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“Building customer relationships is key” With Matthew Merrilees

Brick and mortar retailers and brands will have to adopt an enhanced ecommerce strategy — The shifting trend in consumer behavior towards ecommerce has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with people turning to online shopping due to lockdowns and safety precautions. Many new online shoppers will continue to shop online post-pandemic, as they see how […]

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Brick and mortar retailers and brands will have to adopt an enhanced ecommerce strategy — The shifting trend in consumer behavior towards ecommerce has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with people turning to online shopping due to lockdowns and safety precautions. Many new online shoppers will continue to shop online post-pandemic, as they see how convenient and simple it is. This makes it crucial for retailers to implement robust ecommerce strategies and operations.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew Merrilees.

Matthew Merrilees is the CEO, North America at Global-e, the leading provider in cross-border eCommerce solutions. He is responsible for all aspects of the country’s international eCommerce business ensuring frictionless integration with brands and delivering best-in-class service to customers. Matthew has previously held leadership positions at FedEx and DHL, and has a BA in business administration and management from Fairfield University.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After completing my degree in Business Administration and Management I was eager to dive into the world of eCommerce and international logistics, fascinated by the rapid adoption of internet shopping and the huge opportunity that global eCommerce posed for retailers. I began my career at DHL, followed by a managing director role at FedEx where I merged my experience in international logistics to help formulate their eCommerce strategy. My experience working with a range of eCommerce businesses eventually led me to Global-e where I’m able to delve into all the aspects of cross-border eCommerce, from the localized end-to-end customer journey to logistics and operations, from both the customer and the merchant side, supporting our retail partners’ international eCommerce strategy and helping them to grow their business.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

During my early career at DHL, I worked to generate business within the domestic market. Suddenly, DHL made a decision to withdraw from the domestic market and following a company-wide restructure I was laid off. Although at the time this was obviously a huge shock and disappointment, in hindsight it was the best lesson in resilience and gave me even more motivation to succeed in my career. I’ve always taken the approach that you should never burn bridges, and I left on good terms. It’s a good thing I did, because several months later I was asked to return to DHL for a new role.

Resilience is such an important skill, especially in the world of retail. Technology and other external factors are always evolving, and they have a huge impact on consumer behavior and retail performance. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this clearer than ever. In order to continuously grow and prosper, businesses (and people!) must be resilient and have the ability to adapt to a constantly changing environment; complacency is a dangerous territory.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

Early in my career, I was working in commercial sales. In an effort to be entrepreneurial, I sought after a large account and ultimately, promised them something that was beyond scope. I came to realize this only when I got a surprising response directly from their CEO, who asked to meet with us. After speaking with our leadership team and a candid conversation about our capabilities with the potential client, we were able to secure the new business. Although it really could have gone terribly wrong, I definitely showed my ambition and it was a lesson in understanding what your limitations are and what you can provide within your scope. Ultimately, never overpromise what you are unable to deliver.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Absolutely — we have a few exciting projects going on at the moment. Only recently, we supported Forever 21’s re-entry into the European markets, working closely with the brand to support their international eCommerce growth strategy. Meanwhile, since entering the U.S. market we have experienced rapid growth, even throughout the pandemic outbreak, with more retailers and brands looking to enhance their international ecommerce strategy and sales. Our dedicated solution for small and medium sized businesses which we launched in the U.S. in early 2020 is being highly adopted, with brands looking to establish new revenue streams. We’re working constantly to enable brands to smoothly expand their international business and in the most rapid way possible, both enterprise and SME scale. Brands are learning how to adapt to this ever-changing environment, and we help them grow and reach new consumers.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

It’s critical to identify the signs of burnout, as so many of us are living and working in a “new normal” due to COVID-19. The ability to manage change is big, so it’s important to keep focus on the main objective. Learn to find what your work/life balance is by developing a routine, and keep moving — exercise is essential to mental health and really helps you destress.

Ultimately, make sure that you’re hiring and investing in great people. One of the most important things in building a successful company is ensuring that the people around you are reliable, supportive, and trustworthy. If you have a team you can trust, you can help manage responsibilities and avoid burnout.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My father is my ultimate role model. He was a corporate executive within the cable industry and navigated his way through to SVP of Operations. From a very young age he has been my chief mentor, advisor, and coach. From coaching and cheering me on at sports games, helping me to balance education and a busy social life in my college days, guiding me through the trials and tribulations of parenthood to helping me to navigate the corporate and startup world. My father has taught me so many valuable lessons. His guidance has definitely shaped the way that I lead Global-e’s North American business, teaching me to always put your people first, remain ethical and loyal, lead from the front, and make decisions which ultimately will benefit not only your organization, but your customers and most importantly your people.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Retail is a really challenging industry. Especially in the current economic climate, it’s impossible to avoid hearing about store closures and retailers going out of business. The human cost of this is massive, contributing to the rocketing global unemployment rates. Consumer demands are constantly evolving and it’s very easy for businesses to get left behind if they’re not always three steps ahead. Being a part of Global-e is very rewarding as we are able to help retailers and brands to grow their international customer base, scale their business and constantly optimize their offering in order to survive and prosper in a crowded market and uncertain times. This is crucial for commercial success and ultimately means more employment opportunities.

Although it’s about business and revenues, I must say that it feels we are taking part in a bigger story. International trade is a way to break down barriers, acknowledge the diversity across the world, build bridges and allow people to connect with their favorite brands. Diversity is part of the Global-e DNA, our colleagues are spread across the world, coming from all different cultures and backgrounds and we see this as the key to our growth and success.

Can you share five examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

  • Brick and mortar retailers and brands will have to adopt an enhanced ecommerce strategy

The shifting trend in consumer behavior towards ecommerce has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with people turning to online shopping due to lockdowns and safety precautions. Many new online shoppers will continue to shop online post-pandemic, as they see how convenient and simple it is. This makes it crucial for retailers to implement robust ecommerce strategies and operations.

  • Ecommerce retailers will have to enhance their offline presence

To support their online growth, ecommerce retailers need to find ways to interact with customers face-to-face and adapt to the changing environment due to COVID. Physical retail will continue to exist, but its role will change and accordingly it could become an additional channel that even online businesses will need to consider in order to enhance consumer relationships.

  • Building customer relationships is key

Building customer relationships has always been an important factor in creating brand loyalty, and now it’s even more critical. These relationships are the result of interactions across multiple channels, both online and offline. Brands must constantly work to maintain these lines of communication in order to keep customers engaged.

  • Providing a seamless customer experience

The way that people shop online is constantly changing and in order to remain relevant, retailers must make sure they are up to date with the latest market trends. With rapid developments in financial technology, the way consumers pay for their goods is also evolving and ecommerce retailers must be proactive in providing shoppers with payment options to suit their needs and preferences. Retailers will also need to have robust systems for delivery and returns both domestically and internationally.

  • Adopting a global direct-to-consumer approach

Online shoppers worldwide are motivated by price, the variety of products and the ability to purchase products that might not be available to them domestically. International shoppers are looking to engage with their preferred brand and at the same time want to enjoy the seamless experience they get when buying from a domestic website. Retailers and brands need to understand their international shoppers’ preferences to the same extent that they understand domestic shopping preferences. Understanding the requirements of global shoppers and the unique local market characteristics will be the key to establishing new revenue streams and thriving on a global scale.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The eCommerce and logistics industries could definitely benefit from adopting more sustainable solutions and strategies. This applies to the whole chain from production through to packaging and transportation. Small changes can make a huge impact and I hope that we will be able to lead the change and help retailers to adopt more sustainable operations.

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