April 30, 2012
By Matt Bramowicz
Business is not what it used to be.
While in the past it may have been acceptable practice for a small or medium-sized business to cater only to its native language market, it is no longer the case. From the onset, small businesses are already at a disadvantage. Whether the company relies on boot-strapping or bank loans to cover expenses, resources are extremely limited, and profits may not even be seen for years. Add on top of that a bad economy, an over-crowded marketplace, difficulty in finding local clients, rising interest and tax rates, etc., and it seems like there is no way a small business can succeed.
Since big businesses have seemingly unlimited funds, many of the problems affecting small businesses are not a huge concern for them. Besides the already established name recognition, they have the money to spend on advertising campaigns, enticing employment opportunities to hire the best workers, established business connections, investors, lawyers…the list can go on.
As the business-stage continues to expand globally, small and medium-sized businesses can easily be left out of the spotlight since bigger companies with an already established identity tend to have more experience dealing with foreign audiences. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Thanks to the rise of technology and ecommerce, a small business can have the ability to compete, even on the global scale, with their big business counterparts.
The first step to going global, however, is research. Due to the economic downturn, it’s important for businesses to choose which markets to cater to that will benefit them the most. All of the necessary data regarding a country’s Foreign Direct Investment, Gross Domestic Product, and Ease of Doing Business Ranking are available online from the World Bank (http://data.worldbank.org/).
Some countries are safer investments than others.
According to the latest ranking of top countries for overseas investment, China tops the list. As China continues to grow both economically and industrially, foreign investors are eagerly lining up to invest in its internal market. The United States ranks second, up one spot from last year, followed closely by India. India is widely known for its great nonfinancial, financial, and industrial service opportunities, but navigation of the business environment may be a bit tricky to those unfamiliar with their practices. Brazil, Germany, Poland, Australia, Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom round out the top ten, respectively.
But success isn’t guaranteed simply because a country is ranked high on the list. Before any company dives headfirst into any new foreign market, they must be certain they are familiar with the business environment. Without proper research, the attempt can be disastrous, as each market has its own share of localized intricacies that must be taken into account.
In China it is customary to be familiar with the country’s five-year plan which helps to understand the current and future business climate. In India, businesspeople do not usually offer their advice or even disagree if they are given instructions. For their input on how a task could be done more effectively, it is advisable to actively ask what their opinions or suggestions may be. In Japan, it is considered impolite to say ‘no’ outright. Refusals are either implied, avoided or someone might simply not reply at all.
Without prior knowledge to these different business practices, misunderstandings could ensue, which could lead to some very serious problems. Therefore, as an outsider it is even more important to show respect for a foreign market’s customs for the sake of both parties involved. Information on foreign business etiquette and culture can be found on the World Business Culture website: www.worldbusinessculture.com.
As the business paradigm shifts globally, smaller businesses can utilize new technological resources to help ease them into new markets.
For the majority of foreign business transactions, all documents, business cards, presentations, etc., should be translated into the foreign business associate’s native language, as well as English, even if they can speak it fluently. It is the standard custom, and failure to do so could be interpreted as disrespectful.
While foreign business etiquette rules can be researched and adopted fairly easily with the proper resources, translating necessary documents still require more outside assistance.
In the past, translating was done exclusively by professional translation agencies and freelance translators. In today’s tech-oriented business world, however, there are more options available to help small businesses conquer the language barrier.
In the past few years, significant attention and development has gone into machine translation tools in an effort to make them more accurate and grammatically correct.
As a result, two different systems have evolved:
· Rule-based systems, where rules of grammar and syntax along with individual language vocabulary are manually coded into a computer.
· Statistical machine translation (SMT), where computers analyze millions of existing translated documents from the web to learn vocabulary and look for patterns in language.
Yahoo Babelfish and Bing Translator both employ rule-based systems, which statistically perform better than the SMT system for short texts and Asian languages. However, Google Translate, which is based on the SMT system, outperforms rule-based systems for longer texts and has the ability to easily improve accuracy as more translated documents become available on the web.
