Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) has taken a big step into the e-commerce space after announcing a partnership with Sydney-born BigCommerce (NASDAQ: BIGC) to help business customers create their own online stores.
In a first for the Australian banking sector, CBA will offer its 800,000 business banking customers integrated access to the BigCommerce platform, a fledgling competitor of market leader Shopify with a market capitalisation of US$3.5 billion.
The move is a direct response to the rapid shift online by Australian businesses over the past year.
Research commissioned by CBA late last year revealed more than half of Australian businesses have had to start or accelerate their plans to shift online following the pandemic. Australian Bureau of Statistics research shows online sales jumped 63 per cent year-over-year in January.
CBA has also upped the pace to expand its e-commerce offering this year with the acquisition of Doshii, a cloud platform for the hospitality industry, and more recently Whitecoat, a technology provider for the health profession.
CBA's head of everyday business banking, James Fowle, says the partnership with BigCommerce elevates the group's presence in digital retail, describing it as a first for an Australian bank.
"This partnership will help our business customers more easily establish and expand their online business," says Fowle.
"We haven't had a deep partnership with a market-leading platform like this in the past. This is a first for us and, as far as we know, a first for Australia.
"While we have previously offered capabilities for customers to take payments in their online stores, this partnership sets them up from the beginning to establish an online store, take the payments and manage the logistics."
The move is a major win for BigCommerce, a company that has been snapping at the heels of Shopify with its market share growing since a spectacular listing on the NADAQ last year.
BigCommerce shares, issued at US$24 ($30.60) per share in August and peaked at US$162.50 in September, although they have since fallen back to be trading under US$50.
The Aussie connection
The company had its origins in 2009 as Interspire, a Sydney-based email marketing platform founded by Eddie Machaalani and Mitch Harper.
It is now one of the world's largest software-as-a-service (SaaS) e-commerce platforms helping businesses build an online store, market goods and services to customers, and drive sales through various channels such as Instagram, Facebook and eBay.
Although headquartered in Austin, Texas, BigCommerce retains a significant presence in Sydney.
According to Fowle, BigCommerce offers a number of commercial advantages to CBA compared with Spotify.
"They are homegrown, listed internationally, operate worldwide and are growing fast," he says.
"What we like about BigCommerce is their offering is certainly market leading and we also have a lot in common. In our discussions with them there was a culture fit. We hit it off and were able to negotiate a favourable partnership that works for all of us."
BigCommerce's Asia-Pacific head Shannon Ingrey says CBA made the approach about six months ago to "discuss ways we could improve its e-commerce go-to-market strategy".
"What we came out with is a joint solution that enables merchants to thrive, whether they are a solo entrepreneur starting out, or a large retailer looking to rapidly expand and grow their online revenues," he says.
"This partnership gives CBA merchants an easy way to either establish a new online store for those starting out or improve their online offering for more established retailers, with a business that specialises in ecommerce."
Ingrey sees the partnership with CBA offering broader access for BigCommerce to Australian businesses.
"Our roots are very much in Australia; we were founded here and it's a key market for us," he says.
"Partnering with CBA is very exciting for us as an incredibly well-known Australian brand and one of the region's top banks.
"(This partnership) helps us to get more merchants through our access and then support them to continue growing and demonstrate how we can help them on that journey."
BigCommerce services more than 60,000 merchants in 150 countries including Ben & Jerry's, Molton Brown, S.C. Johnson, Skullcandy, Sony, Vodafone and Woolrich.
The company last year posted a 36 per cent increase in group revenue to US$152 million ($194 million). It is scheduled to post its first-quarter results on 11 May in the US.
CBA's BigCommerce offering goes live from today (May 10) with customers being encouraged to join through a 15-day trial.
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