How ESW sees a cross-border future in thinking locally

Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, president and CEO of ESW Americas, on domestic growth plans

Since 2010, ESW has helped some of the world’s best-loved retail brands — including Nike, Victoria's Secret and Estée Lauder — grow their ecommerce revenues in global markets. By laser-focusing on ease and innovation around the online shopping experience, it has built a global cross-border ecommerce platform that is raising the eyebrows of the retail industry.

NRF spoke with Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, recently named president and CEO of ESW Americas, about his plans to grow the brand domestically. Bousquet-Chavanne has decades of international experience, previously working in leadership posts at Emaar Malls, Marks & Spencer, and The Estee Lauder Cos.

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Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne
Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne,
president and CEO,
eShopWorld Americas

What is ESW?

A complete, enterprising direct-to-consumer ecommerce solution provider for brands looking for growth within and across borders around the world.

What makes ESW unique?

We were born as a cross-border company, solving ecommerce issues with great speed in local markets for brands where they could not do it by themselves. We take the complexity away and allow brands to go cross-border with ease and speed. This is the one area where so many companies are challenged.

Why is it so difficult for brands to smoothly engage in cross-border ecommerce?

The degree of complexity — and the costs — quickly multiply as you go beyond domestic markets. To go international can be very capital intensive. You also face execution challenges from the regulatory environment to taxes to duties. Then there are issues like localized languages and localized pricing and promotional models. Also, customer support and regular communication is required to engage customers. All of these things make it very complex. That is why we exist. To simplify.

How do you help major brands like Nike, Victoria's Secret and Estée Lauder?

There is a strategic series of questions that retailers or brands have to answer. For me, the most important question is: Do I want a direct-to-consumer ecommerce channel? We then take them through the strategic thinking and try to validate how the direct-to-consumer ecommerce model works for them. How to push their cross-border sales? In what markets? And with what capabilities? We do the heavy lifting.

Can you give me an example?

In the fashion and luxury space, we helped L.K. Bennett, a U.K. women’s shoe fashion brand, bring international operations back to the U.K. In 10 weeks, we came up with a cross-border solution. They wanted a partner to deliver localized solutions for things like taxes, delivery and returns across 40 targeted markets with the U.S. as its primary market. We then followed with a wave of 27 European countries and later added the Middle East, Canada, Mexico and Russia. Within three months, we have them reaching 40 markets around the world in localized activities.

What size are most of your clients?

Historically, we have worked with some of the world’s leading global brands. We look at brands and retailers with legitimate paths to growth with their direct-to-consumer business. They should be at the stage where they want to increase direct-to-consumer revenues. These brands have a great upside potential internationally.

How big is the cross-border ecommerce market?

As we come out of the pandemic, the good news is we see ecommerce growing in every country in the world. Cross-border ecommerce is growing at an even higher rate in almost every country. We see up to $4.8 billion in global ecommerce by the end of this year.

We think the U.S. will pass its first $1 trillion in ecommerce in 2022. We see countries like the Philippines and Malaysia posting 20 percent ecommerce growth despite the impact of the pandemic. But China takes the crown. It has the largest ecommerce market at about $1.3 trillion. As for cross-border ecommerce worldwide, the number was around $780 billion direct to consumer. By 2023, it will cross $2 trillion and then $3 trillion by 2025.

What are the most popular product categories for cross-border ecommerce?

Key categories tend to travel well. Fashion travels well. So does the beauty category, which has seen exceptional growth. At eShopWorld, the beauty business increased 89 percent last year in cross-border sales. Another category to watch where things are evolving quickly is home furnishings.

Overall, how has the pandemic impacted cross-border ecommerce?

The pandemic has been an amazing global accelerator for the ecommerce business. Last year in the U.S. alone, there was 20 percent incremental spending online. A number of brands have pivoted very rapidly to online. Many did so out of necessity, and we enabled a number of brands within six weeks.

What about supply problems for your clients during the pandemic?

Yes, there were a lot of supply problems going on. We are just coming out of medium to high disruptions of the supply chain for our clients. COVID continues to disrupt supply chains.

What are some of ESW’s pivotal moments?

Back in 2011, we first introduced the technology to quickly have access to up to 100 markets around the world. In 2016, we expanded to 50 distribution and retail centers around the world. In 2020, we passed $1.2 billion in gross merchandise value, making us the largest cross-border provider in the world.

How many employees do you have — and where are they?

We have 600 employees. Most are in Ireland, where we also have our commercial, sales and web functions. The U.S is the second largest after Ireland. We also have employees in Singapore and in Europe.

What are your growth plans?

We have aggressive growth plans. The U.S. is the largest market. We see enormous potential in the U.S. across product categories. The U.S. has been a tremendous incubator of new brands, particularly in fashion and beauty — and then they go global. My role is for the brands to go global in a profitable and efficient way.

The world of ecommerce

Learn more about how retailers continue to invest in ecommerce strategies.

Why is checkout always such a problem in ecommerce?

Your observation is completely correct. That is a vital moment in the online transaction. It’s the most delicate part of the online journey. You’ve taken a customer through an experience and they’re ready to transact.

This is where you have to behave like a native — like a local brand that understands how local customers transact. You have to understand local language and local currency. This is where customers drop out if you don’t. It’s a vital moment that can make or break a customer experience.

The key is, it’s got to be transparent pricing across the journey. Don’t surprise your customer at the end. What the customer pays at the end should be the same they were planning to pay.

Where is cross-border ecommerce going from here?

The dream is for cross-border ecommerce to look and feel like a local experience in each market. Consumers won’t have much patience if one experience is different from the other. So, the benchmark for cross-border is for it to be the very best of the local experience.

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