As highly developed as machine translations have become since their inception, they still are not foolproof, and therefore are unreliable as a legitimate translation tool when professionalism is a necessity. In business, everything that is put out to the public or to associates reflects on the company as a whole. Grammatically incorrect or mis-translated texts give the impression that a company either does not care about its foreign business associates, or worse, is amateur and lacks the proper skill set to run a business.
Small businesses are seeking alternatives to machine translations and costly professional translators.
A few new companies have developed solutions to help small businesses receive quality translations without breaking the bank.
One method, known as post-editing or hybrid translation, combines machine translation and human translators. Once text initially passes through machine translation, a human translator or a group of translators review the translation, making any necessary changes. This process allows for a faster turn around time as well as lower costs.
Translation Cloud, www.translationcloud.net, is one example of a program that makes use of this method. Translation Cloud utilizes its database of over 10,000 translators who connect to the system via their Facebook accounts. Users of Translation Cloud receive more accurate translations at a much cheaper rate. This method of post-editing also takes advantage of crowdsourcing, another relatively new concept that is gaining popularity.
Websites such as Facebook and Twitter have both relied on crowdsourcing translation and localization of their websites in order to reach a broader foreign market. Crowdsourcing is specifically effective when those who are supplying the crowdsourced translation are familiar with the product or company.
Smartling, www.smartling.com, is an example of a company that relies solely on crowdsourcing for delivering fast and accurate website translations. Their software allows a group of translators who were invited to work on a specific project to easily visit the customer’s website and translate whatever text they wish, directly on the site.
While these programs are more effective than machine translators at supplying accurate translations, they still cost money. A relatively new website called Ackuna, www.ackuna.com, addresses that problem by providing a completely free and open community-based platform, specifically focused on sharing translations.
Those who are in need of translation services, as well as those who wish to volunteer their language aptitude, can create a free account to either post requests or translate other people’s requests. Translations are voted up or down by other users in the community, and translators who provide accurate translations receive badges as rewards. The concept is similar to Quora, www.quora.com, where users post questions or answers on any topic to other users.
As technology advances, solutions will continue to grow. Right now, Duolingo, www.duolingo.com, is working on developing a program where its users can learn a new language for free, while simultaneously helping to translate the web through the language lessons.
For small businesses on a strict budget, any of these solutions could certainly be of great value for tackling the language barrier issue.
In the end, it is up to the business owner to determine what he or she wishes to accomplish, research the methods needed to make it happen, and utilize the appropriate resources. While the business landscape has changed in recent years, as technology continues to grow, opportunities for small businesses to succeed will continue to grow as well. It is just a matter of learning to take advantage of them.
Matt Bramowicz grew up in New Jersey and attended Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, where he received a degree in English and minored in Fine Arts. He now works as the head of PR/Marketing and as a graphic designer for Translation Services USA, a startup translation and technology company located in New York City.
Translation Services USA has developed social networking applications such as Translationcloud.net and Ackuna.com.
September 28, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Taobao Mall, China’s largest virtual shopping mall, has recently decided to allow 38 smaller online retailers to open stores on its website as part of a new strategy to increase scale and revenue.
The Chinese ecommerce solution provides a place for online retailers to set up a virtual storefront, the actual handling of orders is left up to the merchants. Most of Taobao Mall’s revenue comes from commissions paid by retailers who sell goods on the site. Prior to the decision to allow smaller competitors to open stores in the virtual mall, the site mainly sold goods from big brand-names such as Dell Inc, Uniqlo, and Proctor & Gamble Co. Shoppers can now expect to find a bigger variety of goods from smaller online retailers.
Taobao Mall is the business to consumer branch of a three-way split that the Taobao unit of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China’s largest ecommerce company, underwent back in June. The other two branches are Taobao Marketplace, a consumer to consumer marketplace site, and eTao which provides shopping searches. Taobao Mall competes with 360buy.com, China’s second largest business to consumer ecommerce solution. Taobao Mall held approximately 48.5 percent of China’s online retail market share during the second quarter of 2011, significantly more than 360buy held.
