Webinar Transcription

Josh Halpern (CITC): Welcome to another edition of conversations from the field Latin American edition. Thanks for joining everybody, who’s there at home, anywhere you are in the world, I’m going to start off giving a quick intro to our speakers. We’ve with us Alejandro and Maria from Linio and later, we’re going to have Kevin and Alex joining from two different companies. They are two different sellers talking about how to enter the Latin American market, not only in general but specifically about what are some of the issues that COVID -19 could be impacting your decisions and strategies and where you maybe wanted to think of next. Okay. I’m going to start really quick. I’m Josh Halpern, Chief Strategy Officer at the California International Trade Center – CITC (www.cainternationaltrade.org) Our mission is to help specifically California small and medium companies sell through ecommerce overseas and help the workforce development aspect of that to prepare a new generation of digitally engaged exporters. My background other than Chief Strategy Officer now, I used to be a U.S. diplomat in China, helping U.S. companies enter the Chinese market through ecommerce. And then, I founded the eCommerce Innovation Lab for the Department of Commerce years ago and we help U.S. small and medium companies go global through that network we started to really engage with a lot of wonderful sellers as well that have had lots of questions and we’ll try to infuse those questions into our discussion today.

Now, we’re talking Latin America. One of the big things to think about with LatAm first of all, it’s not just Mexico and it’s not Brazil in the case of our discussion. Today, we’re going to be talking about the broader LatAm experience including Mexico, but not solely Mexico. We’re also going to talk about the growth and opportunity in Latin America in particular the lack of penetration historically of Internet and usage online. And now how that’s accelerated vis-à-vis Covid-19 and how that’s a great growth opportunity for you when you’re looking at new markets to expand into. So, we’re going to start off kicking it off with Maria Mogna. Thank you for joining us today.

Maria Mogna (Linio): Thank you for inviting me, inviting us.

Josh Halpern (CITC): Sure. Where are you right now?

Maria Mogna (Linio): I’m based in Mexico. I’m Venezuelan, but been living in Mexico for one year and six months.

Josh Halpern (CITC): Okay, and when was the last time you left your house, your apartment?

Maria Mogna (Linio): I think 30 days plus then 30 days. I don’t know, I lost the count.

Josh Halpern (CITC): So, for those people listening from home, yes, people are also on lockdown sheltered in place in Mexico. I myself was in Mexico up until three weeks ago until we moved the family of vis-à-vis our job situation to the U.S. and we’re hiding out waiting for the green light to go back. Maria. Thanks. Let’s dive right in because we have a tight schedule here and we’re going to get everybody out in 45 minutes or less. So, we’re talking about that big LatAm picture. Could you just talk a little bit about the LatAm in general and how it differs from the U.S.?

The Opportunity in Latin America

Maria Mogna (Linio): Yes, of course, what I think that it’s very important for me to show you is the relevance that LatAm has in terms of as a region. Here in this map, I show you the most six important countries in the region which are Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and of course Brazil. Six of these countries, its population its over or it’s going to be over for this year 654 MM people and the other thing that it’s important is that if we combine this six countries, we see that in terms of GDP, they are as big as Germany, which is a first world country, and of course is ranked as fourth in that rank and if we only consider the Spanish-speaking countries, they can be compared to France, which is in the seventh place in that rank. So, I mean in Latin America, there’s an untapped opportunity that we need to address and that we need to consider in order to introduce our brands or your brands and your companies to this potential market.

Josh Halpern (CITC): Okay. So, let’s just talk about specifically that difference. Could you elaborate further especially around penetration and the growth opportunity?

Maria Mogna (Linio): Yes, of course. As I told you U.S. is the biggest country in this region. When you see the middle-class growth and when you compare it to Latin American middle-class growth is not as different as we may think. The middle-class growth what shows us is the opportunity for the customer to have the possibility to buy more products. And of course, to access to more luxury. Let’s say luxury products through this online channel. Then, when you see it in terms of ecommerce sales, Latin America is generating almost 56 billion dollars annually in ecommerce sales as I already said. But the thing or the most important thing here is that we have a 71% of Internet penetration that compared to the U.S. which is 88%, is very low and what it shows us is the growth opportunity that we have in ecommerce to grow to ramp up our companies and ramp up our sales in this channel.

