May 17, 2011, 3:59 PM

Walking the fine line of international e-commerce success

Flexibility can help online retailers that want to go global, says an IRCE speaker.

Lead Photo

Angus Cormie

Becoming a successful international web merchant means maintaining a balance between effective technology and a great local user experience, says Angus Cormie, director of e-commerce, Western Europe, consumer and small business for Dell Inc.

Cormie will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011 in San Diego on June 15 from 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in a session entitled “Dell goes global with language, content, experience and more.

He says Dell uses a universal e-commerce platform to gain economies of scale in selling across a growing number of world regions. The platform is flexible enough for Dell, No. 4 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, to constantly update local content written in the language of each country.

“The challenge in managing a business this size, which, inevitably, requires high degrees of centralization, is to ensure you find a balance between ‘one-size-fits-all’ and local customer experience expectations,” says Cormie. “I’ll indicate a couple of areas where we have tried through organization and design to find this balance.”

To ensure Dell meets the expectations of visitors and shoppers in different international e-commerce markets, the retailer relies on customer satisfaction metrics, says Cormie. “Customers are king and Dell recently introduced a new global standard for measuring companywide customer expectations and satisfaction,” he says. “We measure closely by segment and country.”

But even with flexible technology, maintaining the balance between running an efficient global online retail operation and making constant updates to content, marketing and advertising programs in numerous languages can be tricky, Cormie says. “Dell has a single global platform for content control, but an enormously complex back-end organization feeding the content into that platform,” he says. “We’ve had to find ways of streamlining the creation of content for everything from product launches to merchandising banners in a way that worked globally. I’ll describe some of the compromises that had to be made and how we manage ad-hoc local needs within this structure.”

Cormie says that during his session he will be blunt about what works—and what doesn’t—in building an effective international e-commerce operation. “There are several examples in recent history at Dell where we have tried launching something globally and it is hugely successful in one country, but fails in another,” he says. “I will give examples of projects like this, and try to provide a rational explanation as to why that is, and describe how testing and analytics play such a critical role in minimizing this risk.”

Internet Retailer’s editors asked Cormie to speak because of his expertise in international e-commerce operations and project management. Cormie has 12 years of digital and online experience. For the last four years, he has led the consumer e-commerce business in Dell EMEA, where he is responsible for the online profit and loss, user experience and expansion strategies for Dell across Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Africa. Before Dell, he was with Philips Electronics and mobile network operator O2. He also was a founding manager of a mobile/Internet portal called Genie in the late 1990s that became an online and mobile portal and Internet service provider. He also has worked as managing director of a small group of online gift retailing companies.

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