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Six Billion Shoppers: The Companies Winning the Global E-Commerce Boom

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"From China to India to Nigeria, e-commerce is entering a golden era in countries that were long left out of the e-commerce gold rush experienced in the West. If the story of the first twenty years of e-commerce’s growth was set in developed markets, the story of the next twenty years will be set in emerging ones. The rise of e-commerce in emerging markets is being driven by three major trends: widespread internet adoption, a rising middle class, and, most importantly, innovative new business models that serve the needs of local customers better than the models used by western e-commerce giants.

Six Billion Shoppers takes readers on an exciting and colorful journey around the world to visit the next e-commerce mega markets and explore how a new e-commerce boom is opening opportunities for entrepreneurs and global brands alike. Traveling through Nigeria, China, India, Southeast Asia, and Latin America, Porter Erisman addresses e-commerce across these new markets and what it means for western brands. He argues that e-commerce in developing countries is revolutionary and will play a much larger role in emerging markets than in the West. With e-commerce in emerging markets entering a rapid period of expansion, Six Billion Shoppers explains how to seize the massive opportunity created by emerging market consumers and provides practical advice on how to ride this new business trend."

256 pages, Hardcover

Published September 26, 2017

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About the author

Porter Erisman

3 books27 followers
Porter Erisman worked as a vice president at Alibaba Group from 2000-2008, joining the company just as it moved out of founder Jack Ma's apartment. He is the writer and director of Crocodile in the Yangtze: The Alibaba Story, an award-winning documentary about the rise of Alibaba and its famous founder. Erisman is also the bestselling author of Alibaba's World: How a Remarkable Chinese Company is Changing the Face of Global Business. Most recently, he is the author of Six Billion Shoppers: the Companies Winning the Global E-Commerce Boom. An expert on e-commerce in emerging markets, he has consulted to e-commerce companies in Africa, Asia and Latin America and has spoken at high-profile industry events in more than thirty countries.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 44 reviews
Profile Image for James Lawner.
408 reviews10 followers
March 5, 2020
This was a very interesting read, and it taught me so much about the history of e-commerce in foreign countries and international business more so than the online course I took for International Business!

I highly recommend this to anyone who's interested to know more about this subject, it's got a lot of facts, figures, historical information and predictions, and I feel that this book could be updated and revised in the future because some of the predictions made have yet to come. I'd also like to see the author expand upon this book more, especially in regards to e-commerce in the Middle East, South Korea and Japan (of which this book was severely lacking in those areas, and ones I would be very interested to learn about).

Overall, this book was very inspiring to me, and it's very rare for a book of this nature to do that to me.
Profile Image for Øystein Nygård.
Author 2 books2 followers
February 11, 2018
This book is a must for anyone working in ecommerce, or trying to get in there. It takes a world view on ecommerce and presents each region with its issues and kinks, and relates all back to what platforms are successful and how the culture of buying & selling - ingrained in the people of the different regions - can be the root to the fact that different regions prefer different ecom models. The book opened my eyes to new markets and gave a great context to the things we see happening in ecommerce around us. WELL worth the read!
Profile Image for Alicia.
70 reviews
December 28, 2021
interesting snippets, cool to see how his 2017 predictions turned out.
Profile Image for Akshay Ratan.
33 reviews2 followers
April 19, 2021
The book is a fantastic read and provides rich information on A to Z of e-commerce markets across the world colorfully captured by Porter Erisman's experience with Alibaba in China and his travels through India, South East Asia, Latin America and Nigeria.

Six Billion Shoppers takes the reader through very detailed and interesting accounts of how e-commerce markets have shaped around the world diving deep into the companies that made it happen across geographies. The book captures what made few e-commerce companies stand-out, how the ecosystem levers pan out in the emerging markets and what opportunities lie ahead for the ecosystem players including the brands. Found many interesting nuggets of information in journeys of some companies like JD.com in China, Rocket Internet in South East Asia, Mercado Libre in Latin America, Jumia and Konga in Nigeria and ofcourse Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Paytm in India!

Exciting and a must read for anyone who is interested to know more about e-commerce journey in emerging markets!
7 reviews
August 13, 2018
Covers all key markets but only skims the top. Lacks indepth understanding of each market

Gives some interesting history and insights of e commerce markets across the world. Fails to do an in-depth analysis of any market and skims real issues, challenges and advantages, sometimes unfair, that succesful ventures have had. Also doesn't address host of wrong practices that plague e commerce in the developing world.
Profile Image for Darren.
1,193 reviews49 followers
October 5, 2017
E-commerce is still an emerging and changing activity, even though it feels to have been present ‘for ever’ – and for many it has! Some countries are ahead of others with this activity, yet even those who are catching-up are finding new and often different opportunities that may be something for the established markets and their participants to consider.