Josh Halpern (CITC): One of the things for those people watching at home is an interesting convergence. You’ve got low penetration, room for growth, and your marketing spend goes a lot farther in Latin America than it does in the U.S. with a lot less competition on keywords and other platforms.

Maria Mogna (Linio): Definitely. If you see it in terms of products availability or assortment, we have a bigger opportunity because what happen is that in Latin America some of our countries are restricted. They don’t have all the products that you can find in the U.S. So, when you use ecommerce or cross-border ecommerce as a channel, well, you are providing with that specific product to the Latin American customer and the Latin American customer is aware of what the U.S. is selling. They are aware of the trends, of the products that are being used and sold in the U.S. So yes, there is an untapped opportunity. Taking into account the Internet penetration when you see it in a more like micro kind of point of view, you will see that we’re going every day more mobile. Smartphone is the most used device to connect and especially by Millennials. We see that Millennials are connecting more than five hours to the Internet every day and definitely people are purchasing on their smartphones more and more. We see that 78% of our users have used their smartphone to purchase something on the Internet, but this might be changing and the mixed might be changing due to Covid-19, because all the people is doing, not everybody, but mostly people is using their house to do homeschooling, to do home office. So, they are using more their computer, their desktop to access to media to any browser and they can increase their profitability to buy products through the computer not  necessarily only through the mobile.

Josh Halpern (CITC): Great. Thanks, and we’re going to dive little bit further with Alejandro in a little bit about that, going deeper. Can you talk about the different countries? And how do you analyze which country in Latin America to go into next? In a general sense, he will talk a little bit more later about the perspective related to Covid-19, but first could you run down those flags for us?

Maria Mogna (Linio): Yes, of course. From left to right, you’ll see Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Argentina. So, the important thing here is that you need to consider many factors to understand if your company is going to be competitive in one country or in another. Most of our sellers are eager to start their business in Mexico because it’s the biggest country but it’s also the most competitive one. And it is the one who has maybe the most quantity of assortment in terms of products. So, you need to consider the other countries, just to understand if your market is going to grow more exponentially in those markets than in Mexico. For example, one thing you need to take into account is the threshold for personal imports. What we do for example in Linio with cross-border ecommerce is that our logistics are or our operations are in terms of personal imports. This means that the customer will buy directly to a company in the U.S. The customer is importing that product for personal use.  I’m going to give you two examples in the case of Mexico.

For example, we need or we have a threshold, which is the limit of the value of the product that you can import to that country, in Mexico is $1,000. So, if you have let’s say an iPhone which value is above US$ 1,000, you cannot import that product for personal import because it exceeds that threshold. So, everything that is under US$ 1000, you can import it with no problem at all under the personal import form. Inside or within that US$1,000, you have another threshold which indicates if that product needs to declare taxes and duties. So, that threshold is US$50. Any product which value is under US$50 does not declare taxes and duties and all the products, everything above US$50 needs to declare 17% of taxes and duties, and the same happens to other countries. For example, in Peru, which is one of the countries who has the highest potential and has reflected double-digit growth in ecommerce year-over-year, you see that the highest limit is US$2,000 and then, the threshold for importing products without declaring any taxes and duties is US$200. So, your products have more opportunity to be competitive in Peru vs. Mexico, for example, which is US$30. You will need to, everything that it’s over US$2,000, you will need to add 22% from the product price in order for that product to go through the customs. Yes, so there is another side we need to look at when we’re trying to enter in the Latin American market and it’s the product restrictions. We have some product restrictions when it comes to personal imports. And as you mentioned Josh, in health and beauty, I think that it is the category where we have more restrictions because it is a product that touches directly the skin of the customer and it may implicate some medical issues. For example, Colombia has a governmental entity called Invima (www.invima.gov.co) and they regulate the entry of health and beauty products in their country. If your brand sells let’s say makeup or maybe a cream or perfume, that brand needs to be registered in Invima. If it’s not registered, the product is not going to be clear in the customs. This is a procedure that you need to manage inside Colombia. That’s not something that usually the platforms do for you when you sell through a Marketplace. Also, when you’re trying to send those products through an express service, you may encounter some restrictions too, so it’s best for health and beauty products to use postal services, in order to make sure that those products are going to arrive to your final customer.

