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An Update on What We’re Doing at GDC (Hint: lots of global electronic identity verification)

Dear Friends,

You will notice some recent changes to the GDC website, and more are on the way. Let me explain what’s going on.

Two years ago we saw an opportunity to extend the Global Data Consortium model to electronic identity verification. This is where companies use independent reference data to instantly verify the identities of their customers. Think of opening an online bank account. Your bank is required to verify that you are who you say are before you can start moving money around. They want to do this as quickly as possible as you go through the registration process, otherwise you might lose interest and move on. Yes, we live in an instant gratification world!

We had a hypothesis that GDC could take the model we proved with global address hygiene- negotiating over 50 partnerships worldwide and building the technology to access all this distributed data in real-time – and apply it to identity information. And in true agile startup fashion, we started a customer discovery process to validate our assumptions. In talking with dozens of people across a range of industries, this is what we heard:

1. It’s not just banks! FinTech, eCommerce marketplaces, the sharing economy, social networks (I could go on) all want faster ways to verify identities as they move into new country markets.

2. All these companies are generally unhappy with the options available for global electronic identity verification today. This leaves them using document authentication services, which are too slow, create friction with customers, and cost too much.

3. They want a solution that gives them one point of access to as many countries as possible. (Many had tried building a similar technology in-house but failed. It was too hard!)

The feedback was enough for GDC to build a simple solution and put it quickly into beta mode. With just seven countries to offer, we found several early-adopters and two key strategic partners. They each used the product hard and gave us tons of critical feedback. We iterated, working out the kinks and proving out the technology and the economics one step at a time.

GDC is now over a year past that beta launch, and it’s time to show the world what we have to offer. I couldn’t be more excited.

We have already expanded the platform from seven to 19 countries, integrating services from over 45 data partners along the way. And we are only accelerating from here, gearing up to pass 50 countries (135 data partner integrations) by the end of next year. We are serious about becoming the one point for the market to access global electronic identity verification services.

So checkout our revised website. In the coming weeks we are adding more content to describe our services in each country, and we will be adding new countries.

www.globaldataconsortium.com

If you need help with global electronic identity verification, reach out to me and let’s talk about what GDC can do for you.

Also, if you are a data provider in a country we don’t yet offer, we would love to learn more about your services and consider adding you to the GDC platform as a Consortium partner.

Best,

Bill

bill@globaldataconsortium.com

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Our Report Card

Today is a memorable day for GDC. 18 months ago our first customer went live with our Worldview product, relying on GDC and Worldview to provide Address Verification. This client took a chance –to meet their needs for the best verification rates possible, they had to embrace a new model.

When we first speak with clients we explain our model – we find, qualify and integrate local companies that have the best address processing technology in their country. We harmonize our partner’s technologies and serve up all of that global value with a single OnDemand API. We understand that this model differs from other companies who build a single product, from a single data source, delivered the same way year-after-year.

Our clients embrace Worldview for innovative use cases. Companies validating address information as a key component of Identity Verification. eCommerce companies supporting cross-border commerce. Global organizations verifying and locating millions of points of interest. Delivery companies testing addresses to de-risk their logistics processes.

Now that we have been live for 18 months we can test the assumptions we made at the beginning. We had certain beliefs at the onset, how did we do? Let’s look at 4 of our initial suppositions.

Local Partners = Local Insight

We believed at the beginning that local partners would understand their country best and three themes have emerged. Within their country our partners handle regional variation, bad data patterns, and multilingual challenges better than anyone else.

Local Partners = Access to Unique Local Data

We thought that our partners would have insight on accessing, integrating and utilizing additional local data into their solution. GDC partners understand how to blend unique data into their solution, and they have the time and focus to do this work. Over half of our partners are using some form of data that is not being used by a global player.

Local Partners = Battle Tested Technology

Great address technology only gets great because it gets utilized; no one starts with an A+ product. We surmised our partners’ technology would be battle tested. For example, one partner’s offering is used by their country’s national post, and is accessed over a million times per week; the national post validates the goodness of their technology. This is representative of all of our partners – their technology is great because it gets used in-country, by clients that demand the best results.