So this is a great, thoughtful book that gives a lot to the reader, since very few – if any – can really keep track of everything that is happening in this rapidly-developing super-activity. Focussing on the developing markets – those following on from the earlier adopters of e-commerce – it is especially interesting to discover how they are copying both winning formulas created with the blood, sweat, tears and lost money of investors, as well as making their own developments too, often in response to challenging and demanding local situations. Take an educational trip through Africa, Asia and Latin America with the author, getting some of the latest intelligence and consider what impact it may have on western brands. If you thought there was a big impact on western markets with e-commerce, this may pale into insignificance when the rest-of-the-world gets addicted to it!

You do not have to have ‘skin in the game’ to enjoy this book. Even a curious shopper could get a lot of enjoyment out of its easy-to-read, accessible and ultra-informative text. It can serve many audiences well. Now, the author? Clearly he is someone who knows his onions, having been involved with a certain company called Alibaba that may be familiar to some, being a senior executive at the company during much of its formative and expansive years (he has also previously written an excellent book about his time there too).

Make no mistake. This is not a reference book per se. It does not cover each country equally nor does it set out to faithfully record every e-commerce company and bit of information. It does, however, provide an excellent and detailed overview of the growing ‘developing e-commerce world’ and compares and contrasts its activities to those already undertaken by sector pioneers.

It is a very thoughtful, considered work that is highly recommended.
Profile Image for Tristan von Zahn.
36 reviews1 follower
December 31, 2018
This book grew on me. Given the opening I was expecting this to devolve into a travelog that attempted to try and give a flavour of the countries being discussed rather than discussing the particular challenges that different cultures created for ecommerce platforms in the country. Happily, I was very wrong, and Erisman gave very interesting accounts of each country he examined.

In general, I gathered that three kinds of barriers exist for ecommerce in the developing world (and that did not exist in the developed world - resulting in players like Amazon and eBay failing to replicate their successes):
1) Trust in this kind of commerce remains low - one has to trust that goods will be delivered when money is paid.
2) Infrastructure remains poor - both in terms of the physical infrastructure necessary to handle storage and logistics, as well as digital infrastructure like online payment methods.
3) Smartphone penetration and internet access need to improve in order to give people access to digital market places.

Given these three it’s unsurprising that ecommerce remains tiny in South Africa.

These challenges have been overcome in many clever ways be different countries, but the dominant approach seems to be the one pioneered by Alibaba in Taobao - a digital marketplace where vendors can set up shop in order to attract customers, rather than an online store through which Alibaba provides goods. These kinds of markets empower small vendors by connecting them to buyers. I am sold on the central thesis of the book: that ecommerce will prove more creative than destructive for developing economies. By providing a platform for vendors rather than seeking to squeeze them out by competing with them, small businesses can connect to buyers that would not otherwise exist. In addition, unlike in developed economies where ecommerce platforms displaced brick and mortar retailers because they offered greater convenience with even thinner markups, emerging economies often lack these entrenched players, or where they do exist they are highly inefficient. The disruptive effect is, thus, likely to be far smaller in the developing world than it was in the developed world.

Here's hoping this proves correct in the long one.
Profile Image for Ryleigh Cheese.
56 reviews4 followers
July 7, 2021
If you are an e-commerce newbie like me, this is an informative read, but it’s probably a bit outdated, considering it was published in 2017 - a testimony of how fast the landscape is changing. Do note that this is NOT meant to be a how-to guide. It’s more of an observational book detailing the rise of the current giants, why some businesses fail, the market conditions and unique cultures (+needs) of the different markets, and predictions.
However, I do have a few gripes about this book.
1. The first 50% of the book is devoted to the US and China, there’s more deep-dive in these 2 markets, but the remaining 50% is split between India, SEA, Latin America and Africa.
2. The chapter on India was the most boring to read (in my personal opinion) as it feels like a copy of China.
3. The contrast between the 50-50 split is further accentuated with the latter 50% of the book covering so many markets, so you feel like you are just skimming beneath the surface for SEA, Latin American and Africa, after all the heavy reading in the previous chapters.
4. The Middle East is not included as a market, and I wonder why?