Josh Halpern (CITC): When you’re trying to analyze which markets to go into in Latin America, you’ve got a few things to think about, right? One is you’ve got thresholds on the high end and the low end that trigger different VATs, which they obviously will imply a higher cost and will make you potentially from a price perspective, less competitive. The other is you’ve got certain restrictions, certain countries have higher restrictions or require restrictions, whereas others don’t. You’ve got to be aware of that, right? And then of course, there’s other additional cost but there’s also the deeper penetration from a digital marketing spend perspective that we talked about earlier, but briefly and is not for this call, but those are the things you’ve got to be thinking about. Am I missing anything?

Maria Mogna (Linio): No. Let’s say edible products, military equipment, weapons are some things that you cannot sell through cross-border.

Josh Halpern (CITC): But yes, so those are not selling but sometimes certain products if you have to put it in or on your body, you may not be able to sell direct to the consumer, but you could do a traditional import warehouse in country and sell, not the discussion about direct consumer today, but that’s an option. You’re not out of the game if you have those types of products. Okay. Thanks.

Marketplaces – Price structure

Josh Halpern (CITC): Can you break down the cost? And for those people watching at home, this is a cost generally around many platforms to try to understand it, and Linio has been gracious enough to give us a general idea of their own price structures. But you’re very much aligned with this but you’ll have a Mercado Libre and Amazon and others but this is how it all pans out.

Maria Mogna (Linio): Yes. One very common question that our sellers make to us is that if they need to translate their labels or the package of their products and there is no need to change that information. So that’s a problem that you will not be handling with cross-border ecommerce. But definitely in order to be competitive you need to take into account this structure. This structure is very similar as the one that we use in our platform. Of course, it will vary depending on the platform where you’re selling your products, but more or less it goes like this. You have your product price, and from that product price, you will calculate the taxes and duties if applies and also you will calculate the category commission or the fee that your platform is charging to. So, let’s say that for this product price and this example is in Mexico. The product price is US$25. Let’s say that in there is like small appliances. All the small appliances and you have the category fee which is whatever percent which is US$3.5. Then you have the shipping cost which is US$10. Then, the other Marketplace fee, let’s say it’s US$1, and you have the VATs. As the product is under US$50, you will not or that product will not declare any taxes and duties. So, the final amount will be US$39.5 and, in this example, we are converting from dollars to Mexican pesos. Therefore, we add that exchange factor and there is your final price. Then in the other hand, we have other product that is above the US$50 threshold, and from the product price, you will calculate the taxes and duties which is 17% over the product price and you will add the category fee and the shipping cost, the Marketplace fee, the VATs and duties, and then you will have your final price and that final price you will convert it into exchange rate. Some platforms let you charge or let you upload or list your products in U.S. dollars, other ones require for you to exchange it into the local currency. But anyhow, here’s a way for you to structure your prices in Latin America. And this allows you to see if you’re going to be competitive in the market you want to enter.

Josh Halpern (CITC): Just want to point that out again to dive right in, right? So, the minimum is US$50 or 1,000 pesos. That means below US$50 of the product price, not the end final price, the product price. Then, you have lower taxes and your product ends up being about US$40. If it’s a US$60 and it hits over that US$50 threshold, your product is about US$50 in this case more than the previous, the other one, as opposed to 25, right? So, big difference. Something if you’re in the ballpark of this price range, you want to pay attention to see if you can make some adjustments. All right, run us through this real quick. Let me just do a quick thing D2C what is referring to here is from your website direct to the consumer. And B2C is from you to a Marketplace to the consumer. Correct?