Included in the list of 38 new online retailers that will be added to the site is Yihaodian, an online department store that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. owns a stake in. Also included are clothing retailer Vancl, electronics retailer Newegg, and online retailer Redbaby. Taobao Mall expects to generate 100 billion yuan ($15.7 billion) in revenue by the end of 2011 and to double that number in 2012.
Retailers wishing to sell their products on the virtual mall’s site must comply with the site’s merchant management policies that are designed to protect consumers and ensure quality customer service. Merchants must pay a security deposit that is subject to loss if the merchant is found to be selling fake products through the ecommerce solution. Retailers must also provide a seven-day-no-questions-asked return policy for customers along with official Chinese VAT receipts. There are currently more than 50,000 merchants selling their products through Taobao Mall.
Taobao Mall has no plans to take on its own inventory or become a retailer itself but will continue to encourage other business to consumer merchants to set up shop. Daniel Zhang, president of Taobao Mall, had this to say about the ecommerce solution:
“We are not weighted down by the low gross margin pressures of taking on our own inventory. Our platform business model enables us to re-invest our profits towards better customer experiences and support for merchants.”
The company is committed to bringing together retailers and customers in the online marketplace for a mutually beneficial shopping experience. Zhang added that the market is big enough for retailers to have a virtual store on the mall’s site in addition to their own websites. Taobao Mall is currently the most visited online retail site in China.
August 19, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Xiu.com, a Chinese ecommerce solution that specializes in luxury goods just announced that it had pulled in 100 million dollars in investor financing from two groups. Warburg Pincus LLC and the China division of Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers (previous investors with Xiu who had already put $20 million into the company back in March) were the backers. A simple email statement was lacking in additional details.
The huge influx of new cash will allow Xiu to step up distribution and increase warehouse space. It also probably has something to do with the fact that the mainland-Chinese ecommerce solution quadrupled its sales revenue over the past year. Xiu.com went from 250 million yuan last year to over a billion yuan this year (about $156 million and change).
China is an proven expanding market for commerce of all kinds. Ecommerce solution Alibaba (the biggest ecommerce solution in China) does billions in business there every year. The increasing wealth of the middle class (and the rich) is leading to more disposable income there. Internet (specifically broadband) penetration is slow going right now, but is making definite headway, as is mobile phone use. Smartphone use (and the mobile commerce applications that come with that) is lagging behind, but Alibaba is looking to step that adoption up with the introduction of their very own smartphone.
Luxury goods like those sold by Xiu.com, combined with increased smartphone adoption are proof of the strong middle class and growing wealth of the world’s fastest-growing economy. China could become the world’s third largest market for luxury goods inside of five years. According to Xiu, it is China’s leading luxury goods ecommerce solution. It reportedly carries products from over 3000 brands.
That’s quite a boast for a company that’s only a little over three years old. However, given the rapid, radical growth of ecommerce companies, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. The ability to change directions quickly, scale through innovative use of technology, and take advantage of emerging marketplaces, makes ecommerce companies some of the most competitive and lucrative operations on the planet.
August 10, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
In the US, Android the open source OS smartphone/tablet alternative to the extremely closed system that is the Apple iOS. Based on a kernel of the Linux operating system (an open source desktop operating system which is actually being used to write this article), Android may be getting a run for its money by another Linux-based OS. Alibaba, the leading Chinese ecommerce solution, is poised to release its Aliyun smartphone in just a few days. Using an innovative cloud-based app feature, not much past the OS is actually stored on the phone proper (pictures, etc. will probably be stored, but with good cloud integration, why bother? Every initial user is getting 100 GB of storage space on the cloud).
This cloud-based app functionality is integral to the phone’s operating system. It may also be integral to the phone’s success, as it allows user to access and operate Android apps, despite not actually using the Android OS. Whether there will be a native app ecommerce solution, or if the phone will use some version of Google’s is still unknown. Despite this (or rather, because of this), a spokesperson said that Alibaba was not trying make a run at the search giant. He had the following to say about the situation:
“The OS runs on our own virtual machine that’s based on the Linux kernel and other open tools. But it is compatible with Android apps, so we’re not going up against Google directly.”