With the above said, this is not a bad read; there are still little gems to be enjoyed.
1. I really enjoyed the interviews, stories of pioneer companies and inspirational founders.
2. If you have not been to any of the countries before, the author paints a vivid picture of everyday life, culture and attitudes, which I thoroughly enjoyed! In some instances, absolutely shocked.
3. Thank you, Mr Erisman, for highlighting the environmental impact that e-commerce will have. Quote: "...E-commerce's golden age doesn't lead to an environmental dark age."
9 reviews
June 15, 2018
This book is an excellent read for each and every e-commerce enthusiast. The author has meticulously covered several e-comm businesses across the globe. He has talked to several founders, understood their business philosophy and then have written this book, which makes it worth a read. His own experience at Alibaba also adds the essential flavor of insider and adds to the authenticity of the book.

The book covers all the continents and also makes some predictions about how e-commerce would evolve in next few years.

One thing that I found missing in the book is about the profitability of these e-commerce companies. It is a well-known fact that profitability in e-commerce is a distant phenomenon. However, that is why it is an important part to be covered in such a book.

Highly recommended though.
2 reviews
April 5, 2020
I read this book after reading the author's other book (Alibaba's World). This book is an interesting read for someone who is interested in the e-commerce industry as it give different perspectives of how the e-commerce in different regions started and some of the challenges they're facing. It was insightful as the content includes the author's interviews with leaders and founders of some of the leading e-commerce companies.

As the book was published in 2017, some of the examples are slightly dated as e-commerce is an industry that changes very quickly. As someone who is working in e-commerce in Southeast Asia, I only wished that there were more in depth examples of the different companies in this region, as this market is fragmented across the different countries. Nonetheless, I would still recommend this read to those who are interested in the e-commerce industry in general.
Profile Image for Martijn van Deel.
1 review1 follower
July 1, 2018
The book Six Billion Shoppers takes you to the first start of Ecommerce in the United Stated. From the mail-order catalog to Walmart department stores to the rise of Amazon and eBay. Next it will take you to Chine, the biggest Ecommerce market in the world. The culture of China leads to a more social approach to Ecommerce. This book will discuss the biggest players Tencent, Jingdong and Alibaba. And it will give you a viewport into the likely future of Ecommerce in China.

You don`t have to be an expert in Ecommerce to read this book, but even if you are you will learn a lot about it. The book is easy readable with storytelling and anecdotes from the author and vice president at Alibaba Group from 2000-2008.

I greatly suggest this book to you if you are into Ecommerce.
Profile Image for Patrick Pilz.
564 reviews
December 15, 2018

Porter Erisman had been working for Alibaba for years. He is trying to make a world tour of e-commerce and the book starts exciting. As the first couple of chapters show with depth the economic and social landscape in China and India, the book fizzles fast when it comes to other parts of the world. A book I would suggest reading if you work for an e-commerce company with international ambitions, or you need for other reasons a primer on e-commerce in the world. In all other cases, you may be better off with books about Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma or Meg Whitman and their respective companies.
Profile Image for Zack Applewhite.
137 reviews3 followers
November 25, 2019
Starts off with a history of Ecommerce.

Because of the author’s professional history with Alibaba, there is an emphasis on China. Author gets a bit preachy when it talks about what China’s government needs to do to promote Ecommerce.

A pretty good map of Ecommerce around the globe, what companies are prevalent there, the market as it stands, and the author’s predictions.

Overall it was very educational and interesting. While the insights into current markets become quickly outdated as political and business climates fluctuate the history of course remains the same and the lessons learned from that history are concrete.
Profile Image for Rod Barit.
25 reviews1 follower
February 20, 2020
1. Companies to watch out/read more about: MercadoLibre, Flipkart, Tokopedia, Paytm, Lazada, JD.com, Snapdeal, Rocket Internet, Ant Financial, Tencent, Naspers, Sea (Shopee), Konga.com, Softbank, Alibaba

2. E-commerce will continue to grow esp in developing markets - cheaper smartphones and internet would enable more people to transact online. Investments in infrastructure (seeing this in Philippine logistics) would make this even faster.

