Global E-Commerce Leaders Podcast

Michael Relich, Co-CEO, Pacsun and Matthew Merrilees: CEO, North America, Global-e, Live from GELF 2023 in LA

Episode Summary

Greetings and welcome to a special episode recorded live in the on-site Stream Commerce podcasting studio at the Los Angeles Global eCommerce Leaders Forum in early 2023. These episodes are presented by Stream Commerce, a full-service Shopify Plus eCommerce agency delivering world-class Shopify Plus digital storefronts & growth marketing solutions. In this episode, we meet Michael Relich, Co-CEO, Pacsun and Matthew Merrilees: CEO, North America, Global-e.

Episode Notes

Greetings and welcome to a special episode recorded live in the on-site Stream Commerce podcasting studio at the Los Angeles Global eCommerce Leaders Forum in early 2023. These episodes are presented by Stream Commerce, a full-service Shopify Plus eCommerce agency delivering world-class Shopify Plus digital storefronts & growth marketing solutions. Stream Commerce can help you navigate the new Markets, Markets Pro and Global-e international capabilities native to Shopify and work hand-in-hand to help you drive profitable global sales.

And if you have questions about whether or not your international Klaviyo email marketing and paid performance marketing with Meta and Google is working as hard as you are, call the experts at Stream Commerce; they can help you maximize your return.

The Global eCommerce Leaders Forum LA 2023 offered retail professionals strategic insights and actionable takeaways about how industry leaders are tackling their top Global DTC and cross-border eCommerce challenges – and how they are successfully making a case for investing in global retail growth. 

In this episode, we meet Michael Relich, Co-CEO, Pacsun and Matthew Merrilees: CEO, North America, Global-e. 

If you liked this podcast, you can follow it on Apple iTunes, Spotify, Google, the Amazon Music podcast channel or your favourite podcast platform. Please rate and review with a five-star rating and be sure and recommend us to a friend or colleague in the retail and cross-border commerce industry.

You can learn more about the Global E-Commerce Leaders Forum and continue to keep up with the latest on cross-border commerce online at   Be sure and block off your calendar for the next GELF event in New York City on October 12, 2023!   I'm your host Michael LeBlanc, strategic retail advisor, keynote speaker and podcaster, and you can learn more about me on LinkedIn. 

About Michael

Business Leadership Experience in Highly Complex Global Environments (Retail, Wholesale & Licensing), Strong Technical and Digital Skills 

20-year executive career developing high-performing organizations, building infrastructures, strengthening operations and leveraging cutting-edge technologies to drive business transformation and position companies for scalable and profitable growth in both domestic and international markets. 

Known for approachable leadership style and ability to create and sell a compelling vision, engage individuals at all levels and foster a culture rooted in collaboration, operational excellence and data-driven decision making. 

Cross-functional executive experience with a leadership background and deep expertise in: 
Strategic Planning / Omnichannel Retailing / E-Commerce / Retail & Supply Chain Operations / Sales & Marketing / Business Process, Information Technology & Data / Organizational Design & Development / Change Management Board, Investor & Cross-Cultural Business Relations (w/ conversational Mandarin proficiency)

About Matthew

Global-e is the leading provider of comprehensive cross-border solutions and we continue to make significant investments into the North America market! 

Led by a team of experienced executives with broad and diverse expertise, we provide a unique technology-based, end-to-end solution for online merchants to handle all their cross-border needs.

As Chief Executive Officer, I am responsible for all aspects of the country’s International e-commerce business. I travel often to meet and learn from team members and employees around the country, giving my time and attention to ensure everyone understands the critical role they play and value they bring to delivering best-in-class service to our customers – locally and internationally. My focus is to ensure we are investing in our people and putting a hyper focus on our conversion to ensure the continued growth and quality for our customers.

Through a simple single integration we remove all friction points to sell globally. Coupled with our strong analytics and international market insights, we deliver huge sales uplift to our clients, increase customer satisfaction and most importantly boost conversion.

