Ecommerce Innovation Happening Around the World

Zia_WebFor anyone who might think of the U.S. as the world leader in ecommerce innovation, Forrester analyst Zia Daniell Wigder said inventiveness in that sector is distributed fairly broadly around the globe.

There is lots of innovation happening around omnichannel, online marketplaces and mobile commerce in many other locales, Wigder told attendees at Multichannel Merchant’s recent Growing Global conference in Hollywood, CA.

“We’re seeing innovation everywhere,” Wigder said. “Europe has been a real pioneer in omnichannel fulfillment, including Auchan in France (curbside pickup), pickup locations in UK tube stations and QIWI Post’s series of pickup lockers in Russia. There’s real innovation in all these places when it comes to ecommerce fulfillment scenarios.”

Wigder also called out retail giant Tesco in South Korea (virtual stores at subway stations and bus stops); convenience store pickup in Japan; Netshoes and use of the CPF card in Brazil (akin to Social Security) for driving cross-channel sales via POS data capture; and 2-4 hour delivery from mom and pops in India via Amazon’s Kirana Now, launched in April.

Speaking generally about omnichannel around the world, Wigder said companies need to make sure stores get credit for any sale they touch. “Otherwise they simply won’t buy in,” she said. “We’ve heard stories about associates hiding product designated for online sales. If there’s any question of who gets credit, it should go to the store. There are some drug stores that give credit for pure ecommerce transactions within a certain radius of a location, assuming it was influenced by offline.”

She also suggested companies focus on one or two omnichannel initiatives at a time. “You’ll fail miserably if you try to do to them all,” Wigder said. “I’ve never seen one company doing them all. Take a step at a time, and make sure it’s aligned with all your business processes.”

Wigder said merchants have a growing number of choices in terms of marketplaces around the globe, which are often seen as a way to gain quick entre into a new country. While China is an obvious first choice – with Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao marketplaces growing rapidly, as well as – she said brands should “consider an approach that goes beyond China.”

“(Marketplaces) are used more commonly by global brands in Asia than anywhere else,” she said. “As brands look to find a partner to bring them into a new market, it’s easier to partner with a big domestic player than to go it alone.”

Opportunities for creating custom-branded storefronts on marketplaces are growing, Wigder said, displaying examples of Sephora on, Toys R Us on Japan’s Rakuten and luxury fashion brand Raoul on eBay’s high-line focused Fashion Collective.

“The pros of marketplaces include access to an incredible audience upfront, which is easier and cheaper than launching your own site,” Wigder said. “On the con side, you don’t get the same level of customer data around purchase path, and marketers say that consumers often consider them a great place to get discounts.”

In the area of mobile innovation, Wigder said WeChat in China was ahead of the curve in terms of using mobile messaging to drive ecommerce sales. Other global innovators include Guatemalan shoe retailer Meat Pack, whose mobile app displays discounts up to 100% that shrink as a ticker counts down, and Lechal, another shoe seller in India whose Bluetooth app directs shoppers to the nearest location.

“You get the sense that mobile has taken over the world,” Wigder said. “Well, it’s taken over some countries but not others. It varies widely by market, and just hasn’t translated into massive ecommerce sales everywhere yet.”

The average mobile share of ecommerce sales globally is 34%, according to new data from Criteo that Wigder shared, with Japan at the high end among mature ecommerce markets (over 50%) and Brazil at the low end (less than 15%). The U.S. is in the middle of the pack at 29%.

“Be aware of the different stages of mobile maturity by country,” she said. “It’s also essential to identify your customers’ mobile moments (when they’re ready to engage), and their need for mobile at every point in time. But there is no template to follow.”