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January 17, 2017 (245 days ago)
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District of Columbia, United States
All News by Shadana Sultan
RMICC
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Getting to Global Through e-Commerce
Q&A With the U.S. Commercial Service’s Joshua Halpern,
Director of the e-Commerce Innovation Lab

By Curt Cultice, Senior Communications Specialist, U.S. Commercial Service

Q: Can you give readers a snapshot of the e-Commerce Innovation Lab, what was the purpose for its founding?
Halpern: The U.S. Commercial Service (CS) set the e-Commerce Innovation Lab (EIL) in motion to exponentially increase the number of U.S. companies exporting through e-commerce channels. The EIL is part of the CS’s domestic field of more than 100 offices across the United States. The EIL consists of three major strategic pillars: (1) create industry-leading self-service online resources to empower U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses to sell more online to global markets; (2) train selected U.S. CS staff to become Global e-Commerce Specialists in order to promote e-commerce strategies; and (3) build privatesector partnerships to help small- and medium-sized merchants gain access to industry data, resources, and expertise.

Q: How are CS services and client outreach being enhanced through e-commerce training of U.S. Commercial Service staff?
Halpern:
We continue to enhance our national team’s skillset to counsel clients effectively on the nuances of selling via e-commerce channels. Our research across our client base has isolated nine areas that are critical when developing a successful e-commerce export strategy. Our staff should be able to advise or provide resources to help clients (1) identify market opportunities, (2) build their digital brand, (3) choose the right channel mix,(4) optimize their users’ experience, (5) price their product, (6) protect their brand, (7) ship their product, (8) get paid, and (9) manage after-sales services. We have developed our online “e-Commerce Export Resource Center” at www.export.gov/ecommerce to mirror these nine categories. We have also launched a new CS service called the “Virtual Product Pitch” to match U.S. companies already selling online in the United States to our network of overseas distributors and e-commerce platforms. Basically, operating within the new e-commerce paradigm, companies should be able to articulate the positive attributes of their product via sharing the URL and a quick overview without having to fly overseas or send samples in advance. Sure, if you have the budget and time, nothing beats a face-toface meeting, but for companies already selling online in the United States, it should not be a necessary step to get the ball rolling. You can also learn more about this service on our site www.export.gov/ecommerce.


Q: What are some major trends driving e-commerce export growth?
Halpern: Key drivers of e-commerce exports to overseas markets include the growth of the digital economy, which includes significantly reduced friction across the global digital ecosystem, a growing technically savvy middle class with increased spending power in numerous countries abroad, and the U.S. reputation as a trendsetter for quality products and services.

Q: What types of products and services are most marketable through e-commerce, and through which channels?
Halpern:
Major products include consumer goods such as cosmetics, pet products, home goods, fashion-forward apparel and accessories, unique action sporting goods, healthcare and food supplements, and new tech entertainment products. In certain markets, consumers do not trust their domestic logistics channel for safety and authenticity of the products their families regularly wear or consume. Therefore, if they have to wait or pay more to guarantee the products have undergone more stringent qualitycontrol measures and come straight from the manufacturer, they will.
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