x-border tracker, sports retail, international ecommerce
Cross Border Commerce

X-Border Sales Dream Team?

Like much of the Golden State Warriors’ recent run, their final home game of the regular season was a historic night. At the final buzzer, the Warriors had wrapped up their 73rd win of the season – setting the record for the most wins in a single NBA season. It was the kind of occasion, and season, that helps sell merchandise around the world. Then, of course, someone has to move it.

For the Warriors that company is Gameday Merchandising, which runs the team’s eCommerce site. Gameday Merchandising currently ships to 54 countries using FedEx CrossBorder, which is FedEx’s eCommerce technology solutions platform previously known as Bongo International (acquired by FedEx in December 2014). Gameday Merchandising first partnered with Bongo about five years ago. And, just as the Warriors’ dominance didn’t happen overnight, Gameday Merchandising has had to overcome challenges accompanying international shipping to get to where they are today.

Recognizing a challenge-fraught opportunity

While new worldwide fans, along with ensuing revenue streams, are good news for teams and companies that provide services like Gameday Merchandising, they come with individual sets of cross-border commerce challenges. Merchants collectively cost themselves more than $150 billion each year as a result of not being able to convert those buyers to shoppers. At the same time, cross-border commerce has grown to be a $1 trillion source of incremental revenue for merchants. So making the cross-border leap seems like a no-brainer, yet doing it successfully with higher upside is an ongoing struggle.

For Gameday Merchandising, FedEx CrossBorder offers an end-to-end platform that plugs into its merchant websites to remove friction when cross-border service is needed. Once a consumer selects a country outside of a merchant’s home country, FedEx seamlessly takes over. The solution helps merchants make the most of cross-border opportunities – enabling payments for goods purchased, while staying on the right side of fraud, risk, tax and regulatory and legal compliance.

But Gameday Merchandising didn’t adopt Bongo before first attempting to find their own way around cross-border transactions. It took trial and error, along with a good deal of manual effort, to get to where they are today with cross-border orders and their fulfillment. 

PYMNTS recently spoke with Victor Rubio, Gameday Merchandising’s Director of eCommerce, about international sports and event merchandise sales, its inherent challenges and the company’s growth, enabled in large part by the FedEx solution.

When the horn sounded the end of the Warriors’ final home game, Rubio said, he and his team jumped into action. “We had merchandise ready to go the moment that game was over,” he said. A win, let alone a momentous win, is good for sales. In a business where shipping opportunities can change at the sound of a buzzer, being able to move goods wherever, whenever is part of the game.

Whether it’s the Warriors, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Florida Panthers or Oregon State University (all of which, incidentally, have their merchandising handled by Gameday Merchandising), speedy delivery has become the norm – whether it be via domestic or international shipping. “Their fans, their customers, they want to wear their gear outside of the U.S. They want to wear it at home where they live, and our partners want them to as well,” Rubio said.

Back before partnering with Bongo, Gameday Merchandising initially handled international orders internally, receiving and fulfilling them in-house. That presented plenty of problems, Rubio said. It meant that he and his team would have to determine what country-specific customs and tariffs they would have to pay before the order could be shipped, and make sure the merchandise could be delivered securely.

“And, a lot of times, we weren’t hitting the mark,” Rubio admitted. “We would have customers who would be thinking they would be getting merchandise, and we weren’t able to provide them proper tracking, or they thought the items were fully paid for but when they went to pick it up there’d be an extra additional fee for customs fees, or the item would get lost in transit or the order would be fraudulent.” In short, handling international shipping was a headache. Rubio added, “We tried our best to verify these international credit cards, but maybe we weren’t as thorough as we needed to be. So, there were a lot of issues.”

Eventually, Rubio and his team decided they could not fix all of the issues alone – at least, not without spending a significant amount of time and corresponding payroll on them. So, they opted to partner with Bongo. 

“It’s gone from night and day from how we used to do it in the dark ages of international shipping to now having sort of [an] enlightenment, and saying, you know what, it doesn’t make sense that we spend a lot of time and effort doing it in-house,” Rubio explained. “We are a small and nimble group. We provide a vast array of services to very large partners. But we don’t have resources to properly do every single facet of eCommerce. In this instance, the term headache-free really comes to mind.”

