Article Featured in the Sunday Business Post, November 13th, 2016.
eShop World puts brands in the fast lane to global e-commerce
There’s no tougher market than business to consumer sales but this year’s Fast 50 winner, eShopWorld, allows global brands to compete worldwide while maintaining brand integrity and focusing on their core business, rather than solving the complexities of selling into international markets.
E-Commerce is the runaway success of the online era, having transformed the internet from an academic network and, for most of us, mere curiosity to a business-defining opportunity. Pioneering outlets like Amazon and eBay, and even early failures like Pets.com and Boo.com, turned an adhoc network of computers into a technology that would change the world.
Which is all very nice for Amazon and eBay, but what about other businesses? Any one can set up a web shop. All they need is shared hosting, some open-source software and a PayPal account. The question is: would they want to? While simple solutions might help micro-businesses get an initial foothold online, at the high end of e-commerce, running a global retail network is a recipe for pain. Top brands require e-commerce ventures that not only meet or exceed customer expectation, but also reflect the brand and respond to the vagaries of buyers in a dizzying array of local markets. That is precisely where eShopWorld, this year’s Deloitte Fast 50 Ireland overall winner, excels.
Founder and chief executive Tommy Kelly said that eShopWorld’s business is centred on a close examination of what is right and what is wrong in e-commerce, and applying those lessons in a way that global brands appreciate. “If we go back a little bit to the business itself, the key driver was to connect brands to consumers. When we started in 2010, the business world was primarily focused on B2B [business to business] not B2C [business to consumer]. We wanted to look at how we could massively improve the customer journey for the benefit of both the shopper and the retailer. The experience back then was very poor,” he said.
Kelly speaks with authority, having a background in global supply chain. “We started looking at how we could improve the global supply chain and quickly moved up to the shopping experience at a global level,” he said.
“In 2012, we had developed a platform that allowed the large global brands one single point of integration that brought them to most international shoppers. It not only gave them that reach, but it also gave it to them with a local customisation and when we talk about localisation, we’re talking about features such as pricing, language, payment options, returns and more; all of the features people would get with a local player.”
From Kelly’s point of view, the local and global merge, so a so-called “glocal” experience is necessary in order to do business. “For instance, 80 per cent of Irish online shoppers have bought internationally. But people will not shop unless they get a good online experience, and brand protection for big retailers is very important. From a shopper’s perspective, they won’t complete the transaction if they have a bad experience or if the product is not well-presented,” Kelly said. For eShopWorld, which also won the 2015 Fast 50, any e-commerce site has to be both good looking and frictionless to use.
“A lot of the brands we represent want global brand integrity. Retailers have an image they want to project on a global level. We help them by giving them key market insights into all of the global markets so with one point of integration with us, they can create what they need in order to sell online globally,” he said.
eShopWorld also prides itself on its ability to get retailers to market quickly. “We give retailers speed to market, a very fast rollout around the globe, brand protection globally and the ability to provide a local experience in over 200 countries.”
eShopWorld works to localise all aspects of the shopping experience, including checkout and payment types that suit local market conditions, while remaining within strict brand guideline parameters. This, in itself, is a major incentive for customers, but Kelly said there were also technological and logistical reasons for the company’s success.
“For a start, retailers don’t want to create multiple individual country sites on their own, but our platform allows them to service multiple markets with single or multiple inventory pools. The dependency of having inventory in-country is reduced, and it allows for a much more flexible inventory model.
“The dynamics of e-commerce are ever-evolving. Maintaining multiple technology infrastructures to sustain stores is inefficient,” he said.
The proposition has proved popular. eShopWorld now works with some of the top sportswear companies in the world, as well as several of the top five apparel and lingerie brands.
For Kelly, winning the award twice in a row, this time on the back of a 2,600 per cent growth rate over the last four years, is recognition that it has brought something new to the table, as well as a way of pitching for more business.
“The Fast 50 win is an acknowledgement of the success we have achieved in e-commerce and a validation that our product creates great value for retailers. It also gave us a calling card to a lot of new global brands that we want to attract.
“Finally, from a staff perspective, it’s an endorsement that helps us show potential hires that we’re a growing business. It’s attractive for people to work with companies like ours,” he said.
“Winning twice in a row has delighted us. Credit is due to the people within the business, who were able to absorb that kind of rapid growth, two years in a row.”
So is eShopWorld not only a native success story, but a so-called ‘mini-multinational’? “The term ‘mini-multinational’ is right. We’re a global business, ultimately,” said Kelly. “We have offices in Ireland, in the US, mainland Europe and also in Asia. We have customers in Asia, North America, Europe, and Australia – they’re spread right across the globe,” he said.
Having bagged the top gong at the Fast 50 for two years running, eShopWorld has no intention of slowing down, and the company now has aggressive expansion plans for the coming year.
“We continue to grow and will strengthen our footprints in Asia and Europe,” said Kelly.
“To date, we’ve had a huge focus on the North American market, and that will continue, but we plan to scale aggressively in Europe and Asia.”
Alongside this, eShopWorld plans to continue to free retail brands from the complexity of not only IT infrastructure and multiple platforms, but also compliance and financial issues.
“We manage fraud, the FX [foreign exchange] and all of the risks associated with international trade – we absorb and manage that risk. It removes all of those challenges of going into international markets, and it helps companies to do what they want: to roll out multiple countries in the short term,” said Kelly.
“They can focus on what they’re good at: designing, manufacturing, marketing and selling products. They don’t want the distractions of running multiple IT infrastructures. Not only do we consolidate the IT requirements, but also the multiple suppliers required to manage a global online business, and remove the international complexities. They can have a very simple focus on the key attributes that they want to apply to their own business,” he said.
In the end, it comes down to allowing brands to get on with their core business, but instead of sacrificing market opportunities, eShopWorld’s global-local focus helps to create more.