That being said, Alibaba has also invested heavily in mobile payment solutions (not an unexpected move by an ecommerce solution like Alibaba), which sound suspiciously like a competing product to go against Google Wallet. Google Wallet is still fighting for adoption in America, as well as needing the physical infrastructure in stores to make it worthwhile for users to bother with.
If Alibaba can get a serious foothold in the Chinese smartphone market, then it could pose a serious problem for Google, Apple, and the other companies poised to enter the fray. The smartphone market in China is down at around 70 million people, while the number of total cell phone users is up at around 800 million. Getting more users onto smartphones, and in turn, logging onto their ecommerce solution using those smartphones could be big money for Alibaba on all sorts of levels.
August 1, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Alibaba, a Chinese company best known for operating online ecommerce solutions like the consumer marketplace Taobao, has announced that it will be rolling out its own smartphone. The operating system that will power the device has been dubbed “Aliyun.” The OS is based off of using the cloud for most of its functionality. There are already plans in the works to bring the OS to other larger devices, like tablets and larger screen phones, which should be one of many red flags for competitor Google. Another red flag: Aliyun is “fully compatible” with apps and software designed for Google’s Android platform.
The first handset out of the gate will be produced by Beijing Tianyu Communication Equipment Co. and retail for about $416 US. That’s a pretty penny for a smartphone, but China has seen massive expansion of both its smartphone infrastructure and smartphone usage. Just like how increased broadband access is routinely accompanied by increased internet usage and higher sales from ecommerce solutions to people in those areas.
And of course a new phone with a new operating system means multiple business deals all around. While the first handset will feature parts from Nvidia, Alibaba is already in talks with Qualcom to try to get some of its chips into future products. Beijing Tainyu is also already getting ready to roll out a Aliyun tablet in the near future too. Reportedly Alibaba is also courting software companies to get their apps pre-loaded onto devices as they roll out. Building a phone or OS, or at least partnering with someone who has, can be one way for an ecommerce solution or other business to up their conversions by having their native apps included in the phone’s initial software bundle.
The US smartphone market is increasingly crowded. Every day people buy Android phones, iPhones, tablets, and other high tech goodies in stores and via ecommerce solutions. All these providers would love to crack open the Chinese markets, one of the largest, fastest growing markets in the world. Having a home-grown competitor doesn’t make it impossible for outside tech to compete (and win!) in China, but it does make the contest more interesting.
July 29, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
How do you say “Cha-ching!” in Chinese (and in which dialect)? Zynga, whose massively popular social games are a hit on Facebook for computers and mobile devices alike, is launching its hottest game – “Cityville” – in China. Who won’t be there? Facebook. The world’s most popular social network is banned in China, a country rife with free speech issues and censorship.
The launch is made possible by cooperation with Tencent, a Chinese Internet portal. The initial launch will be through their “Pengyou” site, which has over 101 million users. This is a great opportunity for Zynga to expand their user base, which already boasts 80 million active monthly users worldwide. Jim Tang, an analyst at Shenyin & Wanguo Securities Co., volunteered this opinion and insight:
“Tencent’s strategy is to offer platforms with a wide variety of games and other services. They have a huge client base. If you cooperate with them, Tencent can guarantee a very large user base.”
It’s also a chance for them to diversify their revenue streams, as critics of their IPO have marked Zynga’s reliability on Facebook for revenue as a liability. That’s definitely a factor, considering that most of their money came in via purchases made through in-game ecommerce solutions. This is a popular monetization technique called “freemium,” where a game is free to play, but users have access to ecommerce solutions within the game where they can trade real world cash for virtual goods to improve gameplay.
A number of ecommerce solutions have sought to make Facebook a reliable source of income – whether they be businesses that exist solely online, brick-and-mortar stores looking to expand their virtual presence, or apps and games that need a revenue stream to continue development. But apparently Zynga feels bold enough to expand into China even without Facebook backing them up. Their Cityville game will be rebranded as “Zynga City,” and revamped to include typically Chinese elements from the nation’s history and present pop culture, all designed to make transition smooth for new users.