Simply “Go Global. Be Local.”

About Michael

Michael LeBlanc  is the Founder & President of M.E. LeBlanc & Company Inc and a Senior Advisor to Retail Council of Canada as part of his advisory and consulting practice.   He brings 25+ years of brand/retail/marketing & eCommerce leadership experience, and has been on the front lines of retail industry change for his entire career.  Michael is the producer and host of a network of leading podcasts including Canada’s top retail industry podcast,       The Voice of Retail, plus  Global eCommerce Leaders podcast, and The Food Professor  with Dr. Sylvain Charlebois.    You can learn more about Michael   here  or on     LinkedIn. 

Be sure and check out Michael's latest venture for fun and influencer riches - Last Request Barbecue,  his YouTube BBQ cooking channel!










Episode Transcription

Michael LeBlanc  00:05

Greetings and welcome to a special episode recorded live in the onsite stream commerce podcast in studio at the Los Angeles Global E-Commerce Leaders Forum in early 2023. These episodes are presented by stream commerce a full service Shopify Plus E commerce agency, delivering world class Shopify Plus digital storefronts and growth marketing solutions. Stream commerce can help you navigate the new markets, markets Pro and global e international capabilities native Shopify, and work hand in hand to help you drive profitable global sales. And if you have questions about whether or not your international claim to email marketing and pay performance marketing with meta and Google is working as hard as you are called the experts to stream commerce, they can help you maximize your return. The Global E-Commerce Leaders Forum la 2023, offered retail professional strategic insights and actionable takeaways about how industry leaders are tackling their top global DTC and cross border e commerce challenges. How they're successfully making a case for investing retail growth. In this episode, we meet Mike relic co CEO PacSun and Matthew Merrilees. CEO, North America globally. Let's listen to now. All right, well, gentlemen, welcome to the global e commerce leaders podcast. How are you both doing this morning? Doing great, fantastic, fantastic. Well, I finally get to say live from Hollywood. I've been waiting to say that all day, my whole life. I've been waiting to say that. But listen, welcome to the podcast. Thanks again for joining me. So let's start out at the beginning where we should, which is Tell me a little bit about yourself. Mike, why don't you start? Who are you and tell me a bit about yourself and what you do for a living? Well, first of all, I've been waiting to be live from Hollywood to first time. All right. But yeah, I'm the co CEO of PacSun. So for those of you who don't know, PacSun, it's a fashion retailer that's servicing the Gen Z consumer. We're headquartered in Anaheim, California, in Orange County. We were founded in 1980. We have 315 stores in 44. states. And we have about a third of our revenue coming from ecommerce.


Michael LeBlanc  02:04

Wow. And so your background, we were talking Off mic your background, you've been a retail longtime, you've got some Canadian connections. So which is really cool. Would you describe yourself? You're the CO CEO? So would you describe yourself? Now as an operator, you've got some technology in your background as well. But how do you how did you did you always want to be in retail? Like, how did you find your way here?



I ended up in retail, you know, when I graduated, there was a little bit of a recession. And actually, I was gonna join the Navy as, as an aviator, I wanted to be a pilot, you know, Top Gun, but ended up I ended up getting an offer from a department store company. And I got the retail bug. And I've worked in retail ever since. And I started out in technology as a programmer, and worked my way up and I decided I liked operations. And so I started assuming responsibility running distribution centers running customer service, running EECOM, and then ended up as the COO, and then now I'm co CEO, but I handled mainly the operations side of the business.


