September 11, 2014

Navigating E-Commerce Channels: Are You Exploring International Waters?

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With the assistance of Redshift Research, we conducted the Multichannel E-Commerce Study with more than 200 respondents — US and UK retailers that already sell products online. Respondents were e-commerce decision makers at companies that averaged $3-5 million in revenue in 2013. The survey was intended to pinpoint e-commerce trends, as well as help identify opportunities and challenges in the online market.

 

Ah, the beauty of cross-border trade (CBT) — the seller on one side of the world and the buyer on the other. Products journey through miles, languages and climates to reach the awaiting customer in a matter of days.

Purchasing goods from another part of the world is essentially a streamlined process from the customer’s point of view. Let’s turn the tables and explore CBT through the eyes of a retailer.

Global Marketplaces

What’s the nucleus of international transactions? According to retailers surveyed, it’s not branded websites, brick-and-mortar retail partners overseas or direct mail. Global marketplaces are the number one point of sale for international transactions. In fact, 48% of retailers said that more than 20% of their online sales occur through international marketplaces. And among all marketplaces, survey respondents reported that Amazon presents the best opportunity to sell internationally.

Challenges and Opportunities

Cross-border trade involves multiple languages, currencies and cultures, making hurdles inevitable. In the survey, retailers admitted to experiencing growth challenges when expanding to international markets. The top three reported obstacles were shipping and logistics concerns (42%), regulations (33%) and currency issues (30%).

With all the global e-commerce transactions, certain regions are better for specific retail market opportunities. US retailers ranked the UK, China and Australia as the top three best regions for selling products internationally. UK retailers ranked the US, France, and Germany.

The survey statistics show that there is tremendous opportunity for retailers in international markets. It’s forecasted that CBT will reach $307 billion by 2018 — and there’s no sign of it slowing down anytime soon. Tune back next week for an overview of how retailers are using digital marketing channels to increase brand awareness and revenue.


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For a visual recap of our Multichannel E-Commerce Study results, check out our associated infographic.  

 

 


September 08, 2014

Ask a Retailer - Premium Australia Foods | Part 1: How an Australian E-Commerce Company Entered China's Booming Online Market

With more consumers, competition and channels, e-commerce is only growing more complicated and overwhelming. Sometimes, all you want is a frank conversation with someone in a similar position to ask them for advice.

Welcome to that conversation.

Our Ask a Retailer blog series shares insights from e-commerce retailers across various verticals.

This first post features Christopher Morley from Premium Australia Foods, a successful export e-commerce company that helps Australian food retailers and manufacturers sell internationally. Armed with more than 10 years in the industry, Christopher brings a unique perspective to the intricacies of cross-border trade and the Chinese online market.     

Chris Morley

Before we dive into the specifics of Premium Australia Foods’ e-commerce strategies, tell us a little bit about yourself and the company.

Premium Australia Foods was formed to help small and medium enterprise (SME) Australian food producers and manufacturers increase sales in China through e-commerce. Premium Australia Foods is passionate about Australian food. We believe our food is the best in the world: packed with amazing tastes from premium ingredients grown in our green, sunlit country, and meeting high food safety standards at all times.

At Premium Australia Foods, my role involves working with online marketplaces in China, designing the look and feel of the online store, digital marketing and developing the SMEs’ food stories online.

I’ve worked with several online businesses and digital agencies and for a number of years ran my own successful online business. I’m extremely passionate about Australian brands and using my 10+ years of retail and e-commerce experience to help them grow their overseas footprints.

What’s your goal for Premium Australia Foods as a brand?

We want the world to taste Australian food and love it as much as we do. We want every Australian food producer/manufacturer to have the chance to send their food to the world without outlaying a huge amount of resources.

Our long-term goal is to make Australian food available on four to five online marketplaces and websites in China, promoting  Australian food through healthy lifestyle and high food security. We currently focus on shelf-stable food and will soon begin exporting fresh food such as fruit, beef, dairy and seafood to Chinese consumers.

What made you want to enter the Chinese market and help Australian food makers sell on Tmall Global? Why have you focused exclusively on that marketplace?

About two years ago, when I was working with Melbourne-based digital media agency Online Market Experts, we had several food businesses as clients. All of these clients were struggling to increase sales outside of Australia, as a result of competition and the inability to go it alone. We developed a strategy for one of the bigger businesses to take a collaborative e-commerce approach, thus breaking down many of the barriers to entry.