The in-game ecommerce solution will stay also, in an effort to draw in more revenue. Mirae Asset Securities Co. estimates that the social/mobile-game market will be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of 27 billion yuan ($4.2 billion) by 2015. Getting in on the ground floor now could mean even bigger bucks for Zynga down the road – on top of the fact that they hope to make about a billion dollars when they go public.
July 20, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Baidu, China’s largest search engine, used to be the portal for just about any website that offered pirated music. After a six year legal battle the waters have finally calmed. The three largest music groups in the world: Sony, Warner, and Universal all joined the fight and they have finally reached a solution.
Baidu has agreed to take off all pirated music sites from their search engine, yet still keep the music free for users. That’s right, users in China won’t have to go through an ecommerce solution to stream songs. The mutli billion dollar company has decided to eat the costs on this one. The site currently is integrating over 500,000 songs into their own platform. While we in the US and Europe have Spotify (finally), the Chinese are going to have Baidu.
China has the world’s largest internet user population in the world. It is estimated that 99% of the music that they’ve consumed wasn’t bought from iTunes’ or another ecommerce solution – it was downloaded illegally. The record labels in the United States collected only $75,000,000 from the Chinese market. This might seem like a lot, but consider that they collected $4,600,000,000 from the United States…and people think we pirate a lot!
This is all coming in the wake of Google removing itself from China due to censorship laws. Baidu will still have to abide by the Chinese governments rules with regards to censorship, but now there will be a lot less pirating, and a lot more money going into the music industry executives pockets. Kaiser Kuo, Baidu’s director of international communications, said:
“We’ve never wanted to stand there and thumb our noses at the recording industry. This is a watershed moment. It’s a great way for us to deliver the best possible user experience by providing free and high-quality music and brings obvious tangible benefits to all parties involved including the label, artists, and advertisers.”
Baidu posseses 80% of the internet traffic in China. Kuo also added that music search was profitable, but had never been a large source of traffic. In 2004 it accounted for 30% of the search giant’s traffic, but now it’s less than 10%. This could partly be due to there being so many more internet users now versus 7 years ago.
The company does say that it plans to offer an ecommerce solution (for a very low price) to allow users to download song onto any type of device.
June 28, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Baidu, China’s largest search engine has officially agreed to invest US $306 million for a majority stake in Qunar.com, an ecommerce solution and search engine for booking hotels, flights, trains, and package travel deals.
Baidu CEO Zhuang Chenchao revealed the heavy cash infusion will go towards Qunar’s new service development which includes mobile applications and a deeper concentration on hotel search services. Qunar will remain operating independently from Baidu and is still in consideration for an IPO, however the two companies will “cooperate in certain areas of online travel search” Baidu concluded in a statement.
Baidu sits in one of the world’s most lucrative and largest online markets for sheer user volume alone. The country boasts over a whopping 450 million users and is every ecommerce solution’s playground. While many sectors are still in their early stages of development, the potential for growth is huge.
Industry experts predict the online travel industry will be the next to take off in China in the near future as more and more consumers are beginning to use the web for their travel needs. The Qunar investment will give Baidu a stronghold in this specific market along with expanding its ecommerce efforts, as the company has been on a mission this year to do.
Baidu Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Li said: “Travel has long been one of the top categories on Baidu, and the number of travelers in China has been growing very rapidly, so this is a market of obvious strategic importance to us.” According to research firm iResearch, Qunar was rated as China’s number one travel site in March based on the number of unique visitors it receives daily, listing more than 11,000 air routes and 102,000 hotels worldwide.
However Baidu is not without its major competitors. China’s heaviest hitters also with leading ecommerce solutions in various sectors are companies like Tencent and Alibaba Group, both having Baidu set on their radars.
Tencent made an $84.4 million investment in Qunar rival and online travel company eLong in May, a company Expedia also holds a leading stake in. Meanwhile, Alibaba Group has been in development of its own search technology in order to compete directly with Baidu’s leading search engine. It seems the competition is encroaching on their territory but Baidu’s investments are just part of its master plan to aggressively expand further into the ecommerce sector.