B2C vs D2C

Maria Mogna (Linio): Yes. That’s the difference and I think that the B2C model is the best one to enter in a new market because they have all the local knowledge for that market, they also have the tools, they provide you with the tools that will allow you to understand the customers and to offer them the best products or the products that they need that are relevant for that market. So, the most important thing here is the flexibility. If you’re able to change a little bit your business, we deal with a lot of wholesalers which they don’t know how to start working in ecommerce. And that’s where the B2C model is the best ally for that kind of companies, because if you are flexible enough and you receive that help from that partner, you will be able to respond to unprecedented changes and to adapt to those changes as we see right now in with Covid-19. So, with B2C, they help you to translate the language of your content. They will help you to centralize the customer service that is powered by that Marketplace. They will offer you with a multi-device platform. You can reach the customers that are using mobile, reach the customers that are using tablets and laptops. And also, another advantage is that you can use the fulfillment by or all the negotiations that those marketplaces have with important cross-border carriers. And I think that something that is very important is the security in terms of payments and most of the marketplaces that are working in Latin America and I speak for Lineo is that we make sure that transactions are clear from fraud. So, everything you receive in your platform is fraud free and you will receive that payment from that specific order.

Josh Halpern (CITC): Okay, just really quick. Thanks. For those we’re cutting out of time and I want to make sure that Alejandro has time to talk about specifically the Covid-19 impact, but one of the things we are seeing is a lot of wholesalers as Maria was saying, and other companies that have not engaged in LatAm, now say our distributors in country with brick and mortar are dead for now in the sense of not active. Let me say that again, distributors in country are not active right now. They will be again but to get back, to get yourself online get selling to Latin America, Marketplace is certainly already optimized, it’s got local language, it has a team that will localize that language, all as part of a commission of sales, and I’m not just talking about Lineo. There’s a lot of other ways that you can optimize and get yourself going. They also have the drop ship model, where you shipped directly from your warehouse into the consumer homes but through selling it through their Marketplace. You can also put your stuff in fulfillment by model similar to fulfill by Amazon. You can also be fulfilled by Lineo and that is a great way to get started in a market, especially now that Covid-19 is happening, and people want to take advantage of that opportunity. Thanks Maria.

Maria Mogna (Linio): Thank you.

Covid – 19 impact in Latin America

Josh Halpern (CITC): Alejandro. Thank you. What do you do for Linio and Falabella also owning Linio? And then, we’ll dive right into the Covid-19 situation. Alejandro, thanks for joining.

