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Interviews

Digital goods and services market: global growth perspectives - interview with Aston Fallen, asknet l Nexway

Wednesday 10 April 2019 | 10:06 AM CET

Aston Fallen, asknet | Nexway CEO: “the digital goods market it’s just grown to such an important part of what we as individual purchasers and buyers are using on a daily basis”

How has the market of selling digital goods and services evolved over the last years and what are the global growth perspectives?

The word best describing this growth would be ‘extraordinary’, especially looking ten years or further back. We are talking about a different acceptance level in the sale of digital goods and services. Ten years ago, the whole concept was relatively new from both the consumers’ and the general practical point of view.

In this 10-year period, you can point to very effective success stories, Amazon being probably the most well-known. The idea to take a small online bookstore and convert it into the worldwide behemoth that it has become, is an example of how they learned to interact with the end-user effectively and, as a result, build the confidence in the end user to purchase online.

Other benchmarks include specific sales periods (Black Friday, Christmas/pre-Christmas season), showing over the years an evolution from a very small percentage of overall sales to gradually becoming the most important part of the season.

If we measure the value of overall sales of products online, the smaller percentage (roughly 20% of worldwide sales) is comprised of digital goods, while the remaining 80% is made up of physical products. Thus, the market of selling digital goods and services has not just evolved, it’s just grown to such an important part of what we as individual purchasers, buyers and users, are using on a day-to-day basis.

Could you elaborate on the synergies in both product and geographical markets, as well as market segments?

The reason why we chose to bring asknet and Nexway together is that there was so much complementarity between the two.

First of all, there are new geographical market possibilities. The German company asknet has been present in the German, the northern European, Asian and the US markets, while the French company, Nexway, has been present in the French-speaking, the southern European, the Latin American and the US markets. Therefore, joining these two companies together gives us an important worldwide footprint that did not exist for either company beforehand. 

Secondly, both companies have portfolios of substantial names with a worldwide footprint, but there is no overlap between them.

By joining the two companies together, we now have a substantial customer database, without impeding on each other’s existing customers, yet offering all the opportunity to work in new markets.

Also, given the rapid evolution of this specific area, the technology that underlies the entire process is very important to its success. When the first players arrived on the market in the late 1990s or early 2000s, they were state-of-the-art, yet today is all about the cloud, API and SaaS. Nexway, which started 16 years ago, made the choice 2-3 years ago to invest in new technology. Today, they are able to provide a customer-facing API SaaS solution that is attractive to a customer who has also grown more sophisticated.

In addition to that, asknet brought on an experienced sales team who can work at a very effective product portfolio, which can be introduced to our increasingly large customer group.

Finally, each of these businesses had specific target markets that the other was not exposed to. For instance, asknet is very focused on the academic market (with portals in 90% of the German-speaking universities), while Nexway has a very effective diffusion system and works very closely with brands like FNAC-Darty, the net effect being complementarity synergy.

You have leadership and executive background in multi-national companies in several countries. Is the organisational culture in a German company (asknet) different from the one in a French company? How do you bridge these differences? Do they influence international business?

I’ve had the opportunity to work in the German culture on multiple occasions, both as a customer and as part of the management team. Also, the French culture is part of my identity, as I have French roots, helping me in creating a relationship of trust with my French colleagues. From my experience, the French - as a group of people - tend to be emotionally-based, while the Germans are at the opposite spectrum, seeing things in black and white. However, these two cultures can blend very well together. The secret is to get the people talking to each other, as both groups appreciate each other’s qualities. You need open communication and empathy, looking at problems from each other’s point of view, with the result of cultural synergy.

How do you see the capabilities of the asknet- Nexway company evolving over the next two years?

The overall digital commerce marketplace has nothing but growth – trillions of dollars worth of growth. Our opportunity as asknet- Nexway is in addressing the market with new technology, and using our expertise to help companies interact with the customer and make their businesses more effective.

However, customers are also becoming more sophisticated, and the market is evolving, with the customer needs becoming broader and more specialised. Our plan is to become even more involved in the payment facilitation process, by building out a team focused on the activities of our core business, which is merchant of record.

Finally, we can also help large organisations that carry all the processes and support all the costs (from manufacturing, to storing, warehousing and inventorying), by offering consulting services and building them a time-to-market formula or a bill-to-order model that eases the process and allows them to focus on new growth opportunities.

This interview was first published in the Monetisation of Digital Business Models 2019 – Insights into Billing and Recurring Payments Report. The Report presents the key trends and developments in monetisation of business models, subscription economy, and billing and recurring payments.

About Aston Fallen

Aston Fallen is an experienced multi-national entrepreneur and C-level executive focused on building digital commerce businesses worldwide. Aston’s specialties include leadership of multi-cultural companies in several countries, re-structuring of challenged businesses, international sales & marketing, and public relations. Aston holds an MBPA from Southeastern University.

 

About asknet | Nexway Group

The asknet | Nexway Group is a leading global Commerce-as-a-Service platform and merchant services provider. The combined company offers the industry’s most comprehensive product and service suite in the subscription billing and ecommerce space, linking payment model flexibility with advanced ecommerce, recurring revenue management, and marketing capabilities on a global level.

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