June 24, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
A young Chinese girl recently used Twitter to offer her virginity in exchange for an iPhone 4. According to her Twitter account, the girl’s father refuses to buy her the expensive cell phone, and she’s willing to go to any length to get the latest iPhone. No news was available as to whether or not the young Chinese girl’s father had heard about his daughter’s Twitter offer. Her post is the most recent development in a disturbing trend of young Chinese teens going to extremes to get the latest Apple devices in their shopping cart.
Earlier this year, a 17-year old boy from Huaishan City, China tweeted that he wanted to buy an iPad 2, but couldn’t afford one. The boy was contacted by a broker, and agreed to sell one of his kidneys for 20,000 yuan ($3,000) just so he could put a shiny new iPad 2 in his shopping cart. Reports immediately following the sale claimed the boy was not feeling well and that the Chinese hospital he visited was not qualified for an organ transplant.
Apple continues to rake in money in China, with last year’s revenue amounting to $3 billion. Chinese consumers are showing no signs of hesitation when placing Apple products in their shopping carts. Fiscal reports for the first half of 2011 show more around $5 billion in revenue in greater China. Analysts predict that the Chinese market could equate to between 100 and 125 million subscribers and a revenue opportunity of almost $70 billion.
Apple COO Tim Cook was spotted at China Mobile’s headquarters this week, a clear indication that the tech giant and China’s largest mobile phone provider are on track for exclusive rights to the forthcoming iPhone 5. China Mobile serves more than 600 million active subscribers, making it the largest mobile phone provider in the world. Issues surrounding China Mobile’s proprietary high speed cellular technology seem to be working themselves out. This could equate to three different basebands in the upcoming iPhone 5- one for ATT (GSM), one for Verizon (CDMA), and one exclusively designed for China Mobile.
May 16, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Walmart announced that it was working with Chinese ecommerce solution Yihaodian to acquire a minority stake in the company. The move represents another step in Walmart’s slow, steady march into China, their continued action within the Chinese ecommerce sphere, and their shoring up position in the world of ecommerce solutions across the board.
Ecommerce numbers have been up worldwide, but they have shown huge growth in China and exhibit no signs of stopping. Eduardo Castro-Wright, CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce and Global Sourcing, had this to say:
“We are excited about this investment. Online sales in China are growing rapidly and are projected to match U.S. online sales in the next few years. By investing in Yihaodian, we’re continuing to establish a presence in this important eCommerce market…”
China is indisputably one of biggest economic markets in the world, in terms of real world operations and ecommerce solutions. Walmart first entered the Chinese market in 1996 and now has 189 stores in 101 cities. They also own a 35% stake in “Bounteous Company,” a business that runs “hypermarkets” (something between a mall and a giant department store and a super-Walmart). The news comes hot on the heels of Walmart’s recent plans to roll out smaller stores in more urban US markets and focus more on their ecommerce solution.
Founded in 2008, Yihaodian is an extremely fast-growing ecommerce solution with over 75,000 products. They boast over 2000 employees and have a business network encompassing the cities of Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. Their catalog encompasses everything from groceries to computers and electronics. They offer next-day service for a variety of products including toys, apparel, and kids stuff. The deal is set to be closed within the next 60 days and will be a great boon for Walmart’s Chinese operations.
Wan Ling Martello, Walmart’s EVP of Global eCommerce and Emerging Markets, released a statement that included the following:
“We are very impressed with Yihaodian’s strong management team, solid competence in distribution and outstanding service to their customers. We have been equally impressed by the fact that their values are consistent with ours. We very much look forward to working closely with them going forward.”
May 4, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
In a fairly shocking move considering their monumental popularity, or an incredibly predictable move considering that same popularity, sales of iPad 2 through their South Korean ecommerce solution and through the top two wireless companies, SK Tel and KT have ceased. The companies all officially apologized for the halt, saying:
“Our iPad 2 inventory has been depleted and we apologize for failing to provide enough supplies due to the product’s global supply shortages.”