Alejandro McKelligan (Linio): Thanks Josh. Basically, I’m Head of Brand and Seller Acquisitions for Linio and Falabella. We bring new sellers, new businesses to be able to sell through our international platforms and be able to reach from wherever they are in the world to our main countries, which are in case of Linio: Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Chile and in the case of Falabella, we’re actually opening right now the international marketplace for Chile. So yes, we’re open to bring in new sellers to platforms. Let’s think a little bit of what’s happening on the consumer landscape now that we are through this pandemic outbreak. As you know, we already talked a little bit about which are the opportunities, which are possibilities we have in the Latin American region. Thanks to what Marie told us, but during this moment, some trends have been able to change. It’s obviously a tragedy that is affecting all of us around the world, but it’s also changing the way you make businesses and obviously, the way things are happening, specifically talking about what’s happening in ecommerce. The first things that we can obviously see is it is really increasing the demand that we are having right now in ecommerce. We are speaking about double and triple digit, mainly because first, impossibility for people to go to physical stores, most stores all around the world are closed now, besides obviously Asia, which is going right now out of this problem, but in most of the world, we’re seeing all the shops closed, so this is bringing people inside of the ecommerce segment. Now, people that is already at home is also starting to use more their devices. They are not only using the cell phones, which is the regular companion outside on the street, but they are also actually having more access to their laptops, to their Smart TVs. They are there for having more impacts and having more connection with what the content inside of the Internet is bringing to them. So, we have more time of the consumer connecting with ecommerce, seeing products, watching products, watching publicity. And third, well, this is mainly something that happens in the Latin America region. In the U.S. you are used to have large cities in all around of the country, you have large cities in the west, in the east, even in central areas. In case of Latin American countries, culturally speaking, most of the people concentrates in the capital cities. Therefore, these cities bring a lot of shops, bring a lot of options and obviously concentrate a lot of people. Now, what happens with the Covid-19 outbreak is that these main cities that usually have multiple options for shopping are lacking them because they are not able or not permitted to go out and the shops are closed. Therefore, they are realizing that the only option of purchasing is ecommerce. As we can see in the region area presented by Nielsen, we can see an example of Mexico, in which 41% of total population is concentrated in Mexico City and surrounding areas. Speaking of mainly the most important comparison would be with New York, we’re speaking of Manhattan, but also all the area surrounding Manhattan. It’s the same with Mexico City. Let’s go to the other slide, please.

Now, speaking specifically which categories are building up, we know that generally ecommerce is having more sales but going specifically into which categories are growing, we have office supplies which is growing more than 200%, people need to have an office now, they do not have access to many things when they were out of this outbreak. Now, they need to buy printers, scanners, webcams and even computer equipment. Health supplies, people are buying a lot of health supplies, not only the basics but anything that can improve their health conditions. Computing, obviously people is in need of more access to computers at homes, and let’s remember not everybody uses only a laptop with webcam, we get a lot of designers, on the art segment who need powerful computers to be able to keep working. They are investing in this to be able to keep their trends at work. Health and Beauty, people are obviously now taking care of themselves at home. You’re not able to go outside to regular places like Spas, like places in which they were able to take care of themselves. So, now they are doing this at home. Therefore, they are purchasing products for this kind of needs. And finally, Entertainment Sports, we are having a lot of growth in Entertainment Sports, even if these are secondary needs, people who stays at home have already covered their basic needs, now they need to entertain, to keep fit, to keep healthy. Therefore, these categories are growing a lot. If we go down to the graph that I’m showing at the bottom of the right side, if we divide this by economic segments, we see that the highest income segments of the population are used to travel a lot in the case of Latin America. They are used to travel a lot to the U.S., to Europe and most of the time this traveling evolves shopping. Now that they cannot travel at all, this shopping that usually came from international shops is going through international marketplaces. People in these segments are looking for international brands, normally not present in the local source, and the only way to find them is with marketplaces that can offer a cross-border option. The other thing is when you go to middle class, they usually do not travel that much but they do go to shops in the local cities. Now that they do not have this option, they obviously are selecting the ecommerce channel.

Josh Halpern (CITC): Essentially what you’re saying is if you previously analyzed the market of Latin America and said my products might be a little higher than the market is able to bear but I do sell a lot to Latin American people who come to the U.S. and visit our shops, that is the change. One of the major changes is that now those people are looking to get your products online and that price sensitivity may be alleviated at least for now to some degree.

Alejandro McKelligan (Linio): Absolute, Josh. We still have the economic impact that is impacting all segments of the population, but even with that, people that usually do this kind of consumption at an international level, traveling, now they are doing it only through the ecommerce channel.

Josh Halpern (CITC): Okay. Thanks. Now, this is such a great important slide that talks about the actual increase on the weekly basis that you’re seeing.