Local Partners = Awesome Responsiveness

We knew our partners would be responsive in many ways. Our partners react quickly to new use cases and new address forms. Last month one of our customers had an issue with how a certain address suffix type was being handled, a pattern that would never be used in-country. Our partner enhanced their behavior and a correction was available the following day. Our partners are creating the next required services. A great example is our India partner that launched an advanced service. Our partners must continuously innovate; they don’t have the luxury of only revisiting their technology once a year, or when enough complaints for their country have piled up.

Where Are We Now?

After 18 months we have proven our beliefs at the beginning of this journey. We have worked with partners and clients that are willing to challenge conventions for how global address processing gets done. We continue to add countries to Worldview, and continue to tune Worldview to handle innovative eCommerce, Identity Verification, global point of interest, and delivery logistics use cases.

So that’s where we are 18 months since going live. Let’s see what the next 18 months brings. As always, we enjoy speaking with clients about how we can help you solve your business problems. Give us a shout and let’s see how we can expand your Worldview.

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New Advanced Address Verification Services in India

At GDC we are continuously searching the globe for new partners, new countries and new services for our customers; we enjoy telling the stories about our discovery and availability of these services!  We also work with our Partner Community to add additional capabilities to existing Worldview countries, and we are excited to announce the availability of Advanced Address Verification for India.

Our global expertise tells us that India is the most challenging country to provide great Address Verification due to the size of the country, the complexity of address information, and the regional variations of address information.  We hear from our customers and read recent studies that project tremendous opportunity in India for companies that are using the best available Address Verification solutions for eCommerce, Finance, and Logistics business problems.

Working with our premier Indian Partner, our Advanced Address Verification for India provides you with the most reliable solution for interpreting Indian Addresses.  Do you know that across India there are over 400 different building descriptors?  We do.  Our highly configurable solution reliably parses, interprets and verifies all of the components of an Indian address – road differentiation, sublocalities, localities, pin codes, buildings, building numbers, wings, floors, and more.  We can turn on additional custom capabilities to meet the needs of your business problem – delivery flags that set shipment expectation, corporate address indicators, and rural/urban coding.

We are always excited to open up additional services for our Worldview customers. If you want to understand more about Advanced Address Verification for India and discuss the challenges of addressing in India, give us a call. We’d love to help expand your Worldview.

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Post-Script – The Innovator’s Dilemma and Local Disruption

I recently published an open letter to the address verification industry, a group to which I’ve belonged professionally for over 20 years. In it, I critiqued our lack of innovation over the years and suggested another way: making global address verification better by using local intelligence.

As hoped, the letter spurred a lot of interesting dialogue. In hopes to keep the conversation going, I’m posting a series of blog entries that dig deeper into the themes of technology, address data and how we can meet the needs of our most demanding customers.

Part I: History Lessons

Part II: A Fateful Trip to Brazil and My “Eureka!” Moment

Part III: Making Local Intelligence a Reality in Global Address Verification

Part IV: Post-Script – The Innovator’s Dilemma and Local Disruption

In 1997, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen published his landmark book, The Innovator’s Dilemma. His guiding questions: why is it that innovation always seems to come with disruption? True innovation rarely comes from market leaders with established products. It always comes from an upstart with little to lose and a scrappy mentality.

The minicomputer didn’t come from IBM, Christensen instructs us, though IBM had the deep pockets, experienced sales force, and engineering know-how to make it happen. No, IBM kept clinging to the profits from its dominant mainframe technology before Digital Equipment Corporation (and a host of other upstarts) swooped in and launched the better, faster, cheaper alternative.

History will show the global address verification market is going through a similar disruption.

On the surface, it’s baffling that the older global address companies aren’t pushing local intelligence into the verification process. The new model makes so much more sense. But looking at it through Christensen’s innovator’s dilemma lens, we can begin to understand why. They’re captive to their own success; to the demands of their big customers. Rather than look to the future of our industry – the rise of cross-border commerce, increasing parcel shipment, and consumers demanding ever faster delivery – they remain focused on protecting what they have.

