Last week there were a couple of great events related to global eCommerce here in New York — Borderfree had its annual Global eCommerce Forum and Adyen held a local merchant event. A few themes emerged:
Omnichannel is now a must-have. At both events, omnichannel retail was front and center. Adyen underscored the opportunities inherent in integrating online and offline payments. At the Borderfree event, Stephen Sadove, the former chairman and CEO of Saks, kicked off the event with 10 disruptive trends. He declared that #1 and #10 were most important: #1 was the shift to omnichannel. Sadove cited the substantial gross margin implications of being able to move inventory between channels; he also emphasized it’s “not a sustainable point of view ” to believe that getting one view of the customer is just too expensive.
The demands of retail leaders have shifted. Other issues that came up regularly with attendees at both events were the changing needs of retail and the challenge of hiring qualified talent (“talent requirements” was the #10 big trend on Sadove’s list above). Today’s business leaders must be able to deal with a laundry list of new topics — e.g. mobile payments, cross-border eCommerce — many of which wouldn’t have registered on their agenda just a decade ago.
Certain categories are poised for growth. At the Adyen event, Lawrence Brown from Demandware discussed some key growth areas across different markets. He highlighted data on two categories — apparel and grocery — that showed particularly strong growth potential in several countries. This corroborates our research which has revealed that these more “subjective” purchases tend to comprise a greater percentage of total online sales with time. By contrast, the first categories of physical goods that typically dominate eCommerce markets are more readily comparable goods like consumer electronics and computer hardware.
eCommerce markets like Mexico are heating up. In Latin America, interest in Mexico’s eCommerce market has often been overshadowed by a focus on the larger, more mature Brazilian market. However, Mexico’s solid projected economic growth rates and relative ease of doing business makes the country’s online retail market look increasingly enticing. Mike DeSimone, CEO of Borderfree, highlighted some company data and discussed how global markets were shifting in importance for clients. One of his takeaways: “Mexico’s up, Russia’s down.”
Shoppers are increasingly empowered with global information. There was discussion of how consumers are increasingly savvy about global brands, particularly when it comes to pricing. With many consumers now well aware of what product prices look like at other retailers — and in other countries — retailers must keep up. Chanel, for example, recently aligned the pricing of several of its iconic handbags across global markets.
Global consumer preferences continue to differ. Finally, there was much discussion about the variances in consumer needs around the world. Adyen has documented how much payment preferences can differ by country; catering to global consumers' varying needs is critical (Gilt’s Marshall Porter categorized the impact of adding Alipay in China as “a really big deal”). Additionally, style remains far from universal. A Swedish panelist described his experiences ordering a slim fit shirt cross-border from a US-based retailer: Despite taking the time to submit his measurements carefully on the retailer’s site, when his shirts arrived, it was clear that our idea of “slim” here in the US remains a far cry from that of Europe.