Global eCommerce Business: Learn from Birchbox, Braintree and HotelTonight

Do you sometimes wonder how you would expand your online store into a global eCommerce business?

We often hear how eCommerce is wonderful because you have the opportunity to tap a global market. While this is true to some extent, often a business will derive the majority of their success from a single market.

And just because your model has worked well in the U.S., it won’t necessarily be a winning strategy in China, Brazil or Indonesia.

If these sorts of quandaries sound familiar to you, keep reading.

Globalizing eCommerce Webinar

Yesterday I stumbled across a webinar from June this year: Globalizing eCommerce: Taking Over the World One Shopping Cart at a Time.

The webinar was hosted by PandoDaily Founder Sarah Lacy and also included: Sam Shank of HotelTonight, Klas Bäck of Braintree; and Katia Beauchamp of Birchbox.

The panel discussed a range of issues relating to eCommerce companies taking their businesses global, including:

  • dealing with copycat businesses
  • the strategies the panel members have used when expanding internationally
  • models for running global offices, including hiring and management
  • the biggest mistakes when going global.

Key Lessons

Some of the key lessons based on the panelist’s experiences were:

  • Some businesses go global too early, others do it too late.
  • Watch copycats/clones—because you might learn something or eventually want to acquire them—but don’t panic and don’t fall into the trap of becoming reactive.
  • Execution at scale is incredibly difficult—remember this in the context of copycats as well as your own growth.
  • Despite the hype about emerging markets, it’s common for companies to go from the U.S. to Western Europe as the first move in their global strategy.
  • The person you send to set up and run your new global operation will make or break your business in that region. Don’t send/hire the wrong person!
  • You have to invest time in understanding global markets if you are going to make them work.

Taking Over the World

Taking over the world with your global eCommerce business may sound enticing, but as the webinar demonstrated, it won’t be easy.

Investing time in deeply understanding the market; sending, hiring or acquiring the right people to grow your business in that market; and choosing the right time to expand internationally may help you find global success.

Or at least save you from joining the ranks of the many failed international eCommerce attempts Sarah Lacy alludes to in the webinar.


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