Stephensons Online: Helping Brands Expand Ecommerce Globally 11/18/2020
For brands looking to grow their business on third-party ecommerce platforms around the world, Taylor Sargeant, Head Buyer for Stephensons Online, is a good person to know. The company specializes in helping brands of all sizes to successfully market and sell their products on platforms like Amazon and eBay in dozens of countries, and provides an array of turnkey services and support to help them do so.
Stephensons buys and warehouses the products, and manages everything from set-up to day-to-day operations, including listings, storefront design and management, brand registry, messages, returns, and even language translation. It also handles global distribution to both B2B and B2C customers, whether your brand requires website fulfilment to customers in the UK, Europe or globally.
Sargeant discovers many of these brands at ECRM sessions, and he’s been to 15 of them to date, both Europe and U.S.-based. In fact, he has listed more than 50 brands from this year’s Euro Beauty session alone, and will be launching several more brands from the March Euro Food Virtual Session. In his interview with ECRM VP of Content Joseph Tarnowski, he discusses how his company works with brands, his experience at ECRM sessions, and his recommendations for suppliers looking to meet with him. (Click here to see ECRM's full list of U.S. and European category-specific Virtual Sessions.)
“Every supplier wants to cover the whole Amazon piece across the globe,” says Sargeant. “But it’s labor intensive. Our business is about being a partner of the brand and being an extension of their office to deliver that strategy for third-party platforms. So, instead of taking a commission on sales, we will buy the products and act like a distributor for them.”
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This can be particularly helpful for global brands that are looking to test the waters in various European markets, or markets in other countries, for example. “We work with every Amazon platform in the world,” says Sargeant. “If you are a U.S.-based brand, for example, for the most part you will be live on Amazon.com, as well as on Amazon in Canada and Mexico, because they all kind of come as one unit. You may be live on it's European platform, but probably not all of Europe because of VAT and other things. With us, you can go live in 14 countries at the click of a button. We have the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and the UAE and it keeps growing. It’s a great way to get a taste of what your brand can achieve in those countries.”
Once Stephensons picks up a brand, the process for going live takes approximately eight weeks. For new brands, Stephensons works with them to get their product rankings up and grow the number of positive reviews, and assists with marketing and public relations to help get the word out. The product’s stock is warehoused in the various countries where the brand is live, so delivery to consumers is quick.
Indeed, building a strong ecommerce presence has taken on increased importance during the pandemic, as consumers rushed to online for all of their household staples. Additionally, success in these various online markets can help when retailers are pitching buyers of brick-and-mortar retailers with stores in those areas. Buyers in ECRM meetings always want to see some sales performance data, and being able to demonstrate strong online sales in the retailer’s particular markets is a critical part of these discussions.
And once a brand has both an online and brick-and-mortar presence in a market, they tend to help boost each other’s performance. “Being on the store shelves is some of the best PR that a brand can get,” notes Sargeant. “The flip side is also true. Once you start getting into these retailers, it’s important to have the Amazon territory covered in those countries, too.”
Expanding categories via virtual meetings
While Sargeant is a huge fan of ECRM’s in-person sessions and the opportunity for networking that they provide, ECRM’s pivot to virtual at the onset of the pandemic has helped Stephensons' expansion into new categories such as food, pet, vitamins and supplements, categories it may not explored otherwise. “ECRM’s switch to virtual was so quick and efficient that it has helped me to launch brands outside of our traditional health and beauty categories,” he says. “For these newer categories, it’s so much easier to dip into them and get a taste via virtual, and we’ve already have four or five new brands from the ECRM Euro Dry Food & Confectionery that are set to launch online in December. Had it not been virtual, I may not have participated in those particular sessions.”
ECRM’s virtual sessions have also enabled him to participate in more U.S.-based programs, something that would have been difficult even without the pandemic due to the time involved in international travel. “These American brands are exciting for us, as they have the big turns, they are already established on Amazon in the U.S., which makes it easier for me to launch them successfully in Europe.”
When it comes to the ECRM Connect platform, Sargeant cited its ease-of-use, organization, and follow up capabilities as the features that most impressed him. “You just can’t get it wrong when you use it,” he says. “It’s very similar to the in-person sessions, where you get everyone into the right place at the right time in a very efficient way. And the meeting times are set, so no one can go over, which forces people to focus. The notes function keeps me from having to use a notebook, and afterward I download all of my meeting notes and information into a spreadsheet, which I then use for my follow-ups. As a brand, why wouldn’t you participate? Now’s the best time to do it.”
While in-person will always be Sargeant’s preferred method of connecting with brands, experiencing virtual meetings has opened him up to the potential it has to complement in-person meetings in the future. “I think it’s definitely here to stay,” he says. “While I feel that I’m more effective when I’m in-person, we are getting a lot done with virtual, too. So it’s kind of win-win. It’s becoming a quicker world, more efficient, and for those people who don’t like to travel or who can’t travel, it makes their lives so much more easier.”