It’s a hard cycle to break.

They aren’t doing it, and I don’t expect that to change. What I do expect is that Global Data Consortium continues leaning into this new and developing market. We will build a critical mass of data partners providing best in-country solutions; we will help our partners continue improving their data through faster feedback loops; and we will make our services less expensive with time (though, perhaps surprisingly, it’s already price competitive with the major global generics).

This is the way of disruption. Quality keeps getting better, prices keep coming down, and eventually even the most price-sensitive customers want the better service.

Five years from now I predict that most of the market has shifted to this model. We will no longer accept “good enough is good enough.” We’ll demand innovations that move local intelligence (that’s so rich at the delivery level) upstream to the address verification process. Rather than depend on local intelligence to fix it, our local data will prevent the problems that lead to mis-delivery and delays.

That’s when we can say the local disruption has truly taken hold. That’s the future that I want GDC to be part of.

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Making Local Intelligence a Reality in Global Address Verification

I recently published an open letter to the address verification industry, a group to which I’ve belonged professionally for over 20 years. In it, I critiqued our lack of innovation over the years and suggested another way: making global address verification better by using local intelligence.

As hoped, the letter spurred a lot of interesting dialogue. In hopes to keep the conversation going, I’m posting a series of blog entries that dig deeper into the themes of technology, address data and how we can meet the needs of our most demanding customers.

Part I: History Lessons

Part II: A Fateful Trip to Brazil and My “Eureka!” Moment

Part III: Making Local Intelligence a Reality in Global Address Verification

In 2010, on a long plane ride back from Brazil, my mind was racing with ideas. Two years prior, an eCommerce executive had challenged me (read that story here) to solve the last mile problem of global address verification. In his world, every package had to be delivered and as quickly as possible. He couldn’t afford to ship to bad addresses, but existing global address verification systems weren’t reliable enough. They depended too much on local delivery intelligence to fix address mistakes. His criticism stung because I was COO of one of those businesses, but I knew he was right.

I had gone to Brazil to ask its postal operator, Correios, to give my company an update to its address database. That had not worked, but in a stroke of serendipity, I met the owner of a business that maintained more complete address data than Correios and that refreshed its addresses constantly. (See that story here.)

This was exactly what the eCommerce executive had been asking for! And if it existed in Brazil, there must be similar services in other countries. I began talking with my colleague (and eventual co-founder) about creating a better global address verification system; one that used the local intelligence of best in-country sources of data; one that kept up with the constant changes of addresses by constantly refreshing its data. If we could build access to a network of these data sources, we could create an entirely new (and more reliable) model for global address verification.

If we could build something that met the lofty requirements of eCommerce, where every package counts and there’s no margin of error for bad addresses, we could also help the companies on which the eCommerce industry leans for help (logistics, fulfillment and delivery). We could help data cleansing services that need more reliable results than the older global address systems provided. Perhaps we could even help software companies that do mapping and navigation based on addresses.

I began sketching the blueprint for a company based on these ideas. It would be complicated, no doubt. We would have to…

  1. Identify the Right Partners and Build Relationships

Just as the best address provider in Brazil had been hard to find (really, there was no small element of luck that I met him on that trip!), so would its counterparts in other countries. I would have to rely heavily on my network of friends in the address data industry to identify the right partners.

And I would need to keep my passport up-to-date…this would not be a job I could do while sitting behind a desk. I was going to need to spend a lot of time traveling to meet data providers, vetting them face-to-face to establish trust and to feel confident they play by all the right rules in collecting and sharing their data.

  1. Test to Verify

Most data providers say they’re the best, so frequent testing was going to be critical to finding the actual best in-country partners. We would need to create clear testing parameters to demonstrate these companies provided more reliable address results than postal operators.

  1. Build Sophisticated Technology

Finally (and it almost seems funny that this comes third), we would have to invest in a robust cloud-based technology platform for integrating with our data partners and providing our customers with a single place to access the world’s best address data. This would be the only way to take full advantage of their refresh cycles (the feedback loops that keeps their address data current).