Alejandro McKelligan (Linio): Right. This is something public, this is something you can see from Deloitte Consulting. What we are seeing is how does the Covid-19 evolution has impacted the consumption. First, we can see in the first two weeks that people were preparing in terms of basic needs. They wanted to have food. They wanted to have sufficient things that can cover their basic needs. Once they are covered with that, in the next week, they are starting to analyze: What do we do with these products? I have food, how can I cook it? how can I cook it better? I have now basic needs that I need for my house, how can I improve my living? I’m staying here 24 hours; how can I improve my experience at home? And then, we are not seeing it right now but what happens in weeks 5 and 6 is that people already covered with basic needs, are already covered with the extensional needs, now they are looking for secondary needs, something like sports, entertainment, how do I keep this outbreak from pressure me? how can I make a lot of more contact with my family? how can I improve my experience with my family inside of our house? So that’s why they are now also entering into a trend of consumption in the entertainment section and the sports section.

Sellers in Marketplaces – Successful cases

Josh Halpern (CITC): Thanks, Alex. I’m going to go now to one of our sellers but I want to thank you very much Alejandro. For those of you who are going to have more questions, feel free to follow up again. Kevin thanks for joining us here and we are very excited to hear more about what you do. Can you just quickly give us an overview of your company and what you sell? where you do it overseas globally?

Kevin Aserraf (BRIDGEKO): Of course, so we are an online distributor. We represent brands in several countries mostly in Latin America on our marketplaces and websites. Sometimes our websites or sometimes, the companies’ websites that we handle for them. We sell in Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Peru and also in the U.S.

Josh Halpern (CITC): So mostly Latin America?

Kevin Aserraf (BRIDGEKO): Correct

Josh Halpern (CITC): When you first started, how did you first enter LatAm online?

Kevin Aserraf (BRIDGEKO): Well, I first started in Venezuela because I lived there. I’m originally from Venezuela. And yes, I started working there with several marketplaces and it was interesting though, because at that time we really didn’t expect online to be an outlet for merchandise. And initially it was just sort of a side project to liquidate certain products and it suddenly became our business, our main business.

Josh Halpern (CITC): Wow. Thanks. Now, in this slide we have some of your products and I’m going to give Alejandro from Linio to ask you some of the questions pointed around your strategy here.

Alejandro McKelligan (Linio): Kevin, thank you very much for joining us. We all appreciate that you are coming to this webinar. We want to ask you some things, basically in your experience through ecommerce and specifically through international ecommerce, how have been your experience working with marketplaces? If you can talk a little bit to us about which Marketplaces you have been working with and how this Marketplaces help you in terms of cross-border sales and to increase your sales? How is it different from going by yourself? Is it improving really your experiences or not?

Kevin Aserraf (BRIDGEKO): On firsthand, I think there’s an important distinction to make between the dynamic with marketplaces here in the U.S. and the dynamic in Latin America. Mostly with Latin American Marketplaces, let’s say here in the U.S., it’s sort of, you have to push and you have to send a lot of requests and you have to go through a lot of people in order to get issues solved. You have to wait a lot. You’re just one more in the line. There’s no direct relationship with anyone. It’s sort of you are having a relationship with an algorithm, right? That can be very frustrating and it’s important to take that into consideration and note that in Latin America is the other way around. In Latin America it’s a lot more personal in the sense that you do have a human that you can talk to and share your concerns, and actually, you feel that you are on the same team and not trying to cannibalize each other and take each other’s business. So, my experience with Marketplaces in Latin America has been really positive, both in customer service and support. And in numbers, of course, the U.S. is a huge market but Latin America has big markets even in countries that one wouldn’t expect. And of course, you also mentioned my experience with cross-border, well with cross-border you have the possibility to get to a much bigger market because you’re selling in several countries at the same time, without the logistical nightmare of having a legal and physical presence in each country, which in Latin America is not as simple as it is in the U.S., believe me. It’s not as simple.

Josh Halpern (CITC): Do you do fulfillment by Linio? How are you shipping and actually fulfilling?

Kevin Aserraf (BRIDGEKO): We have used different systems with different marketplaces. We have fulfilled with some of the marketplaces. We haven’t yet use fulfillment by Linio, it’s something that we’re definitely considering, but we’re shipping right now with the courier that Linio has, they have amazing pricing with several alliances with couriers and we consolidate with them and send the items to the destination.