Supply shortages and long waits have been the name of the game since the iPad 2 first came out in the US/UK in March. Wait times went from 2 weeks online (or the longest morning of your life on line outside of an Apple Store in the freezing cold with no guarantee that they’d have one for you to buy) to 5 weeks online (though they have dropped back down to a reasonable wait time). Another element complicating producing and shipping the much-sought-after devices was the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, disrupting the production of important components and kinking the supply chain.
In this earlier waiting game, the main culprits seemed to be Apple’s failure to actually build and ship enough copies of the wildly popular device to satisfy the wild demand that broke out. 70% of iPad 2 buyers were first time tablet buyers. That means that 70% of people on line at stores or getting one on the Apple Store ecommerce soolution saw the first iPad come out and were like “Nah, don’t need it. Got a real computer.” Then the iPad 2 came out and and they changed their tunes to “Give me one!”
Sales of “portables” like laptops, phones, and of course, the iPad 2 have been of increasing importance to Apple, even as they roll out their new super-sleek iMac desktops. Telecommunications companies like SK Tel and KT are counting on sales of these types of portables through their own ecommerce solution platforms and brick-and-mortar stores to make up for flagging revenues in their own voice traffic sectors (seriously, who uses a phone to talk anymore?).
SK Tel also announced that they’d be upgrading their system to the tune of more than 2 billion dollars to help it handle the increased data activity resulting from increased use of smartphones and tablets.
April 19, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
The leading ecommerce solution in the Chinese group-buying space is definitely Lashou, with 45,000 unique visitors in January 2011. The company recently brought in a whopping 110 million dollars in Series C funding, on top of the 50 million plus dollars that it had already raised since its birth in March of 2010. Earlier funding was based on a valuation of 500 million dollars, but experts estimate that Lashou is likely worth more than a billion dollars by now.
Lashou’s success in the highly competitive Chinese market for group-buying ecommerce solutions is notable because there are over 1,000 different group-buying websites currently vying for people’s attention in what is possibly the most sought-after economic market in the world. Lashou’s early stage growth was explosive, showing annualized revenues of 150 million dollars and doubling revenues every 8 weeks, according to Richard Lim, a founder of GSR Ventures, their largest shareholder.
The world that Lashou was born into was different than the one Groupon awoke to (and subsequently pretty much dominated). For one thing, Groupon had the group-buying market pretty much to itself. When they rolled out their unique ecommerce solution with the idea “together we can all save money,” people had pretty much never heard of it before. They quickly established themselves as the first and best name in a wide variety of North American cities and even their closest competitor, LivingSocial, hasn’t been able to really catch up (though that’s changing with their partnership with Amazon).
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a year later, Lashou comes to be. The ecommerce landscape they are faced with is one where international consumers are now well-acquainted with group buying. Numerous other copycat ecommerce solutions have sprung up, delivering savings in different niches, like green products and services, or moms and babies. Groupon, the big king of them all, after having been squatted out of its own URL in Australia, even tried for a launch in China (despite a somewhat insensitive and inflammatory Super Bowl commercial that featured references to Tibet, a sore topic in China). According to an unnamed source, they may have even tried to buy up Lashou back when it was only valued at half a billion dollars. When Lashou passed on that, Groupon teamed with local internet company TenCent. Groupon.cn (much like Groupon.au) is a copycat that snapped up the URL and put up their own daily deals site instead.
Incredible growth for Lashou and the thousand other group-buying sites competing for Chinese attention isn’t without its risks. The rapid inflation of valuations and funding being pumped into these companies (and American companies like Groupon and Facebook) is reminiscent of the 1990s dotcom bubble. It’s also worth noting that in order to stay competitive, Lashou has slashed their take from every deal (Groupon takes 50%, Lashou may be making due with 20-30%). If that’s what it takes to keep their lead position, then odds are they’ll suck it up and make do until they can wipe out a larger portion of their competition. The extra 100 million dollars they just brought in will help them expand and box out their enemies.
March 4, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Gap Inc. is looking to take over the world… of retail, or at least it may seem this way with the string of new stores popping up all over the globe. The San Francisco-based clothing company has launched an aggressive campaign to catch up internationally with its competitors, leaving a fresh trail of ecommerce sites and brick and mortar stores in its wake.