This was the basic blueprint, and later that year my partner Charles and I formed the Global Data Consortium. In the five years since, we’ve been executing on the plan, step-by-step. I flew around the world finding the best data providers for key countries. I developed friendships that turned into trusted partnerships. We tested everyone’s data to verify its quality and reliability. And we developed the GDC Worldview product – an API management engine and data validation platform – to provide our customers a single point of access to the world’s most reliable address data.

We’ve come a long way since Brazil! Worldview now has over 30 countries covered by best in-country partners, and we’re adding up to four new ones each month.

It’s a solid start, and we keep investing in Worldview to make it better for our existing customers and anyone for whom the old global address systems just aren’t good enough.

Here’s my challenge to consumers of global address verification services: If you’ve found that the generic systems aren’t providing the results you want; if bad address information is leading to mis-delivery or slow delivery; if your service isn’t formatting addresses in the way your global customers expect to see them…there’s no reason to be captive to “good enough.” You can do better.

If that describes you, let’s talk. Let’s set up a test to see how our best in-country data partners use their local intelligence to fix problems before a package ever ships.

Let us improve your world view.

Next: My final thoughts in this blog series…The innovator’s dilemma and predicting the future of the global address verification industry.

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A Fateful Trip to Brazil and My “Eureka!” Moment

I recently published an open letter to the address verification industry, a group to which I’ve belonged professionally for over 20 years. In it, I critiqued our lack of innovation over the years and suggested another way: making global address verification better by using local intelligence.

As hoped, the letter spurred a lot of interesting dialogue. In hopes to keep the conversation going, I’m posting a series of blog entries that dig deeper into the themes of technology, address data and how we can meet the needs of our most demanding customers.

Part I: History Lessons

Part II: A Fateful Trip to Brazil and My “Eureka!” Moment

In 2010 my address verification company was having trouble with Brazil’s postal operator, Correios. For ten years they had refused to provide updates of their address data to foreign businesses.

For the past 50 years building a global address database meant a company (like mine at the time) had to gather information from the world’s various postal agencies. Since addresses are in a state of constant flux (new apartments going up, old buildings torn down, office spaces partitioned into suites, etc.), we took updates once or twice a year in an attempt to keep up with the changes. Think of it like a subscription to the old encyclopedia Britannica: you would pay them to send a replacement volume periodically so your research information didn’t get too dated. Bi-annual updates were the norm. Waiting ten years, however, meant our Brazilian data was desperately outdated.

For years I had tried to break this logjam with Correios to no avail. Finally, I decided it was time to take action. I flew to Brazil one week that summer, hoping that being in country would convince them to finally meet with me.

Alas, no. They weren’t budging, and they had no interest in talking with me. But all was not lost. Rather than sitting in my Sao Paulo hotel room, I made a sales call on a direct mail marketing company. The owner and I hit it off and spent most of a day together. I explained to him my frustration with Correios. He laughed, telling me he had no problems getting updates. Then he hesitated, got a quizzical look on his face and asked me, “But why would you want their address data. It’s garbage. You should use mine instead.”

He explained further: Like most postal agencies, Correios was not very good at keeping track of its addresses. This entrepreneur had discovered that fact years ago as he started building his company. He saw an opportunity to make a reputation for himself as having the best address data in the country. Having the most accurate addresses meant more of his mailers would be delivered by the postal carriers accurately and more quickly (no need to rely on the local delivery person to fix your mistakes). This would be a competitive advantage against other direct marketing businesses.

So he built his own database, taking Correios addresses (which, because he was a Brazilian, they would update at normal intervals) and enriching it with his own efforts. He created an information network throughout Brazil, ensuring he would get notice of new and changed addresses. If a new apartment complex was coming online in Brasilia, he collected that information and made the updates. In places where data was particularly hard to get, he literally hired people to walk the street and gather address information themselves. He even created an immediate feedback loop to correct bad addresses: When an envelope was returned as undeliverable, his people would quickly update the database.

Most impressive of all, he created enhanced postal rules to account for local nuances and expectation. If a Rio de Janeiro neighborhood called itself by a name not recognized by Correios, say for vanity reasons, his system caught that and during verification would suggest a change more likely to get the mail delivered quickly and in a format the recipient expected to see.