Josh Halpern (CITC): This is it just Linio obviously with you, and you sell through other Marketplaces and sometimes, using their fulfillment and sometimes not, but you don’t actually deal with yourself getting your hands dirty with actually delivering direct.

Kevin Aserraf (BRIDGEKO): No, we have it stored generally in the warehouse. We have several warehouses that we use but we send them and we store mostly in the courier that we use with Linio, so that makes easy the operation.

Josh Halpern (CITC): Right. Alejandro, I don’t want to cut you off. Do you have another question?

Alejandro McKelligan (Linio): We really appreciate Kevin coming and for talking a little bit about what’s happening. Probably the only thing that I could ask lastly is how has your experience been and what would you recommend to any seller trying to start to do cross-border in the U.S.? What should they be prepared to do? What should they do a little bit more effort to? What should they be like right now checking out to be prepared to do international ecommerce?

Kevin Aserraf (BRIDGEKO): I do think that there’s a big part of the logistics that is taken care of by the Marketplaces and that makes the operation a lot easier, but it is important to use that relationship that you have access to with Linio in Latin America. For example, we have focused and we have invested time with our account brand in cross-border and that has really helped us because we have been able to participate in campaigns to do cool marketing operations. And those are the kind of opportunities that actually make the difference at the end. So yes, it is a plus having the relationship but investing the time and using it is what I think at the end of the day will bring a bigger business for both.

Josh Halpern (CITC):  Great. I think it is great information and we do want to talk to Alex who’s another seller, but do you feel like for those who do not natively speak Spanish it’s a huge barrier and they shouldn’t be focused or they can still make a go at this?

Kevin Aserraf (BRIDGEKO): I think it’s a barrier that is taken care of mostly by the Marketplaces.

Josh Halpern (CITC): We’re seeing a lot of companies that are optimizing their websites and going into Latin America and elsewhere around the world and they’re going direct from their website. I’m seeing a lot of them divert marketing, spend to Marketplaces and move away from that model just because it’s hard to get mind share. Is that something that you would agree with? 

Kevin Aserraf (BRIDGEKO): A 100%, I think there are two issues. Of course, getting traffic is really expensive, and also if you’re marketing in different countries, getting to know how to reach and resonate with that specific customer is a whole different world. So, I would say that it’s something that’s we’re talking about different businesses. Right? We’re talking about different investment and effort in time. So, I wouldn’t even compare them as similar businesses.

Josh Halpern (CITC): Okay again, Kevin. Thanks so much for joining us. If you have questions for Kevin or any of us, let us know. Now, we have a couple of minutes left and we are going to talk to Alex Mora, who does sell other products online across the Latin American space. Great Alex. How are you? Could you start by just telling us what your company does? What you sell is wholesale or direct? and in what markets you’re going to currently around the world?

Alex Mora (GT Miami): Yes, we are a wholesaler electronic company. We’ve been in business for around 12 years. Recently, one or two years ago, we started in the retail market, through this platform. We started and we found one really good platform, Linio, which has been helping us a lot, getting to all these countries. I’m getting more using these platforms, because with all the situation with Covid-19, the customers are right now just getting their cell phones and buying whatever they want and getting the products in their front doors. So, it’s been very good and successfully for our company selling in Linio.

Josh Halpern (CITC): In general, about your Marketplaces play, right now with Covid-19, obviously people can’t go to the stores and spend hours as I’ve done in Latin America waiting for someone to help me. They can actually go online and buy products. Have you seen an increase in sales? Have you seen a change?

