Let’s get straight in.
I gave a talk last week to over 450 eCommerce brand owners looking to expand overseas. It’s something that everyone wants to do at some stage, it’s then a matter of how and who.
We had a lot of questions about accelerators and aggregators, what those opportunities looked like, and what the alternatives were.
I’ll try to break this down in as simple a way as I can.
Typically, these guys will want to buy your inventory, sell it across their own channels, and manage everything using their scaled infrastructure and tools.
Names like Pattern and Spreetail are the best, with £2 billion in revenue between them.
It’s a great way to grow your brand hands-off, and it offers a turnkey solution to eCommerce growth.
The downside is that they only service about 0.1% of the market. You’ll need to be doing £5m on one single marketplace and within their target industry to make the cut.
There are also shortcomings when it comes to control. Do you want to give up total control of your brand and sacrifice margin? What we’re talking about here is effectively a B2B relationship, so there will be 50% margin left on the table.
For some, it’s ideal, for others not so… even if they want you.
These guys are buying eCommerce brands outright, selling their products across their own established channels, and again managing everything using their infrastructure and tools.
An example in this space would be Thrasio, focussed on rolling up Amazon brands.
It’s a great solution if you’ve taken things as far as you can under your own steam and are ready to sail off into the sunset. I salute you.
The downside, however, is that only 1% of online businesses ever even get acquired… so it’s a slim opportunity especially when you have to meet strict category and EBITDA criteria!
To me, the most costly, time-consuming route is this one. I tend to see it most in sub £10M revenue companies who still believe that in-house is virtuous and that “it’s what big companies do”. They don’t, they do the opposite.
You’ll need a substantial team, 10+ for something like a typical overseas expansion. Most of these won’t need a full-time role, so they’ll be under pressure to stay busy. Add to this that the market for niche expertise is practically extinct… the best are either raking in the big bucks or they’ve gone freelance in the post-covid revolution.
You’re going to need some incredibly robust software to cover inventory planning, multichannel listing, reporting etc. The best doesn’t come cheap.
You will of course then need expertise. They don’t teach this stuff in many places, and you can’t google it. It’s trial and error, or it's consultancy type arrangements.
This approach requires some serious stitching together to build a solution.
You might need accountants, lawyers, channel-specific agencies, freelancers, customer support agents, 3PL warehouses etc. A ‘good’ Amazon agency alone will cost £5K+ for management, and ten’s of thousands to optimise before they’ll start.
You can easily get to 6 figures with an outsourced workforce, and that doesn’t include the cost of potential pitfalls. Things go wrong in this game, often.
It can be done, however, and I’ve seen it done well.
The final option is an eCommerce Growth Partner. They will often offer a one-partner solution through setup and management.
They should promote sales channel ownership, and advocate multichannel diversity.
They will have much of the talent, tools and softwares in-house, and will have a rolodex filled with industry experts in every specialist area (because nobody can truly be ‘full-service’ in eCommerce).
With one focussed partner, you will be able to enter new markets & channels without the risk of failure and the associated cost of going it alone. One source of truth.
They should be able to offer you fixed programs or frameworks to get you from A-B (none of this bespoke quote business), and ideally, they would partner for long-term growth on a shared revenue basis. The success of the project should be evenly balanced between you, a true partnership.
Crucially, you won’t need to sell your baby and you won’t need to give up margin or control. Scale, on your terms.
The issue of course, is finding these companies. I know because I searched the globe for the right one when I needed it. It didn’t exist the way I thought it should, so I went from eCommerce entrepreneur to founding Vanquish Commerce Group… and solved my own problem.
There are several out there whom you can vet, however, and I would encourage you to do some research.
That’s your lot. I hope I’ve presented your growth options in fair balance today and given you something to think about. But don’t think too long because “time waits for no man”, as my grandfather used to say.
Relevant E-commerce News
‘We’re buying great assets at 20% to 30% lower prices’: How Amazon aggregators have evolved in 2023
As the Amazon aggregator market matures, players are tweaking their acquisition strategies in 2023.
Amazon aggregators raised just over $16 billion in funding over the past few years, but they have also faced a myriad of challenges. They’ve faced skepticism in proving out their valuations, particularly after one of the leaders in the space, Thrasio, had high-profile layoffs last spring. Data featured at a Fortia Group event for aggregators in June 2022 pointed to a more than 30% drop in valuations of aggregators on average. Now, aggregators — like every other e-commerce company — have to contend with shoring up their businesses ahead of a potential recession.
Read the article here and find out what’s going wrong with the Aggregators!
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