3. Opportunities abound - becoming an entrepreneur is easier in this era and cross border trades open up different markets. I remember buying a gorillapod from a Chinese online seller thru Lazada.
Profile Image for Tien Nguyen.
10 reviews35 followers
March 2, 2019
Very interesting read for e-commerce enthusiasts, especially those who are working in the field & have felt doubtful of what business approach they should trust & follow. This book drew clear overall picture of what proved to be successful for each respective market. SEA is obviously an emerging market for ecommerce & by following Alibaba's marketplace-led approach, it is showing better scale & achievement compared to Amazon's retail-led one. Hence, there comes along with QA & operations issues that require large capability for any platform to work in line with its scale.
Profile Image for Omar.
11 reviews
May 14, 2020
Quite a lovely read.

Lovely isn't the word I usually would use for books of this nature but Porter Erisman's likeable character radiates. He had been Vice President of the AliBaba group and yet his humility and effort to understand the diffferent cultures of emerging markets stand out. Not one bit of pretentiousness or probably even mention of his status at AliBaba.

Erisman gives an insiders look on the industry of E-Commerce and his insights are not only valuable to anyone in the business (not me) but also very interesting even for your average layperson.

Thanks alot, Mr. Erisman.
Profile Image for Sumit Agrawal.
15 reviews1 follower
April 25, 2021
Loved the book, every part of it. For someone who didn't have knowledge of e-commerce companies, I expected to be a much more informed person after reading this book, and I must say it lived up to my expectations. Written in a very simple language, the author gives a detailed explanation of e-commerce firms across the world, their business models, why a model worked/didn't work in a particular market, learnings and a lot more. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking to learn about e-commerce companies, their genesis, secrets of their successes/failures and future of e-commerce.
2 reviews
August 31, 2018
The book is a good overview of the current landscape of the internet economy and how it might change given the author’s experience in the e-industry. There are lots of researches cited and examples of major e-commerce businesses that are currently the leaders in the emerging markets. I would recommend this book to anyone willing to get a general idea about the internet economy and how it will impact us in the future.
Profile Image for Sandip Roy.
84 reviews1 follower
March 27, 2020
A great account on the genesis of e- commerce across key markets and continents around the world with the origins in US and later in China. Would be great if the book can be updated with the current status of the industry, especially whether the China model is actually working in other markets and the current status in India and south east Asia where a several erstwhile key players have wound up businesses or been acquired in the process...
Profile Image for Sohail.
6 reviews2 followers
July 24, 2018
A very informative book about the E-commerce industry across the world. The book has analyzed the companies present in the industry regionwise, provided pros and cons to their models and explained the thought process of the teams.

Overall, a big you can go back to, to understand he macrotrends of E-commerce, and use for reference whenever required.
Profile Image for Fanny.
52 reviews
October 11, 2018
A solid review of where e-commerce has been and where the author sees it going in the future.

From the title I was expecting to go deeper on the cross-border e-commerce, however the book stayed pretty local (touching pretty much all continents).

Loved the emphasis on localizing business models to fit the new locale.

(This was a Goodreads giveaway)
5 reviews2 followers
September 23, 2022
This book gives a high level view of how the e-commerce rose in our life and economy. Its impact and rise of the e-commerce. Overall I liked the content of the book and it explains the model of e-commerce various companies adapt. Changed the way I look at non traditional way of shopping and its impact in our lives.
Profile Image for Kah Wee.
11 reviews2 followers
December 10, 2017
Excellent summary of the general ecommerce landscape in the world. What's most interesting in Latin America and India which the author highlighted. The takeaway is many ecommerce ventures aren't successful because they simply adapted an existing model that worked elsewhere.
Profile Image for Jingwei Shi.
48 reviews
July 22, 2018
Another interesting book by Porter Erisman expanding on his first book Alibaba World. Although this due diligence is not in depth, this book does give a brief overview of the emerging e-commerce players and competition around the world.
Profile Image for Willy.
1 review
June 16, 2019
Every merchant should read this.

You are getting very real and valid point of views from people all over the world which you can then relate with your business and decide on what and where you should focus on, and Porter Erisman himself is always an earnest voice to listen to.
Profile Image for Daniel.
14 reviews5 followers
March 13, 2018
Great overview of the world’s e-Commerce markets and companies.
30 reviews
April 21, 2018
Interesting content but boring writing style.
1% of info - India is rising. China has risen. Sell shit online to these people and you'll do well.
Profile Image for Benjamin Yeo.
15 reviews1 follower
December 3, 2018
A good easy read on the state of affairs of the e-commerce world in different geographical markets now.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 44 reviews

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