When looking to expand your e-commerce anywhere in the world, marketplaces are, in my opinion, the best place to start. Typically, they offer lower initial start-up costs, they’re transparent – so you can see sales figures, average recommended retail price (RRP) and who the biggest sellers are — and they have an existing database of clients, which is perhaps the hardest thing to achieve when going into a new area for the first time.

Using the Alibaba Group when entering China was a no-brainer given its market share. Initially, we focused on the Tmall.com platform, but Tmall Global — which removes all barriers to foreign business — presented the quickest, least expensive way to access the Chinese online community.

Tmall Global is the first marketplace we’re selling on, and we expect to add three more before the end of 2014, including Amazon China.

Many retailers feel overwhelmed by China’s high barrier to entry for overseas sellers. What are some of the obstacles Premium Australia Foods has had to overcome? And what have you learned from the experience? 

We’re always learning – China changes so rapidly that complacency with business operations is impossible.

When doing business in China, businesses must remember that China will do what’s best for China. In recent times, when the world has woken to the potential of the opening Chinese market, the Chinese government have rightly placed scrutiny on practices of all businesses trying to get into China.

Food presents many unique challenges. It’s completely different from selling a T-shirt in China. There are food licenses, import licenses, distribution licenses – and then the added difficulty of maintaining food security with logistics providers.

We’ve had to overcome the scrutiny that goes with applying for a business license, a food import license and a food distribution license. To open a Chinese-hosted website, a media license is also needed – something we hadn’t foreseen.

Getting money in and out of China can be difficult and can be cost prohibitive depending on banks and exchange rates. We’ve learned that the Alipay international product is very useful in this regard.

Often, contracts change and you can find yourself with new parameters and costs not previously agreed to. For example, while we had made an initial monetary agreement with a warehouse in the free trade zone, our final mile logistics costs ended up totalling four times the amount that was originally stipulated.

My advice would be to visit as many options as you can in person, tour each facility you can and see a prospective business at least three times before signing up with them.  Premium Australia foods logo

You noted earlier that Premium Australia Foods is expecting to expand to additonal marketplaces within China. Could you speak to your plans within the region or the possibility of entering other international marketplaces?

Our current focus is on the Chinese e-commerce space. As I mentioned earlier, Amazon China is one of the next marketplaces we’ll be listing on. We have two definite other marketplaces, YHD.com and JD.com, as well as our own e-commerce platform. From our research on China, there also appears to be good opportunities on club-style sites — these will be potentially added in early 2015.

We’ve also discussed moving into other countries in Southeast Asia. Each new country we research is different, and to be successful we need to appreciate differences and provide the most relevant approach.

Check back next week for part two of our interview with Christopher Morley, where he’ll offer insights on China’s e-commerce landscape, Chinese consumers and how Australian retailers can succeed on the international stage. 

Blog post by Shani Flynn, ChannelAdvisor marketing copywriter, APAC


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For more information on breaking into China's e-commerce market, download our eBook Understanding the Chinese Consumer


September 05, 2014

What You Need to Know About the Chinese Consumer: Holidays in China

Each year, the words “holiday” and “sales” seem to become closer aligned. In fact, holidays are so successful in the e-commerce world that some “holidays” are almost completely made up to entice or justify increased spending.

Travel to China, and you’ll find the holiday hype is no different. In fact, you could say the country’s love of holidays — and the online free-for-all of slashed prices and splurging consumers — is even more extreme than in the West.

China even shares the same practice of giving its newly fabricated holidays peculiar names. Granted, there’s no Cyber Monday or Black Friday, but their Chinese counterparts are dubbed Singles Day and Double 12. And they are much, much bigger.

Let’s explore.

Singles Day

Think the opposite of Valentine’s Day. Single’s Day, celebrated on November 11 (11/11), was birthed in the ’90s by several college students who thought the numeral form of the date looked like “four solitary stick figures.”

The quirky “holiday” was given new life by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which co-opted the day in the name of e-commerce. In just a few short years, Singles Day has exploded into the largest shopping day in the world. Alibaba processed more than $5.75 billion sales last 11/11, making 2013’s Singles Day a new record in e-commerce history — even outperforming Cyber Monday sales in the US by two and a half times.

Double 12

Alibaba was also behind this even newer holiday, which exists to encourage retailers to improve the quality of products and services offered online. Singles Day has proven to be so successful that Double 12 has emerged as a follow-up. Double 12, celebrated on December 12 (12/12) is focused on small and mid-size retailers. This offspring of Singles Day is only in its third year, so it’s a good one to keep your eye on this season.