Alex Mora (GT Miami): Yes, of course. Like I said, people now are in their homes, unfortunately. They have to be at home. But they have started to look all over, they go to different platforms, they go to different servers, and they can find anything, the company, whatever they want or need. They can find it and, the thing is now, they can get it, they can buy it and whatever it is, even if it’s not in the country or if it is in another part of the world, they will get it in their doors, right there. So, that’s what it’s moving now, everybody’s getting things. Before, a couple years ago: how can I get it here? I want to buy it, but , how can I get it now? Now, you buy it, you go online and use the platforms, you click, you buy it and in a couple of days, couple of weeks you have the products in your home, simple as that. If you like it, you can return it.

Josh Halpern (CITC):  A couple of things for those wholesalers out there, whether it’s telephones or whether it’s other vitamins or whatever. If you traditionally were not selling direct, one of the things that we’re seeing obviously in cases like Alex is now you’re getting on a Marketplace, you are listing your products and you’re doing all that easily and optimizing it for mobile, optimizing linguistically. The shipping aspects is all taken care of for you, again, diving into that question though around logistics, let’s say, I have a warehouse and this is for both Alex, Alejandro and Maria, whomever. If I have a warehouse, I’m already producing and selling to distributors around the world, and now I want to light up Latin America. How do I do that on Marketplaces? For example, how much do I have to convert my warehouse? my shipping? my duties and tax receipts, all that stuff through if I sell through a Marketplace?

Alex Mora (GT Miami): Things are easier now. I believe you must have a very good platform account manager, somebody to help you, somebody to guide you in the process. Once again, the Marketplaces have all the logistics, they’ll tell you, just drop it here and that’s it. Okay. So then from there, the Marketplaces take it straight to the customer, whatever country it is, they will distribute your product to the customer. But I believe you need to have some guidance, especially somebody like the Marketplace account manager to tell you, how to do it, what the times are.

Josh Halpern (CITC): My understanding and what I’ve seen with other clients in different Marketplaces in LatAm is as Kevin earlier was alluding to, Marketplaces in LatAm are a little bit more engaged certainly than our experiences in other platforms that are global based out of the U.S. You can sit on a phone and have somebody localize your content for example, for Peru vs Mexico vs Colombia. They can walk you through the fulfillment process in the labeling. There’s a lot more hand-holding. So, when Alex talks about an account manager, he’s referring to a Marketplace account manager that’s designated for you at no cost at all. I think a percentage of sales is all they take. Is that the case for Linio?

Alejandro McKelligan (Linio): Correct.

Alex Mora (GT Miami): Yes. Definitely what I’m seeing in Linio is this. If you have a lot of marketing local here in U.S., send an email, wait 24 to 72 hours to get a response. Sometimes, they don’t. You can call and they keep you in line and in these marketplaces is important to always have somebody to help you out, always there to guide you, to tell you and which is very important because, you can put a hundred items. Sometimes you don’t sell it, and you say: what is going on? why I don’t sell if I have my products over there? So, Marketplaces help you in this process.

Josh Halpern (CITC): Is a requirement for someone to speak Spanish to be able to engage with an account manager or locally?

Alejandro McKelligan (Linio): Not really. I’ll tell in the case of our international marketplace; we have a team that is Spanish and English speaking. So, they are always able to help you no matter which chapter of Americas are you. In the case of Asia, we also have a team helping them to be accountable and to be able to put their products on platforms. So pretty much make it possible for any seller around the world that at least speaks English to be able to put their products inside of our platform.

Josh Halpern (CITC): Okay, and that’s important for everybody to know and also you can find out more as we go forward. Thanks, Alex, for joining us. Everybody who has questions, of course, let us know. Also. I’m a big fan of connecting people. We have something that is called the California Export Connect (www.caexportconnect.org) and you will find there Linio’s team. You can contact them there, and then of course if you do want to get in touch with the California International Trade Center team and see the recording of this webinar as well as the recording of the Spanish version, and other Conversations from the Field webinars with different markets, Stay home Sell global initial series and the Innovation Series, go to our website www.cainternationaltrade.org, to the webinars and you will see the different series both recorded and upcoming. We’re very excited to launch these series and have such a great partner like Alejandro and Maria from Linio to give us all this great insight. Thanks so much again.