From time to time, the Inner Circle spotlights some of the new, fabulous Women in Retail Leadership Circle (WIRLC) members. In today’s issue, we’re excited to feature one of our new associate members, Cynthia Hollen, president, U.S., at eShopWorld, a global e-commerce platform. Here’s an interview I conducted with Cynthia to help us all get to know her and her business a little better.
Melissa Campanelli: Tell us a little about your background.
Cynthia Hollen: I’ve been working in technology my entire career. I started my first internet company in 1994. I have since then been the chief revenue officer or CEO of multiple really interesting technology and e-commerce, retail-focused companies, from luxury companies selling yachts and Bugattis, to the first social CRM technologies and software. I’m currently the U.S. president for the most powerful global e-commerce platform in the world, working with some of the world’s biggest brands to [help] take their e-commerce businesses into other countries.
MC: Tell us a little more about eShopWorld.
CH: eShopWorld is a technology and services platform that helps e-commerce retailers expand their operations into other countries. We work with top retailers and brands to offer their dot-com sites everything from the pricing on the product page to payments and deliveries, in over 200 countries around the world, with no need to set up any kind of banking, legal or import relationships in any of those countries. If you plug us into your website, you’ll be able to sell to customers around the world without having to do any more thinking on your part. You give us the packages in your home country, and we collect the money and get it to your customer.
MC: What are some pain points you’re seeing in the international market?
CH: Several years ago a shopper had a complete expectation of a four- to six-step painful process to buy from any online retailer that wasn’t set up to sell locally in their own country, and [shoppers] accepted that. With the advent of some great retailers, like Nike, which is doing it brilliantly, and Amazon.com, which is now delivering in local markets, shoppers have come to expect great, local service, with delivery within days, with pricing that makes sense, with payment in their local currency, and with returns in their local market. [Shoppers are] even beginning to expect that they can have an in-store online experience with a retailer or a brand that’s halfway around the world. And that’s something that’s changed even within the last two years. […] The retailers that are looking to capitalize on those expectations are the ones that are going to succeed rapidly and amazingly, cost effectively establishing their brand.
I talked to a cab driver the other day from Ghana who told me that the only [brand] that could deliver to his city was Macys.com. Therefore, every rich person in his city buys everything from Macy’s, even if it means going to the post office to pick it up. Do you know what that does to Macy’s brand name in a country that had never heard of the company before? It’s God now. […] That’s not going to happen necessarily when a marketplace controls and owns your brand. [A marketplace is] a good way to have people become aware of your brand. It’s a great channel, but it’s not the best way for you to be building that lifetime customer relationship. For retailers and brands that are faster to market, setting themselves up in each individual country to be seen as a preferred and beloved brand, the first mover advantage is still available. And U.S. brands are in high demand culturally everywhere around the world.
MC: What do you think is going to be the next best thing in retail tech?
CH: AI, predictive analytics, big data … all of those things are critical to be looking at, and certainly important to be building into your operations. However, retailers need to understand that technology is the way to serve your customers. Technology is a tool, not a solution. Technology is how you achieve what you want to deliver to your customers; it’s not what you’re delivering to your customers. Right now global shoppers are looking for a way to have a better shopping experience from brands that they aspire to buy from, and that means giving [customers] a great way to be able to buy from [brands] as frictionless as possible. It means making sure that they can go and do pick up in-store or return in-store, or have the experience that they’ve become accustomed to in their home market. And you have to think about how technology and other solutions can achieve that goal.
MC: Why is it important to advocate for women in retail technology?
CH: I advocate for women in technology because they’re 50 percent of the workforce, and I need a great workforce. Therefore, I want women who come to me and tell me what they can achieve for me and that they can help me take my company where it needs to go because they’re smart and capable and confident. Stop asking and start taking.
MC: What’s next for eShopWorld? What are some goals for the year ahead?
CH: We started as an enterprise-level company very much focused on a handful of enterprise accounts. We’re now expanding out to work with not only other enterprise brands, but other brand and retail leaders that can build from what we’ve done. Because we started at an enterprise level, we spent less time making sure that everybody in the world knew what we were doing and what we know. We know more about how to navigate the complexities of cross-border e-commerce than anyone in the world, and it’s our goal for this year to make sure that [companies] that can best leverage our capabilities know [about us]. We intend to double the size of our business in the next two years. Retailers are very much focused on growth. We’re in a world where the pie is growing, and we’re growing our share of a growing pie. There are only a handful of players in the market that can touch the level of combination technology and services that we offer. So, we think it’s a very achievable goal.