The world is getting smaller — people have been saying that for decades. And retail and commerce-related payments are certainly a big part of that trend.
It’s not just the direct selling of products to consumers that matters when it comes to cross-border retail. Logistics, for instance, is a big area, as you can probably imagine. And that’s why news was recently made when, just a few weeks ago, it was announced that Flow, a logistics startup that helps companies with cross-border eCommerce solutions, raised $37 million in a Series B funding round, according to a report.
Importance of Logistics and Payments
Several retail and retail-related trends are at play with this funding announcement. According to Flow CEO Rob Keve, advances in social media and the way things are marketed throughout platforms have made it easier for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands to reach customers. Even so, that doesn’t mean shipping to customers is as intuitive, especially when moving purchases from one country to another. Put another way, that means shipping can end up being sluggish and costly, and certain eCommerce sites might not be integrated with payment options that are familiar to consumers. Solving that problem is among the main tasks of cross-border retail innovation and disruption in this brand new decade.
The approach taken by Flow boils down to this: The platform works on top of existing software, and determines automatically a person’s location to the eCommerce site, which results in consumers dealing with familiar payment options. Not only that, but Flow has built relationships with carriers with the goal of making cross-border shipping timelier and more affordable. Even if a business already has a shipping agreement, Flow will handle the logistics of the transaction.
“Cross-border shopping is a rapidly growing area of eCommerce, and more companies are investing in their cross-border strategy to capture that international demand,” said New Enterprise Associates (NEA) Venture Partner Liza Landsman, formerly president of Jet.com, and now a member of Flow’s board after NEA took part in the recent funding round. “Flow is a premier vendor in this space, and their platform delivers strategic advantages for brands and retailers entering or expanding into international markets. Our team is excited to support Flow’s rapid growth.”
Local knowledge and local payment options are hardly the only keys to successful cross-border commerce in 2020. Payment flows involving major eCommerce operators are also helping to further grow that area of retail, and on a pretty granular level.
For instance, that means that Amazon shoppers in Jamaica can now pay for their items in local currency at Western Union locations across the country, according to a release from late 2019. The move follows similar efforts in other parts of the world.
“We’re helping to unlock access to Amazon.com for customers who need and want items that can only be found online in many parts of the world,” said Khalid Fellahi, Western Union consumer money transfer president. “This is a great example of two global brands innovating and collaborating to bring customers more convenience and choice. In a world where cross-border buyers and sellers are often located on different continents and in completely different financial ecosystems, our platform is ideally suited to solving the complexity of collecting local currency and converting it into whatever currency merchants need on the other end.”
Here is how this particular cross-border retail process works: Shoppers order items either on the Amazon website or via Amazon’s mobile app. When those consumers want to check out, they choose the PayCode option. They will then receive a code and instructions on how to complete the transaction at a participating Western Union location.
Those are just a few ways that show how cross-border retail is growing in 2020. One cannot separate the practice from logistics and payments, and better, more improved versions of both will go a long way to further increasing the cross-border commerce proposition.