Michael LeBlanc  03:05

So do you find your technology background is is more of an advantage now than you would have think, in the past and your role than it was before. We're all very technologically savvy, but that's always been the case for retail one way shape or another? Do you think it's changed over the years,



it's definitely changed, you know, retail is evolved from being run by the merchant prince who's sat in their ivory tower and, you know, pick the styles and decide what was happening and it was relegated to the corner, it put pizzas under your door and decided, look, you know, don't spend too much money, but make sure that reports come out, you know, on Monday mornings, until now, you know, every country is that every company is a technology company. And you look at retail, especially, it's getting much, much more complicated because you've got multi channels EECOM it's a technology play, you've got inventory, which is your biggest source of working capital, and you need to be able to share that between channels. And so inventory accuracy becomes a big issue and integrating with third parties, like you know, for local delivery, etc. And then you know, you got NF T's and, you know, do you use those for basically loyalty programs or, or what have you. So I think


Michael LeBlanc  04:15

cybersecurity I'm sure as well as a top top drawer issue as well. Right. Cybersecurity is



a huge issue, especially, you know, you read how many companies that have actually been compromised.


Michael LeBlanc  04:25

There's one happening as we speak today, Indigo Books and Canada, they've been compromised, and they've had to launch their site as a browser only site no e commerce and it's been a week and a half. They're the third one in Canada. The LCBO is a big liquor company and running room and so it's just relentless, right? It's just a relentless hammering on the on the talent and the resources. Right?



Well, exactly. I mean, if he looked at the situation just described, the loss of revenue is incredible, but you know, the harm to the reputation Yeah. And then you look at the liability from having to go and pay for or pay for that breach and all the credit services, etc. Many can literally bankrupt the company. So it's very, very important.


Michael LeBlanc  05:07

Well, let's talk about more positive things. Mattatuck, let's talk about you, let's move over to Let's Get get out of that cybersecurity stuff. But it's actually kind of related because you know, this ecosystem of providers that help retailers do what they do, along with companies like Shopify Plus, so tell me about yourself, what do you do for a living? And who do you work for?



Sure. So Matt Merrilees, CEO for the North America, business ag global E. And yeah, I've been assuming this role since we launched the US business, which was just over five and a half years ago at this point.


Michael LeBlanc  05:39

And looking at your background, your DHL for a while, I think was FedEx. So you've got deep, deep experience in moving things from place to place around the world do I



do so sales and operations background? So yes, DHL were you know, when I did join, it was when DHL had some call it domestic and international experiences. And then, you know, the shift to focus on international Yeah, only, which was was an interesting time to be part of. And, yeah, it was mostly Sales and Operations growing through that, and then jumped over to FedEx as they were looking to put a strategy in place for E commerce, both in the logistics supply chain, the international standard, kind of, you know, call it shipping offering, and then also the technology arm of the business, which is similar to of course, what, what now globally, we are doing


Michael LeBlanc  06:26

Yeah, well, and how did you find your way into this business? You've been in it for a long time. But did you kind of oh, there's a great opportunity, or did you? Were you always interested in global stuff and moving packages? Or did the right opportunity at the right time when the right place? Yeah, I'd



say coming out of it. It was a family driven operations history, starting with my father, okay. The operations arena ran operations for the tri state for Time Warner, and you know, it was kind of, then my brother fell into place, who then started working for DHL. And then I felt like, I needed to follow suit. So I jumped first job out and then built the, you know, built, obviously, my career, starting with DHL and putting the pieces together. You know, DHL was an early investor in in globally.


Michael LeBlanc  07:13

Okay, there's a connection of,



of globally and shifting from a world of corporate America into a start up at the time that when I joined, when it was, you know, two, three individuals and myself here in the US market and to seeing what it is today, it's been one heck of a journey. Well, what


Michael LeBlanc  07:29

is it today, tell us all about globally, what you do off, Mike, you and I were talking to Ted starkman from from stream commerce. So I get the you're integrated into, for example, Shopify Plus, but that doesn't, you know, tell me what you do. And what makes you guys different that that is making you so successful. Yeah, for sure. We



are a international localization platform that helps brands and retailers break down barriers to converting the international traffic that comes to their direct to consumer site. So really help eliminate a lot of the barriers, everything from currency conversion to localize payment methods, to the tax strategies, and guarantees to just even getting a package, as you mentioned earlier, from point A to point B, and the complexities there within so really a platform that integrates into all of the major platforms, as you mentioned, Shopify axon is on Salesforce, which is another one obviously, is quite popular in common. But really, we make it easy from a localization perspective to make sure that our brand shops are geared for international.


