The roadblocks that the Covid-19 pandemic and tariff tensions have created throughout the apparel supply chain have been tough on U.S. apparel brands. But looking ahead to 2021, brands can ill afford to ignore the potential for global growth.
One cross-border e-commerce platform, EShopWorld, has been able to leverage the power of localization across shipping, payments, pricing and marketing to help retail partners see 49 percent year-over-year sales growth in November. Tommy Kelly, CEO of EShopWorld, attributes the company’s success during the pandemic to two key factors: it doesn’t work exclusively with one last mile carrier in any country that it operates in, and it offers a variety of delivery routes to each individual market.
With these advantages in play, he feels EShopWorld’s partners have not experienced the same supply chain restrictions that have plagued many U.S. retailers throughout the pandemic.
“Typically, if we’re going to Australia, Singapore or Russia, we have more channels to take in than America,” Kelly said. “Those singular, more popular, routes tend to have capacity constraints. We saw early on this year, particularly through the air freight lens and then the last mile, that there was going to be capacity restrictions.”
Given that the EShopWorld team had already anticipated large demand pre-peak, the commerce platform carved out more alternative routes with each Tier 1 provider ahead of time, according to Kelly.
E-commerce demand has been particularly strong in Southeast Asia, with EShopWorld clients having seen significant growth across key metrics including order volume, average order value and revenue for the full month of November and extending into December. For the week ending on Black Friday (Nov. 23-29), the top five countries that saw year-over-year order volume growth included Malaysia (385 percent), Saudi Arabia (312 percent), Singapore (286 percent), Taiwan (253 percent) and Canada (150 percent).
Even a mature international market like Australia saw order volume growth north of 100 percent, Kelly said.
Given the massive e-commerce growth in these countries, U.S. brands have ample opportunity to chase an untapped audience. But for any of these companies to succeed, Kelly recommends retailers take a concentrated approach, particularly in a select few markets where they have studiously scrutinized shopper behavior.
“If you’re going to promote and expand and go international, know the countries you want to go into, but do it well,” Kelly said. “Don’t expand broadly because it just doesn’t work. We’ve seen where if you don’t nuance and optimize and effectively create a new country experience, you have a much more hesitant consumer, and we believe hesitance leads to abandonment.”
Order volume in the luxury category (up 236 percent) was the top performer among the international markets in the week of Black Friday (236 percent). Sports and outdoor goods (65 percent) and footwear (56 percent) also drove strong performance in the week of Black Friday.
With high performers across categories, brands now must engage with a much broader demographic and age range than ever, heightening the importance of localized brand awareness strategies heading into 2021.
“It’s a different spectrum of shoppers,” Kelly said. “They need to cater different approaches to different age demographics, and create a much more agile engagement model, whether it be BOPIS, etc. It needs to be called out because you will speak to different demographics and they demand different experiences alike, and I think that goes across domestic and international.”
Why ‘augmentation’ matters
If the 2020 holiday season proved one thing, it’s that consumers were willing to spend online earlier than ever, with many doing their seasonal shopping even before Halloween. Kelly believes that retailers both in the U.S. and abroad are going to learn a lot from this season, primarily in establishing what he calls “augmentation,” in which retailers make room in their own infrastructure to deploy larger delivery fleets that can handle potential overcapacity concerns.
This is only going to continue to increase due to the “Uberization” of transportation and the overall gig economy, where retailers can leverage a newer contractor base.
“The agility of these transportations, infrastructures and models will be the future of what will determine what these peak capacities are,” said Kelly. “Volumes are up there now, and they’ll never return to where we’ve seen e-commerce before. You’re always going to need that augmentation. I believe the winners will be those that have the flexibility and model that best allows augmentation.”
As a company that prides itself on delivering top customer service across markets, EShopWorld wants to deliver that augmentation, while removing the burden of resourcing technology and logistics departments, managing multiple vendors and integrations, optimizing multiple websites and managing inventory pools. Given the breadth the platform covers, Kelly says that giving the customer the reassurance that they are getting their product is still the most important piece of today’s supply-chain puzzle.
“It is not all about speed. It’s about predictability and visibility,” Kelly said. “There were some delays between warehouses and the supply chain, but I think once the expectation of communication is there, it’s about predictability with the consumer. Consumers like speed, but they like speed that’s relevant—if they have clear messaging and it’s a two-to-three or three-to-five-day experience.”