As a result of his innovations, he had created a competitive advantage for his business. It was thriving. Other businesses needing accurate Brazilian addresses were seeking his help. Courier services, utility companies, even retail stores (who needed better address verification in order to extend credit to people living in the working-class favelas). Correios addresses weren’t good enough, and my new friend had established himself as the superior alternative.

While he had focused exclusively on serving domestic Brazilian companies with his address solution, he was open to finding a way to help me solve my Correios problem.

This was my “Eureka!” moment. This business had found a way to incorporate local intelligence into the address verification process, and he had feedback loops in place that guaranteed rapid data refreshes. If going through Correios was like subscribing to the encyclopedia Britannica, going through him was like having a team of experts building a maintaining our own personal Wikipedia for addresses.

If this worked in Brazil, there must be similar services in other major countries. And if I could find a way to bring it all together on a single technology platform, we could solve that eCommerce cross-border problem. We could bring local intelligence into the address verification process.

Next: We create the blueprint for the Global Data Consortium and begin building Worldview.

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Local Intelligence in Global Address Verification: History Lessons

I recently published an open letter to the address verification industry, a group to which I’ve belonged professionally for over 20 years. In it, I critiqued our lack of innovation over the years and suggested another way: making global address verification better by using local intelligence.

As hoped, the letter spurred a lot of interesting dialogue. In hopes to keep the conversation going, I’m posting a series of blog entries that dig deeper into the themes of technology, address data and how we can meet the needs of our most demanding customers.

History Lessons

Let’s start with some of the history that made me aware of the problems we have in the address verification industry.

In 2008 I received a call from an executive with a prominent eCommerce company. He had been piloting a cross-border initiative in which customers from other countries could order from his website and he would ship their products directly from a U.S. distribution facility.

The experiment was not going well, he told me. Deliveries were getting lost, shipped back, or just taking longer to arrive than he (or the customer) expected. The problems stemmed from addresses. “Could you help me?” he asked.

I had worked in the address data industry for 15 years at that point and was currently Chief Operating Officer for a leading provider of generic global address verification services. We had accumulated a massive database of addresses which we licensed mostly from national postal operators. It covered 240 countries and territories. We solved the very problems the eCommerce executive was describing. Or at least we thought we did.

I asked him to send me some address files, and I’d have my team run them against our database.

When the results came back, I was pleased. We had cleaned up his files nicely and our analysis said he could confidently ship his packages to nearly every address. But when I called him back to share what I thought was good news, he just sighed.

“No, this won’t do at all,” he told me. “You’re quick to tell me to ship, but I happen to know these addresses are incomplete. You’re asking me to put my packages into the postal stream and trust that the local infrastructure to do the dirty work to get it delivered.”

He had conducted the same test with other “generic” global address services, and they all came back the same. As hard as I tried, I didn’t have a good response to his points.

“When you figure out how to solve that last mile problem before I ship,” he concluded, “give me a call. But for now what you have just isn’t good enough.”

His criticism stung, but it wasn’t entirely unfair or inaccurate. Since the dawn of our industry in the 1960’s, we global generic address companies had struck a Faustian bargain with our primary customers – direct mail businesses and the vendors that provided them support. If we could supply them a good enough service for a cheap enough price, the bargain went, they would license our address data. But if we raised the price for any reason, they would just stop using us.

It sounded brutal (and it was), but it made sense for the problem they wanted us to help solve. They sent mailers en masse. These were inexpensive cards and envelopes that often went out in batches of many thousands at a time. It often didn’t matter if some percent of them didn’t get delivered. It was a volume game with everyone operating on tiny margins. Our job was not to get every envelope delivered. It was more of an actuarial calculation: if they could use us to cull out some small percentage of the bad addresses, the pennies they spent on us would save them at least that much in postage costs.

And then we had our dirty secret: our False-Positive Bias. If we could verify an address to a locality level, confirming, for example, that the street existed even if the number was wrong – we would call the result reliable and advise the customer to send it.

Why?

