Al Gerrie provides a masterclass in marketplaces, going international and how to successfully manage returns (episode 114)

Al Gerrie is now the founder and CEO at Zigzag global a genius returns management system. In this interview though we’ll be diving into Al’s serious eCommerce pedigree – which includes a number of household names including Mountain Warehouse and Office Shoes; and as a consultant at Marketplace and International specialists Pentagon. And of course getting a few tips from him about just how to make returns work for you.

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Starting out in eCommerce

In the 1990s and 2000s, Al Gerrie sold retail computer cables and accessories on eBay and Amazon before going to the consultancy side to work with high street retailers and help them launch internationally. He took Office Shoes online as one of the first eBay outlets when eBay first started attracting high street retailers.

He then worked for Mountain Warehouse who, at the time, had about 180 stores worldwide, but no serious marketplace presence besides Amazon. Mountain Warehouse had several seasonal items, such as skiwear, that weren’t typically sold during the summer months. Al helped them launch the brand to places like Australia, which had different seasonal temperatures, allowing them to sell their products for more than one season. He also helped other large high street retailers expand their international marketplace capabilities and he integrated them into various software platforms. He built his own integrations into about seventeen different marketplaces as well.

Benefits of Adding Marketplace to a Retailer’s Business

Adding marketplace can add extra revenue by unlocking new customers in different countries. Al worked with one brand who had stores all over the UK and none in Germany. Within six to nine months of launching internationally, their German Amazon store was bigger than some of the stores that had been running for over fifteen years in the UK.

Listen to learn about all the things retailers need that marketplaces already have in place.

Before Going International

Before a retailer goes international, they must have the proper translations for the other countries for each of their products, understand the local customer, have their delivery and returns systems sorted out, and make sure their sizing is appropriate for the local market.

Listen to learn why it’s helpful to outsource those things.

After Going International

After a retailer has gone international, the next step is focusing on profitability. Building your own website is an option, but be sure to consider how much traffic you’ll need to drive to your site. Decide whether it’s worth doing an unbranded website, or if it’s better to spend more time making sure the marketplaces are even better.

Listen to learn about de minimis and how cross-border trade is becoming easier.

Getting into the International Market

Al recommends that if you are an English-speaking seller, such as from the UK, you start in an English-speaking marketplace, such as the US or Australia. Amazon is a good place to begin, because it has more traffic than most marketplaces in most countries.

Returns Tips

  • Make returns easy for your customer. Don’t hide your returns policy. Instead, include returns information in the confirmation email and add returns/exchanges tickboxes on inbound labels.
  • Prioritize your returns, with the highest priority being Amazon where bad reviews will hurt you, then your own website, then phone and postal orders.
  • Make reason codes available for customers to tell you why they are returning the item so you don’t keep making the same mistake.
  • Control the cost of returns by providing a label for the customer that gets the product back cost-effectively and with tracking.
  • Make sure the dispatch notes are in the correct language — just because the customer speaks English doesn’t mean the postman does.
  • Experiment with free vs. paid returns.
  • Look at getting a localized returns address.

Listen to learn more about localized returns addresses.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Free Returns

You can hear about all this on the podcast, for free – right now…

Tool Top Tip

  • Jira – software development team management tool

Start Up Top Tip

  • Launch on marketplaces first. You’ll get traffic and feedback more quickly.
  • If you don’t know what you’re doing, outsource.

Interview Links