Autumn Moon Festival

When the moon is the roundest and brightest, it calls for celebration. In China, a full moon is believed to be a symbol of peace, prosperity and family reunion. The Autumn Moon Festival is one of the most important festivals in Chinese culture. On the fifteenth day of the eighth lunisolar month, usually falling in September or October, families gather to partake in festivities dedicated to admiration of the moon. Small gift items tend to sell well during this time.


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To learn about additional Chinese holidays making a splash in the e-commerce industry, download this free eBook, Understanding the Chinese Consumer.

September 04, 2014

Navigating E-Commerce Channels: Are You Missing the Boat on Marketplaces?

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With the assistance of Redshift Research, we conducted the Multichannel E-Commerce Study with more than 200 respondents — US and UK retailers that already sell products online. Respondents were e-commerce decision makers at companies that averaged $3-5 million in revenue in 2013. The survey was intended to pinpoint e-commerce trends, as well as help identify opportunities and challenges in the online market.

 

Online marketplaces are charging through the world of retail, drastically reconstructing buying and selling habits. In fact, according to our Multichannel E-Commerce Study, 90% of retailers surveyed are selling on marketplaces, and almost three quarters (69%) reported that over 20% of their revenue comes from online marketplaces.

Amazon

Are you wondering who’s leading this online marketplace stampede? Amazon. Amazon is the king of Online Marketplace Land. Amazon wears the crown, rules the masses and is dominating the world of retail.

We aren’t exaggerating. Of the retailers surveyed, 84% are currently selling products on Amazon. Emerging marketplaces are also on the rise, with at least 15% of retailers selling on Newegg and Sears.

Online marketplaces can provide a heaping amount of benefits for your business, but as with most new business endeavors, they can also come with challenges. Our surveyed retailers actually said that the number one challenge with selling on marketplaces is maintaining competitive pricing. However, standing out from the competition and managing product quantity followed close behind.

Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA)

Keeping your products’ prices in line with, or cheaper than, your competitors’ is a challenge that our survey results indicate that a lot of online retailers are struggling with. Well, here’s where King Amazon comes back into the picture. A key advantage of selling on Amazon is the option of using the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) feature, which a third of the retailers surveyed are using.

With FBA, Amazon will handle your inventory, packaging, shipping and customer service. A retailer that uses FBA is even eligible for Amazon Prime’s free shipping option, but a retailer won’t receive the Prime label if they fulfill orders independently. Free shipping can be a heavy influencer in winning a consumer's dollar.

In the widely popular world of marketplaces, Amazon is dominating the retail space, and pricing remains the largest challenge. Be sure to tune back in next week for an overview of how retailers are embracing cross-border trade to increase international revenue.


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For a sneak peek of some of the Multichannel E-Commerce Study results, check out the overview, Navigating E-Commerce Channels: Is Your Online Business Sinking? 

August 29, 2014

What You Need to Know About the Chinese Consumer: Mobile Habits

Let’s face it — smartphones and other mobile technology have drastically reshaped the way we do, well, most things. This holds true not only in the US, but for most industrialized countries. In fact, the number of mobile users in China alone has shot up 98% over the past four years. According to Forrester, more than 400 million Chinese consumers now own smartphones, which they use for a variety of online activities, including browsing, researching and purchasing products.

Mobile adoption is on the rise globally, but the relationship Chinese consumers have with their smartphones may surprise you.

One-Screen Phenomenon

Smartphones act as a third arm for most Americans. Almost three quarters of Americans admit to never leaving home without their mobile phones. It’s a rare occurrence to walk through US streets and not see someone looking down at a screen, talking on the phone or listening to music. As the Interactive Advertising Bureau notes, in the US, the phone is an extension of the person, but in China, the phone is an extension into the world.

When was the last time you watched TV and didn’t check your email, text a friend or surf the web at the same time? US smartphone users are more likely to consume media with other devices in hand.

This multiscreen culture doesn’t exist in China. The smartphone is the primary device people use to obtain information — essentially a window into the outside world. Chinese smartphone users report watching less television and viewing less print media because their phones serve as a replacement for those channels.

Shopping Patterns

Any business professional knows that long hours on the clock mean less time to get personal tasks done. In China, these employees are using mobile technology to shift shopping hours. Because brick-and-mortar stores often aren’t open at the end of the work day, professionals are forced to buy more online. Even some Chinese malls have picked up on the consumer trend, extending store hours until 11 p.m.

Though the QR code hype has died down in the US, QR codes are commonly used in China. Because of the high number of fake products in the Chinese market, consumers there are especially wary of counterfeits. QR codes containing products’ origins provide Chinese retailers with an easy opportunity to establish consumer trust and transparency.