Michael LeBlanc  08:26

Okay, Mike, you too, were just on the stage. And you talked about to stores here in America, you don't have any stores outside physical stores outside of Puerto Rico, I think, but none outside of the US basically. Right?



Correct is we're just North America based.


Michael LeBlanc  08:41

Okay, so what were you guys talking about on the stage? And how do you two work together? What you talked about the growth of your E commerce. So talk about what brings you here today and what you're chatting about.



We were using borderfree, which was a cross border platform, we've had it for a number of years. Sure, that business while it was you know, I would say it was not insignificant, but it was stagnant. And we felt looking at our brand portfolio and the fact that those brands had, basically exposure globally, that we were not leveraging the actual full opportunity for global e commerce. So we did a survey of the market looked at various solutions. And we decided that global Li was the actual probably the best platform for us. We went ahead and converted and I have to say, normally, you know, every conversion usually takes twice as long cost twice as much as half of what you expect. And you know, that's usually what I tell people when they want to pursue a project. But this one we were actually pleasantly surprised. It went in and went in smooth. My CIO as surely GAO is She's a very, very difficult, you know, grater, and she came and said, this was probably the smoothest integration she'd done, which was which was amazing, but more important and went in we didn't have a lot of broken glass that you sometimes expect in these kinds of projects. But we've really seen basically he'd progress here. So we looked at certain markets like Australia, which we really didn't have a big presence and our business increased 500%. In the last three months, conversion rates were up over 200%, we saw similar things in Israel, in Mexico and in Canada. So we've been, we've been very pleased with the success so far. And you know, one of the things that we like is that, obviously, right now, you know, you look at the environment, and you know, the retails soft, you have inflation. And you know, we're trying to actually minimize expense. So we can't look put a lot of resources at this. But the global e team, it's kind of an extension of our, of our team, because the compensation model is commission based, they win if they increase our sales. So they're always you know, we have monthly, basically business reviews, and they're always making recommendations, that we should try this, try this pricing, try this to grow the business. And so far, it's been very, very successful. And it's exceeded our expectations.


Michael LeBlanc  10:57

Well, there's a couple of proof points around your product, they're coming out of that quick conversation. I mean, basically, tell me about, you know, how you've, other than the rest of the market have made it so seamless to integrate, and then talk about this business model, where you're an ongoing partner, you're not just behind the scenes and yep, set and forget, right, by the sounds of it, right? No, it's



not. And I think as we build out the overall methodology and mindset of how we operate, I mean, it's driven by data. It's data, data, data, everything that we can do to not just, you know, obviously bring in the data that we have to leverage across 1000, unique, you know, merchants that are selling in multiple geographies throughout the world.


Michael LeBlanc  11:36

How do you harness that? I hear that on the mic a lot. It's all about data. But then when it gets actually to harnessing it and get the information and eventually sharing it with great clients, how do you how do you Marshal that together organization like it's



it's a lot of effort, obviously begins with storing the data, then mining the data, and it's down to the country level, I think when you look at, you know, the ways that a lot of brands and retailers have looked at International in the past, it's been, let me sell, you know, this garment at the same price point at the same experience across the entire world when every market has a cultural expectation on what they expect to see. Right? Whether it be a European region or the UK, where it's a VAT inclusive experience, if I were to walk into a store and see the suit jacket, that price tag would be including VAT. And when you get to the cashier, you would be expecting to see no surprises. And we take that mindset from a data perspective, and embedded in each and every single market. And similar, we talked a lot about Canada, Canada's very common buying experiences to that of the US, right, where we expect to see taxes, whether it be provincial or sales tax at the point of checkout, but when you introduce duty, you kill your business. And these are the nuances just in duty and tax strategies, but also shipping as its own strategies, right? So it's how do you leverage the data? How do you look at it uniquely across same store sales, that have been live on the platform, and then regionally start to slice it up and use it and bring it to the businesses and brands to help them be successful?