Opening doors to opportunities across borders

Rubio said that Gameday Merchandising also now has new tools and capabilities in international shipping thanks to the partnership, which allows them to send their products to more countries than ever before. He said that the ability to ship to countries including some that “are more at risk, like Singapore, China and Nigeria,” would not have been possible without being able to send merchandise through a reliable delivery service like FedEx. But it’s more than just being able to send the goods – Rubio and his team also need to be certain that everything is in order and that they’ll be paid once the items are delivered, he said.

“When FedEx says yes, go ahead and ship that order, we’re going to ship it to this country, we know it’s been thoroughly vetted out, the card is good, that we’re going to get paid, the merchandise is going to get there, and that makes it just a lot better process for all of us,” Rubio explained.

The eCommerce platform has helped Gameday Merchandising in ways seen and unforeseen, he said. “They allow the customer to know what the fees are up front, and those fees are guaranteed. They give tracking to the customer, so they know they have peace of mind for when the product’s going to land. They allow us not to have to deal with shipping internationally, all the forms we have to fill, duplicate, triplicate, whatever needs to be done. And they verify that the orders are not fraud,” he said.

Since expanding its international shipping capabilities, Gameday Merchandising has continued to score points with consumers around the globe. According to Rubio, the company has seen a “double-digit increase” to its international fulfillment, as it no longer needs to limit itself when it comes to cross-border transactions.

“It’s been very lucrative for us,” he said. “It’s opened up international doors that we weren’t able to open before because we didn’t have the confidence, and it’s allowed us to make our proposals more robust because we can provide that international service that our potential client wants.”

Gameday Merchandising has also been able to pursue new opportunities as a result of the FedEx partnership. For instance, the company provides merchandising services for the Tough Mudder competition, a popular series of obstacle course races held throughout the United States and around the world. Tough Mudder sells merchandise and has eCommerce sites for their events in Canada, New Zealand and Europe, Rubio said. But, he explained, the U.S. store carries more items than any of the international stores, and oftentimes overseas customers wanted to purchase merchandise found only in the U.S. store. That presented a challenge, and an opportunity, to Rubio and his team.

“We have people that came to Miami, or Los Angeles, or Salt Lake City or Vegas to do one of these Tough Mudder events,” Rubio said. “When they’re back home, how do they get that product? Using FedEx to allow customers to come to our U.S. sites despite having the Canadian site or European site, how do we then come to the U.S. one, selecting some of the times that aren’t available on other sites, and then having those efficiently and safely shipped to them, I mean that’s huge for us.”

In fact, Rubio said that without the partnership with FedEx, they would never have been able to do business with Tough Mudder in the first place. “I don’t see how we would have been able to get that Tough Mudder deal had international shipping, and effective international shipping, [not been on] the menu of services we provide,” he said.

According to Rubio, all of those benefits are working together, and can combine to help Gameday Merchandising provide diverse and varying solutions to different leagues, teams and events.

“The benefits are multifaceted,” Rubio noted. “The safety and security for the client, the customer, the safety and security for us, and our ability to go out and provide these services to potentially new clients. That’s something that FedEx has been able to help us offer, and one doesn’t see the other, but we see it as beneficial in all of those ways.”

And so, it seems, cracking the cross-border code for Gameday Merchandising has been a team effort.

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About The Tracker

The PYMNTS X-Border Payments Optimization Tracker™ is designed to provide an organizing framework for evaluating the many players that provide merchant payment processing services geared for cross-border payments.

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NEW PYMNTS STUDY: LEVERAGING THE DIGITAL BANKING SHIFT – SEPTEMBER 2020  

The September 2020 Leveraging The Digital Banking Shift Study, PYMNTS examines consumers’ growing use of online and mobile tools to open and manage accounts as well as the factors that are paramount in building and maintaining trust in the current economic environment. The report is based on a survey of nearly 2,200 account-holding U.S. consumers.

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