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.
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.
We just published a report on the online luxury shopper in China, Selling Luxury Goods To Online Shoppers In China. The report looks at the demographic of the online luxury shopper in China and the nature of the online luxury marketplace in China — it also provides advice for brands looking to succeed in this rapidly evolving market.
In this report we note that:
Like all categories online in China, luxury is growing rapidly. According to the World Luxury Association, China is currently the second largest luxury market in the world — it is already clear that part of the demand is coming from online shoppers. In the past few years, a number of the world’s most elite brands have gone online in China. Going online now with a strategic approach will be key to securing long-term market share.
There are many types of luxury shoppers in China. The online luxury shopper in China spans multiple income brackets and age ranges and lives in both tier 1 and tier 2 cities. Success in this space will mean being considerate of what each of these shoppers is looking for.
The needs of the luxury shoppers with the most purchasing power are not being met.While a handful of luxury brands have gone live in China with localized sites, today’s online luxury experience is rarely compelling. Additionally, domestic online retailers primarily target online shoppers looking for a deal, with few websites offering sophisticated interfaces. In this report, we look at what is and isn’t being done and what changes will offer the luxury shopper a satisfying online experience.
I was thrilled to be back in São Paulo last week visiting with different companies in the eCommerce space. I met with over a half dozen online retailers, as well as other players in the industry including payment providers and market entry specialists. It was also great to have the opportunity to speak at Rakuten’s event on April 24th announcing their official launch in the country.
Below are a handful of takeaways from the trip:
Online momentum is building in categories such as apparel and beauty. In markets like the US and the UK, apparel represents a significant percentage of total online sales. In Brazil, by contrast, this category is just starting to take off, with online sales currently representing a very small percentage of the total market. As issues such as inconsistent sizing are increasingly addressed, however, and new entrants boost the market, the online apparel sector is set to grow substantially. Likewise, there’s much talk of growing beauty sales in Brazil (the country is set to surpass Japan to become the world’s second largest beauty market) – as with apparel, online beauty sales are a tiny fraction of the total today, suggesting substantial growth opportunities going forward.
Along with providing overall online retail market sizes, we note that:
The combined size and growth of China's eCommerce market are unprecedented. China's online retail market surpassed $100B in 2011 and continues to grow at a breakneck pace — when the US online retail market was the same size as the market in China today, growth was considerably slower. We revised our forecast upward to reflect the fact that online sales continue to increase at a rapid pace, even as the market size swells.
Growth rates in Japan, South Korea, and Australia are more tempered. In contrast to China,online retail sales in Japan, South Korea, and Australia will grow at rates more in line with those of the US and developed eCommerce markets of Europe. However, all three markets are attracting increased investment as a growing number of both domestic and foreign players launch new online offerings in these countries.
India will grow quickly off a small base. India's eCommerce market, by far the smallest of those covered in our forecast, is poised to grow by more than five-fold by 2016 as the number of online buyers and per capita online spending increase rapidly. This market is gaining more attention as global brands look to markets that are in the early stages of eCommerce adoption but offer significant long-term potential.
Forrester clients can read a summary of the report here.
Online retailers are rapidly adding emerging markets to their list of new global opportunities to explore, as these markets are set to take a growing percentage of global eCommerce sales going forward. However, it’s important to remember that Europe still ranks as at the most popular region outside of North America for US online retailers expanding internationally. The market is set to grow at a healthy pace over the next five years: Clients can read my colleague Martin Gill’s recently published forecast of online retail sales in key markets across Europe.
Some takeaways from recent conversations with online retailers expanding into and within Europe:
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.
Brands rarely enter a market by selling direct on their websites. Most brands enabling eCommerce on their global websites today already sell in these markets through traditional retail channels — the online sales channel simply becomes a new way to reach consumers.
Country selection is not always dictated by market size. Brands expanding their online offerings in Europe, for example, often focus first on the UK, France, and Germany. After the big three, however, the ease and convenience of serving other markets often trumps market size.
Online sales strategies differ by market. Rare is the brand that has an identical offering in every international market. Most brands that offer eCommerce-enabled sites also provide informational sites in other markets, with little consistency in how the informational sites direct online shoppers to the brands’ retail partners.
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 :
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: