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August 6, 2020 6:35 am

‘Start-up Nation’ Adds E-Commerce to List of Business-Model Successes

avatar by Ariel Ben Solomon /


A stockmarket ticker screen in the lobby of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, in the center of Tel Aviv, March 15, 2020. Photo: Flash90.

JNS.orgIsrael has long been tagged the “start-up nation,” but a less-talked-about niche in the high-tech arena is electronic commerce — or e-commerce — involving online trade and stores, as well as various services and apps that aid the marketing and sales process.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in April, eBay noted a 40% spike in the number of Israeli sellers compared to the previous month and a 46% increase in sales of products sold by Israelis, eBay told the Israeli business daily Globes.

Already trending back to 2017, Israel was the world’s second-largest online commerce buyer per capita, only behind China, according to eBay. Israelis bought products on eBay every two seconds on average and sold items every three seconds in 2017, according to the company.

“It is no secret that e-commerce is growing worldwide and that every business owner — big or small — understands that you cannot run a business without an online presence,” Mordechai Arba, the 29-year-old founder and CEO of Ecomhunt, said.

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“Israelis are definitely important players in the e-commerce world, but mostly as solo sellers,” says Arba. His website gets more than half a million visitors per month, and hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have used his website to grow their own stores.

Arba notes that “most of the big high-tech companies focus on payment solutions, sales analytics, and so on, which have a connection to the e-commerce world but more as behind-the-scenes players.”

He predicts that a growing number of Israeli e-commerce companies will become major players in an industry that continues to trend well.

Along those lines, while coronavirus has raged, many offline businesses have closed up shop, while technology in general and e-commerce companies in particular, led by the worldwide giant Amazon, have flourished. Amazon’s stock price has jumped 73% so far this year.

The Israeli freelance-services platform Fiverr has seen its share price jump by more than 200% since its IPO less than a year ago, and raised at least $120 million in its secondary offering on the New York Stock Exchange, according to Globes.

Companies in high-tech and other sectors that can easily function with employees working remotely have been able to continue functioning almost as normal during the crisis.

“The world was already moving online, and this pandemic simply fast-forwarded it,” says Arba.

The company provides trending products and other training to drop-shippers so that they can have success with their stores. Drop-shipping is a popular online retail method where stores can sell products by having the seller send them directly to the buyer without requiring keeping inventory. In this model, the e-commerce outlet serves marketing and sales roles for the supplier, many of them based in China.

It is these online sellers who are flocking to Ecomhunt to find winning products to sell in their stores. Arba, who moved to Israel from France as a child, worked as a web designer and developer before he started online stores using the drop-shipping and print-on-demand models. After some success, he started Ecomhunt, which eventually took off.

“After failed attempts, I finally figured out how to sell online and saw that there was a need to help people quickly figure out how to succeed,” he says, insisting that “now is the best time to start selling online.”

David Popovich, an e-commerce specialist for North Africa and the Middle East for Colgate-Palmolive, started his e-commerce journey in 2016 after working as a marketing manager for 17 years in major companies such as SodaStream, Pelephone, and Club Med.

Popovich targeted his brand at a specific audience interested in wolves and Native American culture; it grew fast, bringing it seven-figure sales in the first year. The Petach Tikvah resident and father of three recently sold the company. Like Arba, he sees e-commerce  booming since the start of the coronavirus outbreak (and even before), which has led to many new players moving their businesses online.

Popovich says that “we will see more and more consumers buying online. For example, those over 55 who typically buy less online have started to buy more since the pandemic, and there has been growth in other demographic categories as well.”

While he still foretells opportunities in e-commerce for new companies, he thinks that the focus may move to more custom-made and personalized products that “cannot be found in local physical stores such as Walmart.”

“All the processes occurring worldwide are also happening in Israel,” he says. “Israelis love to buy online, and they want to be able to receive their orders quickly.”

He adds that “e-commerce in Israel is still young, and there is much to do. If you have a great product and ship fast, you can target a specific audience with a product that will solve a problem or have an exciting feature.”

Already during the pandemic, Popovich has created a new brand in two months that sells knitted dolls and figurines. He doesn’t think some great secret is involved in his success, declaring that “if I can do it, anyone can!”

Ariel Ben Solomon is the deputy online editor of JNS.

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