The new 4-level Gap store in Japan
In 2010, Italy and China saw their first Gap openings and, just last month, Gap expanded its ecommerce into an additional eight European countries. This brings Gap Inc.’s reach to over 90 countries throughout Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Australia. The company projects to double its franchise by 2015 and will do this by focusing on the mass Asian markets.
In previous reports, Gap Inc. was rumored to bring its retail to Japan by the end of 2011, but it looks as if the company’s move comes quicker than anticipated. Perhaps the decision was made in haste as the retailing landscape in Japan becomes increasingly competitive.
“The Japanese consumer is the most astute fashion consumer in the world, and also in Asia,” said John Ermatinger, head of the Asia-Pacific region at Gap. “We are still bullish about Japan. We still think there are tremendous opportunities here with online, Old Navy, more stores. … We’re not done.”
The clothing retailer has long-awaited to launch an ecommerce site in Japan and with the opening of a 4-level Gap flagship store in Ginza, one of Japan’s biggest shopping districts, it may be the expedited step to introduce other Gap Inc. brands to Japanese audiences. Currently, Gap Inc.’s global ecommerce software ships to Japan, but a region-specific site would “be more Japan friendly and establish our own online community,” according to Ermatinger.
The pursuit for Japanese consumers will not be an easy one as Gap Inc. will have to compete with popular brands Zara and H&M (just two of many) who have already claimed part of the market in Ginza with their own stores. Additionally, Gap Inc. will look to open 11 more stores this year throughout Hong Kong and China but again, faces the competition of popular brands hungry to capitalize in these lucrative markets. Although the competition is stiff, Gap Inc. is in full force to expand its brand and its progress is not waning, if all goes well, the sun may never set on this retail giant.
March 3, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Just when consumers thought flash sites could not be more pleasing to their wallets and purse strings, comes along one with a niche focus. Bring on Exclusively.In, a members-only only flash sales sites, which takes a Gilt-like model to sell Indian-inspired luxury goods including high end clothing, hotel rooms, home goods and more at 50 to 70 percent off retail prices. The majority of Exclusively.In’s offerings are handcrafted by Indian artisans and designers, and are directly sourced from India to buyers in the U.S.
The company took advantage of the growing popularity of flash sales sites and adapted it to the increasing need for Indian products, which is how Exclusively.In began.
“There is a huge Indian diaspora in the U.S. that revels in staying close to its roots, and Indian clothing is core to that experience. But living thousands of miles away from India, it’s nearly impossible to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in Indian fashion,” says Exclusively.In CEO, Sunjay Guleria.
Guleria likens Exclusively.In to being the Zappos for Indian products, in terms of their customer service. For anyone familiar with Zappos’ reputation for excellent customer service, those are pretty large shoes to fill (no pun intended) and Exclusively.In is showing it is not short of it. As such, the company understands the market and pays close attention to the tastes of its varying demographics, in order to match the right deals to the right region.
“Our business is not just about providing Indians with Indian product, but providing the global market with Indian products. India is increasingly becoming a place that has caught the interest of a global audience from U.S. to Brazil and Europe. We currently see this as a multi-billion dollar market and expanding our base in other countries is very promising,” says Guleria.
Exclusively.In is making headways as it has become the largest online Indian apparel retailer to date. Its membership continues to grow by 20 percent each month and simply proves that a niche site can attract a broad audience. The company has engaged a customer base who have a 65 percent repeat purchase rate. Additionally, the site has also surpassed 100,000 Facebook fans to make another impressive notch on its belt.
Only less than a year since its launch in June 2010, Exclusively.In has garnered $2.8 million in venture funding from Facebook, Groupon, VC, Accel Partners, and India’s own prolific venture-fund, Helion Venture Partners. This is a young company with big ambitions. What’s next for Exclusively.In? The company is in full forward momentum and looks to expands its reach to multiple mobile platforms and aims to enter 15 new countries including India. Having the vote of confidence from such big name investors, Exclusively.In is proving to be the newest force to be reckoned with in the ecommerce world.