At the end of March, the leading online marketplace conference, Retail Without Borders, welcomed over 350 guest to discuss the importance of cross-border trade and setting-up international operations; proving that in spite of local uncertainties, UK retailers are resiliently looking to strengthen their global propositions.

Brexit was a key focus in the opening keynote sessions, with speakers exploring the international opportunities for UK retailers as Britain moves into a less certain economic climate. Pentagon CEO, Laurence Guy, commented: "With a weaker currency, British brands stand to gain the most from internationalising their businesses." Since British products are still seen as a sign of quality globally. World First’s chief economist, Jeremy Cook, went on to add that in retail you have to "adapt or you die, that is the eCommerce mantra". This set the tone for the day – retailers need to be constantly innovating, adapting and looking to new retail channels in order to grow and flourish.

Planning for success

Retail Without Borders 2017, was all about focusing on success and enabling retailers to accelerate international growth through online marketplaces. This theme was exemplified by Vinny O’Brien, freelance eCommerce strategic advisor, when he commented: "In America, 42% of all product searches start on Amazon. That suggests to me that if you are going to trade in the US you need to be trading through Amazon."

He went on to add: "Growth of eCommerce in emerging economies is coming through marketplaces", highlighting that in both mature and developing eCommerce markets, online marketplaces are key players to accelerate international success.

The opening panel, which included representatives from Cotton Traders, Fanatics International, Mirakl and World First, also emphasised the importance of investing in local knowledge and taking the time to understand consumer expectations in different markets. They commented that marketplaces are not only potential new sales channels, but are great testing grounds for retailers who are looking to understand if their product will sell in a certain market, or what the expectations are around payment, delivery or customer service. Plus with an already loyal customer base, marketplaces enable brands to build up their brand awareness in country.

Exploring the international opportunity

Once the keynotes had finished, the conference split into two streams: the first focusing on the specific tools and actions retailers need to use to accelerate global online success, and the second targeting those new to international expansion, by sharing insights on what to consider before taking the leap into a new market.

Retailers heard about the importance of mobile and marketplaces in China, when Alibaba’s Mei Chen said: "In China, for example if you go to Shanghai or Beijing, what happens is that those consumers do not go to a search engine to look for that brand or that item, what they do is go to the marketplace."

Consumer behaviour is different in China in comparison to their Western counterparts, with some Chinese consumers having never used a desktop to access the internet making mobile king, so it is important for retailers to understand these local nuances and adapt accordingly. This idea was further iterated by Shifali Singh from India’s largest fashion marketplace, Myntra, who told delegates that India was the second biggest smartphone market in the world in 2016, with almost 16.3 billion mobile app downloads every year and a growth rate of almost 83%.

The mobile theme was continued by eBay’s Neil McLauchlan, who said: "40% of new customers come from mobile, and 57% of transactions are touched by a mobile device, be it through browsing, watching or check out," reiterating the importance of this medium for retailers looking to drive success. He also commented that "sellers in the UK are already benefiting from selling internationally with an increase in orders of 16%".

Rakuten’s Shunsuke Fujiya highlighted the significance of Rakuten Ichiba as a brand, not simply an eCommerce platform, with the company having developed a plethora of services as part of the Rakuten ecosystem, including payment, banking, insurance and even a sports team. This has resulted in Rakuten becoming the #1 online media source in Japan, not just as an eCommerce site, but as an online platform, helping them to drive huge traffic through their website. Shunsuke typified the importance of marketplaces in the region by noting that 47% of all online transactions in Japan are made through a marketplace.

The theme of marketplace dominance was explored by other marketplace representatives, with Leena Khalil from middle eastern mother and baby site, Mumzworld, saying: "Mumzworld is seen as the Amazon for mums in the region [...with] 45% of users repurchasing, and a huge 90% recommend the site to friends."

From Swedish eCommerce leader Fyndiq delegates were told that 60% of Swedes have bought cross-border, and in Latin America the majority of customers shopping on one of the region’s largest eCommerce platforms, Linio, are millennial between the ages of 25-33, showcasing the changing global retail landscape.

US tech leaders Newegg announced their expansion into seven new markets, including Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Germany, France and Spain, with China due to be launched on 17 July 2017; and Ted Hettich from global marketplace Fruugo presented the platform as a one-stop-shop for those looking to sell internationally. He said: "Fruugo is a global marketplace working in 32 different countries ... for sellers that means we are able to take one feed, in one language, and one currency and put you live in 32 different countries."

Sell your brand globally

Retail Without Borders is an opportunity for retailers and merchants to understand how to grow their business globally. The event was extremely well attended and delegates were overwhelmingly positive about the day, with some commenting: "The contacts, the people who are exhibiting here are some of the largest marketplaces in the world, so to have direct contact, that is of great value" ; "The format was excellent and the whole day flowed well and allowed networking in between the planned sessions" ; "I don’t know of another conference like this and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. It is a brilliant conference".

The next step is to start selling globally on these lucrative platforms, and this is where Pentagon’s complete end-to-end service and technology solution can help, by accelerating your online success. We can establish new marketplace relationships, provide the technology that delivers a seamless integration to multiple global marketplaces, manage and drive profitability on your international stores, deal with all customs, duties and legal aspects of selling into a new region, and handle local, low cost returns.

To find out more give one of our team a call on: +44 (0)20 8940 5392 or email: hello@wearepentagon.com.

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