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Conference Roundup: Speaking of eCommerce

Date: April, 2015 --

From Coral Gables and the Triangle World Mail and Express Americas conference in February, to PostalVision 20/20 in DC in March, to the Office of Inspector General of the USPS also in March, the focus in the conference world has shifted to eCommerce, especially to eCommerce with an international focus. One of the reasons was underscored by the Universal Postal Union which recently announced that global parcel traffic through postal systems in 2013 grew 3.7% year-on-year to 6.7 billion items.

The Triangle event, at the legendary Biltmore Hotel near Miami, Shared Challenges, Contrasting Responses, and focused primarily on Latin America.  One of the most riveting presentations was by direct marketing legend Alan Rosenspan who asserted the role of direct mail in the marketing mix with a captivating series of cases. Tammy Whitcomb, Deputy Inspector General of the USPS-OIG, described the rise of the empowered consumer and the responses of the USPS to that empowerment.

The USPS focus continues to be on domestic service, but it is turning its attention to assist companies who seek oversees customers, and held a well-attended seminar on the subject we will cover in a future dedicated article. It is nevertheless noteworthy here that US sites are the most frequent shopping destinations for consumers from Germany, the UK, Australia, Brazil, and China. But even with all these cross-border shoppers, only 3% of US sales are international, although that 3% is the largest dollar value of exports of any country. The real specialist in foreign sales is the UK where around 16% of sales are cross-border. UK merchants are more likely  than US merchants to consider cross-border problems, especially in the realm of delivery,

And those challenges are numerous.

At the Triangle conference, Fredjoseph Goldner, CEO of Aeropost shared the experience of this multi-country firm specializing in providing Latin American shoppers access to eCommerce sites in the US. It provides a US address for ordering from US websites, and manages shipment and customs clearance in the destination country. The speaker joined others in urging countries in Latin America to modernize Customs procedures, make tariff impositions less arbitrary and to lower tariffs. He cited Brazil as having poor service, with tariff impositions that could vary by entry point and day of the week.

When asked about the international returns process for LatAm consumers, Mr. Goldner noted that in many countries with high duties, which is most of Latin America, a consumer who buys something from abroad and would like to return it will instead sell it on the local internet market. It is nearly impossible to recover duties paid due to bureaucratic barriers and consumers are price-savvy and accustomed to paying very high prices for imported products. 

MercadoLibre (or MercadoLivre in Brazil and Portugal), an eCommerce and auction site enterprise, is eBay's Latin American partner. It is present in most Central and South American countries and in 2012 had revenues of $5.7 billion. Its largest markets in descending order of size in 2013 were Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Mexico. Given recent problems in Argentina and Venezuela, this order may be changing. Amazon has also launched its business in Latin America and presents a serious challenge to the near monopoly MercadoLibre holds in the region.

The Global Address Data Association’s Executive Director Charles Prescott urged the Latin American posts in attendance to further develop their address systems and make their data more publically available. He pointed out that better addressing means more business since merchants need good addresses for delivery and to distinguish among its customers and guard against fraud. He noted that slow and unreliable delivery service due to the lack of addressing discourages eCommerce growth and foreign willingness to serve the market.

Whether you’re fulfilling a product or undertaking a direct mail customer acquisition/retention campaign, Data Services, Inc. has the advanced database management and international contact data quality services (covering 240 countries & territories) to ensure your international address data is properly standardized, contains accurate address elements and is validated for deliverability.