Cross-border commerce is growing fast. As the FT recently highlighted, much of this is being driven by Chinese consumers purchasing goods from the west. This is from sites like Amazon, eBay and marketplaces as well as the usual array of speciality retailers like Macys, Saks etc.
But this is far from a one way street; in fact, it’s a global phenomenon I’m calling Business to World or B2W. This is the notion that businesses now sell to the world and perhaps must in order to remain competitive. Indeed, many China and Asia based companies like AliExpress, LightInTheBox, DHgate and DX have been trading internationally for years.
The question is, in a business like retail where margins are already low single digit in the vast majority, how do you manage the basics of ecommerce; namely logisitics and customer service?
Shipping goods around the world is changing as more and more software is being deployed by large carriers. That’s not deflating prices however and it’s increasingly looking like customers will have to bear the cost. There’s also the issue of customer service in both foreign languages and domains to consider; short of opening offices and hiring staff (an expensive gambit) it’s difficult even for those with deep pockets.
So one could argue that it’s not an opportunity worth pursuing? Amazon and Alibaba disagree but even startups can experiment. Apps like Localize can translate your content instantly and fulfilment from Shipwire can get your goods to customers faster than perhaps many realize.
If you get the supply chain and customer service problem solved, perhaps the world’s literally your oyster.