Bottom Line

Mobile usage is escalating worldwide, but a culture can affect the way these devices are incorporated into a consumer’s lifestyle. In China, for example, smartphones are connecting a whole new demographic of rural consumers. E-commerce growth in Chinese counties and villages is 13.6% higher than that in cities. Areas without a lot of brick-and-mortar stores now have a variety of retail options in the palm of their hands.

As a retailer, it’s important to have a broad knowledge of your customer base. Taking time to understand consumer adoption habits on a national scale will help fine-tune marketing strategies.


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Eager to learn more about China’s shopping patterns? Check out our free eBook Understanding the Chinese Consumer.

August 28, 2014

Navigating E-Commerce Channels: Is Your Online Business Sinking?

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The benefits of online shopping are limitless: No crowds, a streamlined experience and not being limited by location or time are a few of the many. This digital era has turned e-commerce into a multibillion dollar industry, completely transforming consumers’ path to purchase. Why wouldn’t retailers want to sail on this ship?

Well, we set out to steer that ship in your direction. With the assistance of Redshift Research, we conducted the Multichannel E-Commerce Study with more than 200 respondents — US and UK retailers that already sell products online. Respondents were e-commerce decision makers at companies that averaged $3 to $5 million in revenue in 2013.

The survey was intended to pinpoint e-commerce trends, as well as help identify opportunities and challenges in the online market. It’s important to know what approaches your competitors and peers are taking so you can ensure that you’re following the best (and most profitable!) route through the e-commerce waters.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll unveil the following findings right here on our blog. You’ll find out answers to questions such as:

  • Are you missing the boat on marketplaces?

    • Where are most products currently being sold?

    • What are the most successful online customer-service features?

    • What percent of revenue is derived from online marketplaces?

    • What are retailers’ greatest challenges when selling on marketplaces?

  • Are you exploring international waters?

    • What percentage of sales come from international marketplaces?

    • Which geographic regions are best for selling products internationally?

    • Which global marketplaces provide the best opportunities for selling internationally?

    • What hurdles are keeping retailers from selling in other regions?

  • Are all hands on deck for digital marketing?

    • How are current advertising budgets allocated?

    • How do mobile devices affect web traffic?

    • Which social media platforms create the most conversions?

    • What factors prevent retailers from making a greater investment in digital marketing?

  • Are you prepared for 2014’s holiday hurricane?

    • When does the holiday push begin?

    • What are some strategies for increasing online holiday sales?

    • What do retailers expect this season?

This sounds like a lot, and don’t get us wrong…it is! We’re fortunate to have gathered robust data from a variety of companies, young and old. Don’t worry, though — we’ll be delivering all results in a digestible format over the coming weeks. Before you know it, you’ll be refining your strategies for smooth sailing through the choppy e-commerce sea.


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For a sneak peek of some of the Multichannel E-Commerce Study results, check out the overview Navigating E-Commerce Channels: Is Your Online Business Sinking?

August 22, 2014

What You Need to Know About the Chinese Consumer

China’s e-commerce market has been pumping iron over the past few years. Advanced technology, greater access to the internet and the increased popularity of mobile phones have all contributed to a lucrative online-shopping market.

Just last year, China surpassed the US as the world’s largest e-commerce market, and there are no signs that it will change directions anytime soon. In fact, by 2020 it’s predicted that this online-shopping Sasquatch will have more e-commerce volume than the US, the UK, Japan, France and Germany combined. It’s e-commerce on steroids!

So, what’s a Western retailer to do? Will you experience success in the Chinese market? Before jumping in blindly, take some time to be a bystander. Observation, education and research will lower your barrier of entry into an international marketplace.

As a retailer, it’s important to grasp your buyer’s mindset. You might be surprised to realize just how much culture affects consumer behavior. Over the coming weeks, we’ll use our blog to journey through China’s e-commerce market in an attempt to better understand the Chinese consumer.

  • The channels and devices Chinese consumers are using

  • The reasons for China’s e-commerce evolution

  • The places Chinese consumers are shopping

  • The payment methods Chinese consumers are using

  • The holidays that are making a huge impact

China’s e-commerce market holds much potential for Western retailers, but success won’t come if marketing efforts don’t align with Chinese consumers’ purchasing habits. Knowledge is power. Tune back in next week to begin the journey.


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Eager to learn more about China’s shopping patterns? Check out our free eBook Understanding the Chinese Consumer.