Because we knew most countries have impressive last mile delivery infrastructures. If you can get mail to the locality level, the people in the post office were really good at fixing your mistakes and getting the letter where it needed to go. It would take longer to get there because it had to go through exception processing, but the direct mail customers were generally okay with that. As long as the right percentage got through and our prices stayed low enough, the Faustian bargain held.

At the time the eCommerce executive contacted me, over 70 percent of our revenue came from customers related to direct mail. We were beholden to their requirements, and to be candid, we weren’t making very high margins ourselves. This was not exactly an environment conducive to innovation.

Without investing in a lot of improvements, we were never going to be good enough to satisfy the eCommerce industry’s needs. Their requirements were based on precision and spend – they expected every package to be delivered…and quickly! Mis-delivery cost them shipping and product losses and slow delivery cost them customers. The “good enough” approach that defined the generic global address industry – that False-Positive Bias – wouldn’t cut it.

For the next couple years I watched eCommerce trends closely. I saw cross-border shipping accelerate, growing rapidly quarter over quarter even while the address problem persisted. They hadn’t yet found good alternatives to meet their needs.

There is an opportunity here to do something useful, I remember thinking to myself, if only we can find a way to take the local intelligence that’s so good in delivery and apply it earlier in the chain of events for shipping packages. We needed to find a way to apply local intelligence in the address verification process. Before a package ever leaves the warehouse.

Two years later, during a trip to Brazil, I finally saw a way forward. More on that in my next post.

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The Importance of User Feedback in Address Verification Accuracy

We tend to judge the quality of international address verification software by the size of the reference database and the return values it generates. But these metrics are incomplete and have the potential to mislead.

What are better gauges of quality? Local user transactions and local user feedback.

A local address solution, built and maintained in its own country, will have a base of users from that same country. These local users are familiar with the address nuances of their markets so they know what constitutes a good address (and a bad one) based on what people like them expect to see.

Better yet, when they see something that doesn’t look right, they report it. In the nearly five years we’ve seen this dynamic at work, we’ve noticed that providers of local address solutions react quickly to input from their users by incorporating corrections into their address data. This creates a real-time feedback loop for tuning the local engine, ensuring its information is constantly improved and done so quickly.

Local address solutions consumed by local users creates a virtuous cycle where both sides work together to produce the most localized (and reliable) results.

Consider the following hypothetical: Two vendors have provided address solutions for a country for over ten years each. One vendor has a local staff of developers and has processed over 750,000,000 address transactions from a customer base of more than 10,000 users in its country. As a result it has developed a deep competency of experience in the area.

The other vendor has no local staff in the country even though it has a handful of customers there. This generates a significantly lower number of addresses being run and reviewed by users with a local mindset. The vendor’s knowledge of the market’s local nuances is developed from a distance and without the benefit of significant local feedback to help improve its results.

If you’re an eCommerce business shipping goods into this country, which vendor would you have more confidence in for verifying your customer addresses? Which one would you trust to make sure your parcel is delivered to your customer on time?

If you are vetting international address verification solutions, consider a different set of metrics. Local user transactions and feedback should play as much of (or perhaps more important role) than the simple measures of size of the reference dataset or the outputs of an engine.

Let local customers and local experience be your guide.

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Glocalization as an Edge in Strengthening Retailer eCommerce Efforts

Reading the December 4th, 2014 edition of the Wall Street Journal I spotted two side by side articles about retailers growth and challenges (see below). Fundamentally U.S. Retailers are trying to determine what their ecommerce strategy is and whether to go stay local or to glocalize.

Yes I said glocalize which is a derivation of glocalization. Glocalization is the art of globalizing your web commerce presence while at the same time localizing it for the respect countries and regions in which you are expanding. A classic example of where this is important is noted in the WSJ article about Nordstrom’s intent to expand into Canada and how the competition in Canada in the form of Harry Rosen Inc expects to maintain an edge.

Expanding your retail footprint into a new country is not as simple as copying your web site and adding some additional payment options. Even if there is a shared language there is not a shared cultural and experiential baseline. In the case of Nordstrom’s versus Harry Rosen Inc, the Canadian retailer’s chief executive states “We’re experts in Canada”.