Michael LeBlanc  13:02

Mike, you're talking about global expansion, let's move to the kind of advice for the listeners to starts in one stop kind of advice. So you sound like you're growing in, you know, places very far from here. How is how is that happening? Is it? I mean, there's certainly some awareness of the brand for sure. But that, you know, awareness of the brand to sales is a very different thing. So what's your advice on companies, you know, in your similar position looking to grow internationally? What are the things they should start doing? And maybe one of the things, maybe they should do less of if they're, if they're working on something?



Yeah, I think when you need to have a good partner on with across borders solution, it offers, you know, you need a localized experience, which means that you need basically the local language on checkout, you need to have the payment methods, because you know, different payment methods resonate in different markets. Sure. And so you need to find that and then also returns or reverse logistics are very important. So you need to get a provider that can support reverse logistics. And yeah, my advice would be don't try to do the peanut butter approach and boil the ocean you know, look at where, you know, I mean, if you look at your your social media platforms, and you see where you actually which you know, regions that you actually have engagement that's where I would focus on focus on some key markets where you think you can make gains


Michael LeBlanc  14:19

Interesting, interesting. And what about I guess that's kind of both the start and the stop you know, don't don't try to do everything at once and use that social medias for good, not evil kind of thing when you're trying to pick markets and grow on though is that how you grow in those markets? Like do you run marketing campaigns in Israel or it talk just for a few minutes about that? No,



you know, we don't specifically but what you know, one of the things is we've launched a couple games on Roblox we just launched you know, packs on the tycoon on Roblox two weeks ago. We've had tremendous engagement. And the beauty about Roblox is that it's a global platform. And so, you know, I have my father comes from Poland and my relatives and Paul Hold on. Oh, yeah, we know PacSun because they've learned about it from Roblox. Wow. And so I think that, you know, just one strategy. And of course, we're very scrappy, we're not going to spend millions of dollars on advertising campaigns. Right. But you know, things like Roblox things like, you know, organic content. One of the things I mean, we're playing in China, we've launched windowing, which is the TikTok of China. And one of the strategies we've used is, we've hired overseas students from USC. And basically, they post content in Chinese about packs on, on on a little red book. Right, right. Yeah. Well, it's so you know, Oh, interesting. You can get scrappy.


Michael LeBlanc  15:38

Yeah, very interesting. Man, you've got a lot of clients, which I love talking to vendors, because you kind of, you know, we get a lot of people and we learn a lot of things. So, advice for the listeners, to things they should start doing. And one thing they should do less of, and I'm sure you hear these stories day in and day out, the stories of success and the stories of, hey, you know, maybe you might want to try something different. So what would you what would you share with the listeners,



I would say, start looking at and investing in international in unique and creative ways outside of just your traditional Canada, UK, and Australia markets, and building that brand awareness and and I think another start for for brands is focus on your brand, focus on what you own and do best, which is marketing and building your brand awareness and in keeping focus in where you know, you you should and be able to grow that business on a global scale.


Michael LeBlanc  16:36

And I, what's the biggest mistake people make? Do you think? I think the big most common day guys would say



I would just call it one that's happened over time, we've seen it from a perspective where brands position inventory and set up websites, and each and every single market, they operated because they felt like they had to be local, they felt like they had to have inventories next door to their customer. And I think it was a tough trap to get out of, I think when you build out that not only digital footprint, but then inventory footprint, and the overall personnel and the overall cost in the Oval are all the heavy lifting it is. And it's a tough one to get out of as well. Yeah. And I think that kind of leads me to my stop, which is, you know, I think for brands stop, you know, trying to build this out in house. I think as a selfish, let's just say plug. It's a complex business. You know, we've


Michael LeBlanc  17:28

got to don't underestimate the complexity of it is probably the the overarching thought right? Is it's not? Now a quick follow up question. So if someone in Australia, Canada, Israel orders your product, how does it? How does it get to them? And how long does it take? What what's the expectation? And what do you work towards?