 

August 13, 2014

One-Time Only Webinar: How to Accelerate Sales with Amazon Automotive & Powersports

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT

Rev up your automotive sales with this exclusive joint webinar with Amazon. Recordings of the webinar will not be available for viewing after, nor will the slides be available, so this is your one chance — don’t miss out! Amazon Automotive

As an automotive retailer, you know it can be an increasing challenge to move inventory, especially with an abundance of market competition. Not to mention, auto retailers also have the added burdens of narrow margins and special data considerations, like fitment.

If you’re an automotive retailer, take a brake (we had to sneak that one in there) from the everyday retail challenges, and join us Tuesday, August 19 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT to hear actionable tips from Amazon’s Automotive and Powersports team. Jono Glanville, Amazon sales manager, David Heaney, Amazon senior category merchant manager, and Rachel Miller, ChannelAdvisor product marketing manager, will unveil strategies for listings that perform.


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During the webinar, use hashtag #ECOMwebinar to join in on the conversation!

August 12, 2014

What You Need to Know About eBay’s 14.2 Seller Release

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On our sister blog, EBay Strategies, we disect eBay's most recent seller release. Check it out

August 08, 2014

Drive More Traffic with Amazon Sponsored Products

Drive More Traffic to Your Amazon Listings

The Amazon marketplace, while a great selling opportunity, is getting more and more competitive. Driving buyers to your listings can be challenging, especially when you’re competing against Amazon. The good news? You can add another tool to your Amazon belt to gain a competitive edge: Amazon Sponsored Products.

Sponsored Products is a program that allows sellers to advertise their products on the Amazon search results page. These ads are based on keywords that match shoppers’ search queries. If you’re considering online ads to increase your product exposure, Sponsored Products is a great place to start. You can set up campaigns for all or a subset of products, and you incur costs only when shoppers click on an ad. Amazon displays your sponsored product ad only if you’re the Buy Box owner for that product. Customers who click your ad will be taken to your Amazon product listing page to (hopefully) complete the sale.  

Sponsored Amazon Products

Create Sponsored Products campaigns based on what you want to accomplish: highlight new products, promote seasonal listings or drive traffic to products to boost their sales activity. The program is also beneficial for products that have the Amazon Buy Box but low page views.

New Features!

The Sponsored Products program continue to improve! The following are newer additions to the program:

  • Availability on New Devices: Originally for PC browsers only, Amazon Sponsored Products will now be delivered on tablet and mobile devices. Bonus: Given these devices’ minimal real estate, Sponsored Ads could have a better conversion rate since they cover more of the page than on a PC.

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  • Updated Campaign Manager UI in Seller Central: Amazon has made several improvements to make managing Sponsored Ads easier. Look for simplified navigation, more sorting options, a view of Advertising Cost of Sales (ACoS) and more.
    New Campaign Manager

  • Automated Targeting: Quickly set up and manage your ads with Amazon’s automated targeting system, which serves your ads to all relevant customer searches based on your product information.

Sponsored Ads vs. Product Ads: What’s the Difference?

Amazon’s other advertising program, Amazon Product Ads, also displays ads for products, but retailers don’t set up keyword targets (Amazon does that automatically). When shoppers click on an Amazon Product Ad, they’re taken away from Amazon to the retailer’s webstore, where they can make the purchase. Amazon Sponsored Products, however, are keyword driven and keep shoppers in the Amazon world to complete the sale.

Product Ads

The Fine Print

Sponsored Products is available on Amazon in the US, UK, Germany and France.

At this time, Sponsored Products is available in all marketplace seller categories except Apparel, Jewelry and Camera.

How to Use Amazon Sponsored Products

  • All Amazon sellers are eligible for Amazon Sponsored Products.

  • Agree to terms and set up your budget and campaigns within Seller Central under Promotions > Advertising > Campaign Manager.

  • Select your products and enter keywords (manually or with automated targeting) that will trigger your product ads to be shown.

  • When shoppers’ search queries include keywords you target, ads for your chosen products appear alongside search results — but only when you own the Buy Box.

  • Shoppers who click on your ad are taken to your Amazon product detail page.

  • You incur a fee when your ad is clicked, plus standard Amazon referral fees if the shopper purchases your item.

For more information on the new Campaign Manager, see Amazon’s Frequently Asked Questions (Amazon Seller Central sign-in required).

Navigate into Seller Central to Amazon Sponsored Products to try out the program.

 

Blog post by Gina DeFrank, ChannelAdvisor Product Manager


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Looking to bring life back into your Amazon sells? Check out our eBook, How to Revive Your Amazon Sales