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MetaPack invests in UK cross-border e-commerce shipper

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

wnDirect – the UK-based cross-border e-commerce shipping specialist – has attracted another key investor, shipping management software provider MetaPack.

The 20% stake means that MetaPack now has an equal share of the Berkshire-based company to La Poste’s international parcel subsidiary Geopost, which invested last year.

The investment leaves management owning 60% of the company that provides the cross-border shipping for the new DPD Direct international e-commerce delivery service.

In its first year, the company initially branded as WorldNet Direct shipped 4.2m parcels out of the UK. Expectations are this will grow to around 6.5m in 2013.

Stuart Hill, the former John Lewis carrier manager and ASOS head of international operations who co-founded wnDirect last year, said MetaPack had been supporting wnDirect since the start.

“They had an option from day one to invest, and they’ve now exercised that right,” he said.

“We’re a new company, achieving good growth, and the support of investors like GeoPost and MetaPack allows us to attract new customers with the reassurance those brands bring. They allow us to continue doing what we do independently, but they also provide guidance.

“They see us as an innovative carrier solution in which to invest, but they’re also opening doors for us.”

MetaPack, which already provides tracking and labeling solutions for wnDirect services, said it believed the cross-border shipping company was a “market-leading initiative”.

The company stressed that its investment in wnDirect did not affect its own software-as-a-service platform in connecting retailers with various carriers.

Patrick Wall, the CEO and founder of London-based MetaPack, said: “This is a long term partnership and therefore it was sensible to invest in wnDirect and sit on the Board to help the development of the business world wide. However, it is important to note that MetaPack remains an open industry platform and we will continue to integrate to all of the solutions that our customers require.”

Expansion


wnDirect managing director Stuart Hill has specialist retail experience from his time at John Lewis and ASOS

wnDirect was launched in early 2012 with a carrier-neutral model. The company collects from e-commerce merchants, and ships items to local delivery partners to undertake the last mile stage in destination countries.

The company recently celebrated its one-year anniversary with a major new partnership with Geopost subsidiary DPD. The two companies have launched a new cross-border B2C service for UK retailers shipping to the 12 biggest markets overseas, branded as DPD Direct.

DPD Direct makes use of the DPD sales team, with wnDirect providing the international shipping. Hill said it was a “100% wnDirect service”, meaning that although DPD is an option to use in transport and delivery where needed, wnDirect is still carrier-neutral, using partners like USPS, Australia Post and DHL for final delivery.

Returns solutions are provided by wnDirect offering an in-country delivery address through which consumers can send items back to retailers.

Hill said his company was aiming to expand from the initial 12 countries offered through DPD Direct, adding as many as three new countries each quarter.

Russia, Brazil and China are likely to be among the next countries added. “Russia could happen this month, fingers crossed,” he said. “If we can crack Russia, it will be an important market for us.”

Experience

Prior to starting out wnDirect, Hill led UK e-retailer ASOS in its expansion into cross-border sales. That particular merchant has been rewarded for its foresight with 41% year-on-year growth in its cross-border e-commerce.

Explaining the reasoning behind setting up a whole new international supply chain system for ASOS, an approach that has underpinned the new wnDirect company, Hill said the major barrier to the retailer expanding sales abroad had been getting packages to customers.

“Using the existing mail and express networks, the services were tailored either to consumer-to-consumer in the case of the mail networks, or the express companies’ business-to-business focus,” he said. “We weren’t happy with the solutions on offer for business-to-consumer shipments.”

wnDirect was formed with Hill’s US shipping partner WorldNet Shipping, whose CEO Gary Stefanello became co-owner and co-founder of wnDirect, holding a 20% stake along with Hill and wnDirect chief operating officer Steve Tweddell.

The company began shipping to the US, into New York and Los Angeles, in spring 2012.

Hill told Post&Parcel that his work with ASOS, which remains a key client for wnDirect, brought valuable experience shaping the wnDirect. For example, he said it inspired the decision not to use volumetric pricing for delivery services, and the strategy to opt for a paperless customs clearance process, moving documentation online to speed up and streamline the process.

“The e-commerce market is growing faster than customs agents can operate,” he said, “but there’s an opportunity for us to improve the clearance process, and for example shipping into [New York] JFK, where we’re using a new customs facility, there’s a 99.9% probability that our shipments avoid delays. We haven’t had any serious customs issues in our first year.”

Hill said that while large retailers can deal directly with wnDirect, for the most part wnDirect services will be run through the DPD brand, and with 48% of UK retailers not yet selling abroad, there is considerably growth potential ahead.

“Our product is clearly targeting e-commerce merchants, and the large retailers we will continue to deal with directly, but DPD can really open up the SME market for us,” he said.

Source: James Cartledge, Post&Parcel

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