Yeah, so they ordered off our website, basically, the checkout occurs with globally, so it will be in their local language or local currency. And we've optimized it depending on, you know, some markets, we include the duties in the price, other VAT, otherwise, we separate it, and we use that, you know, Matt talked about the analytics. So, you know, we look to them and say, Okay, what works best in those markets. And I think the success we've had is by tuning it to be market specific. And then it ships out of our distribution center in groveport, Ohio. And there's different models, I mean, in some models, we can go and ship it directly through a carrier, or the other models, we basically ship it to a consolidation center that's run by globally. Okay. And then they ended up basically shipping it. And you know, we that's a combination of basically economics and, you know, right, etc. And, and so the whole order customers can get between five and 10 days, depending on where the location and


Michael LeBlanc  18:38

that's how you figured out reverse logistics as well, that that backwards, right, yes, consolidate and bring back or whatever you're going to whatever you're going to do. Are you seeing I have a quick follow up question again. Are you seeing a significant increase in returns? Because I talked to retailers who say they're not, but I read media stories that say it's happening, but from your experience, like as a baseline, is it a significant issue?



I mean, internationally? Certainly not. And actually domestically, not really. Yeah. Okay. And quite frankly, it's one thing I always welcome return. I mean, I don't like returns. But if they come, we want to incent customers, sure, if they send it to the DC we charge your money, they come to the store, it's free. Everyone wants store traffic,


Michael LeBlanc  19:17

it's a great way to get store traffic. And you know, I always look at returns on as a retailer is an opportunity, right? Like, it's another opportunity to build another great relationship. It's also an opportunity to really screw it up. But if you do it well, it's, you know, it's fantastic. I



mean, most cases in you know, you end up with a if you have a good sales, Salesforce, you'll end up with a repeat trip with a full one transaction right now, that to me, it's an opportunity,



and I think returns even chiming in on that. I think it varies by country, right? I think when you look at, you know, Germany, which I know is a common use case and example. I mean, we've seen return rates as high as 50 60%. Yeah, in a market like Germany, which operates very differently than a market like Australia. So I think it does get granular down into the market and the behavior of that, you know, culture which is going to drive a data


Michael LeBlanc  20:02

experience. Interesting. All right. Well, listen, this has been great. Matt, where do we go? Where do people go to learn more about you in LinkedIn person to get in touch with you? And where do you go learn more about your company? About



globally? I mean, hit our website, I think everything you need to find there just experiences And we are a publicly traded company. So everything you need to learn about us is out there. But yeah, is absolutely the best place to engage us and open up dialogue with anyone, right? Or learn more


Michael LeBlanc  20:31

and And it sounds like social media and in virtual reality as well. You're everywhere man. We try to be we try to be where our customers are at. Fantastic for and you're on LinkedIn as well. You. You connect on LinkedIn with some folks and yeah, they connected. Absolutely. Well, gentlemen, thanks so much for joining me here in the stream commerce podcasting studio at the Global E-Commerce Leaders Forum in LA. Thanks again for joining me and continued success. Thanks so much. If you like this podcast, you can follow us on Apple, iTunes, Spotify, Google, the Amazon podcast channel or your favorite podcast platform. Please rate review with a five star rating and be sure to recommend us to a friend or colleague and retail and cross border Commerce Industry. You can learn more about the Global E-Commerce Leaders Forum and continue to keep up with the latest on cross border commerce online at global E-Commerce leaders Be sure and block off your calendar for the next GELF event in New York City, October 12 2023. I'm your host, Michael Loblaws, strategic retail advisor, keynote speaker and podcaster and you can learn more about me on LinkedIn safe travels everyone