Further to that point glocalizing the online order entry process will help enhance the sales experience and create a smoother sales process for customers. Also on the backend making sure your local data capture of Name/Address/Phone and other details are mapped to local standards will ensure that you are leveraging customer data in a way that correlates to a local customer’s expectations and experience. A great example of this is using address correction technology that doesn’t account for localized data and rules. A customer enters Hollywood Hills, CA into an order along with a proper zip code. However the address correction software changes the information to Los Angeles to correlate to the zip code provided. While this may be correct in terms of the address it is not correct for local residents of the region who expect that their “vanity name” is acceptable.

Hopefully Nordys (The local user term for Nordstroms) will apply a glocalized strategy to their Canadian growth efforts both in the brick and mortar experience as well as the online ecommerce experience. Until then I suspect Harry Rosen Inc. has little to be worried about.

U.S. Retailers Learn to Speak Canadian

http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-retailers-learn-to-speak-canadian-1417660005

 

A&F and Aeropostale Can’t Shake Teen Blue

http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB121810860555720233

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Amazon Skates Where the Indian eCommerce Puck Is Going

What better time to trot out old hockey metaphors than the opening weeks of the NHL season? And while I’m no particular fanatic of the sport, I’ve always found much wisdom in Wayne (“The Great One”) Gretzky’s famous quip to an interviewer asking what made him an extraordinary player. “I skate where the puck’s going,” he said, “not where it’s been.”

Sage advice, no doubt, but it’s so often hard for managers of business to follow it. We are so mired in the day-to-day efforts to keep our machines churning that it seems impossible to poke our heads up and try to peer into the future; to do that vision thing where we imagine where that puck might be going and prepare for it.

But good businesses know to make time for it. The best ones marshal serious resources for it.

Take Amazon as a case in point. Its shares took a tumble in October when the company announced a loss in 2014’s second quarter. Why? Despite growing revenue, the juggernaut was accelerating its investments in further growth even faster. It was skating fast to where Jeff Bezos and crew think that puck is going.

That includes a recently announced investment of US$2 billion in India.

The Economic Times of India announced that Amazon is expanding its year-old pilot partnership with India Post, the country’s mail service, to get the postman to both deliver your Amazon package and collect your payment. (You can find the article here. ) Cash on delivery seems such an outdated concept to those of us most familiar with eCommerce practices in markets like the U.S. and the E.U. where consumers have long been comfortable offering their credit cards to pay for goods before they’re shipped.

But for many eCommerce related businesses, this is where the puck is. To get where it’s going, they’re going to have to spend time thinking how the future of the industry might look different than it does today and begin investing strategically.

While mature eCommerce markets will see growth rates begin to fall into single digits, developing markets (not just India, but think also: Russia, China, Brazil, Argentina and so many more) are poised for staggering expansion. That’s where the puck is going.

According to The Economic Times article, more than two-thirds of Indian eCommerce transactions occur on a cash-for-delivery basis. That means if you want to stake a claim on that growth, you have to adapt yourself to the eCommerce realities of these countries. The eCommerce winners in India will undoubtedly adapt to a culture that won’t pay etailers upfront with credit cards. They’re much more likely to pay the postman when the package gets delivered.

But change is hard. When you’re used to getting paid in advance, waiting for delivery (and all the uncertainty that comes with it) is no easy transition to accept. Kudos to Amazon for investing in the future of this enormous market.

Applying this lesson to GDC’s own universe, there’s no doubt that industry players of all sorts – retailers, fulfillment specialists, logistics companies, data services, alternative payment providers, etc. – must prepare themselves to ship goods (or their clients’ ) across borders. That’s where the growth will be… that’s where the puck is going.

How are you preparing yourself for the challenges that come attached to these growth opportunities?

By way of shameless plugs, GDC would love to help you think about using our network of the world’s best data providers to get you there. Call us to talk about it.

For eCommerce companies interested in cross-border trade, the Global Data Consortium’s Worldview platform gives you one place to access the world’s best data for Delivery, Identity and Payment.