14 in Italy. Less than 10 operate eCommerce sites localized for Spain. See the graphic from our recently published Establishing A Global Online Retail Footprint below.

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Forrester’s First-Ever Online Retail Forecast For Asia Pacific Now Live

After years of looking at how the online markets of Asia Pacific are emerging from an online shopping perspective, we are thrilled to announce our first online retail forecast for China, Japan, South Korea, India and Australia.* Some findings from the forecast:

  • Japan still takes the top spot in the region. Japan retains its dominance in the region with some $45 billion in online retail sales this year. Indeed, while China’s combined B2C and C2C spending surpasses B2C spending in Japan, Japan is still the leader in traditional online retail sales. And despite the fact that online consumers in Japan are purchasing across a wide variety of categories, some category purchases like beauty have shifted online in Japan in a way they have not in the US or Europe.
  • China’s growth rates will propel it ahead of Japan in the very near future. China’s combined  B2C and C2C sales — the two are nearly impossible to separate** — are poised to reach $49 billion in 2010. China’s CAGR will be double that of the US, Western Europe and Japan, and it’s clear that China will be the eCommerce market most likely to rival that of the US.
  • Australia’s robust growth will be driven by an increasingly vibrant online retail sector.  The online marketplace in Australia is marked today by a large number of cross-border transactions, but there is growing momentum among local players. Though less than half the size of the online retail markets in Japan and China, Australia’s growth rates are slightly higher than those of Japan and its US and Western European counterparts.
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Thinking outside the American and European box

One trend over the past year has been a growing interest in markets outside of North America and Europe. We're getting an increasing number of inquiries about markets in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East - companies are anxious to map out their strategies for major eCommerce markets like Japan and China, as well as others such as Brazil and Russia. Retailers with an offline presence in affluent markets like the Gulf States are considering supplementing their traditional retail channels with an online one.

If you're looking to expand into any of these areas of the world, I wrote up some observations which were just published in Internet Retailer yesterday. Have a look if you're interested in emerging trends among online buyers in China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Brazil and the UAE. 

The Continuing Globalization Of Online Retail

The past couple of months have seen a number of new initiatives and shifts on the global online retail front: Zara went live with a series of eCommerce sites (in five languages in Spain alone) while Gap started selling to an international online audience. At the same time, eBay conceded the market in China and looked to partner with market leader Alibaba. More companies have started coming to us asking about eCommerce in less traditional markets, with markets like Russia and Saudi Arabia being brought up with increasing frequency in our calls with clients.

We’ve recently published some research that helps companies sort through different international online markets: our Global Online Population Forecast looks at how the online population is shifting around the globe while A Snapshot Of Emerging Mobile Commerce In China puts the growth of mCommerce in China in perspective with its regional neighbors. Establishing A Global Online Retail Footprint looks at where US online retailers have expanded internationally and what factors they should consider as they decide which new markets to target. A few takeaways from recent research:

  • The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will add more than 300 million new Internet users over the next five years; one-third of all Internet users will live in these countries by 2014.
  • North America’s share of the global online population will decline from 16% to just 13% by 2014. By contrast, Asia’s will increase to 44% of the total.
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