The opportunities of international ecommerce are close to endless. The global ecommerce market is snowballing, expanding at twice the rate of domestic ecommerce, so if there's a better time to get into it than today, that would have been yesterday. And, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), with the boost from Covid, global ecommerce has jumped to $26.7 trillion.
If you’ve been hesitant to adopt international ecommerce for your company, it may be due to the fact that you simply don't know where to begin. Luckily, many of our customers have walked this road before you, and we're happy to share our learnings and insights. Once you have taken the time to research the different markets to make sure you have a product-market fit, there are some steps you need to take to craft a winning strategy for going global.
Earlier this year, we wrote an extensive guide on how to plan for going global with your ecommerce business. In this article, we'll address some of the ways you can optimize the international customer experience and take advantage of the benefits of global ecommerce.
8 Steps to Building a Successful International Ecommerce Strategy
1. Use International Marketplaces to Gauge Interest
Putting your products in international marketplaces is a great way to see where you get the most action. The obvious global marketplaces like Amazon and AliExpress can help you quickly pinpoint the markets that your brand resonates with organically. While these marketplaces aren’t there to optimize nor market your brand, value, or aesthetic, they will provide you with instant feedback on where your brand works best.
We wrote a detailed article about the pros and cons of marketplaces and addressed some of the benefits of giving this method a try. At the least, you’ll get some quick data about the countries where you list your products.
Related reading: Gain Revenue By Selling On Marketplaces
2. Enable Flexible Payments and Adapt the Payment Options to Your Markets
It’s crucial to understand how other countries and cultures prefer to make payments. A quick and frictionless checkout is imperative to your customer experience. In the US, that usually involves credit card processing, but the preferred payment methods vary widely in other regions. China, for example, is partial to electronic payments like AliPay.
Ecommerce tools increase in number every month, and the number of payment and compliance options that regions adopt is constantly changing. However, some tools like Digital River help mitigate all options by handling the compliance piece that can take the risk out of trying new payment tools.
3. Localize Everything: Language, Currency, and Content
Every business expanding to global commerce will need to address the matter of localization. The most basic localization required is language and currency, but there are so many additional considerations when addressing global personalization.
Some merchants have done an exceptional job at global hyper-personalization, reaping huge rewards. ASOS, a retailer in the UK, is one of those players, receiving 60% of its sales from international buyers outside of the UK. Their localization globally has been the key to their success.
From an infrastructure perspective, most ecommerce platforms will include multi-language and multi-currency capabilities, but it's really the marketing and personalization touches that will set you apart. Understanding local cultures, seasons, holidays, and shopping habits is fundamental as it will help you localize everything from content and graphics to page elements and promotional campaigns.
Coupons are a great example. In LATAM, shoppers like to see coupons upfront and are accustomed to pop-up coupons as soon as they open the site, while shoppers in the US strongly prefer to enter coupon codes at the last step, the checkout page.
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4. Establish International Shipping Options
Shipping can be a challenge in some parts of the world. Analyze when and where you may need help, and ask for assistance from local shipping experts in the regions where you struggle. In some regions, you will find simple, if not familiar, shipping options, whereas in some areas, it’s a lot more complicated.
In the future, shipping is likely to become increasingly streamlined and consolidated, but today, the regional differences are still such that geographical agencies are sometimes the best option. If you opt for a shipping expert in foreign regions, you will see immediate results based on their expertise and data. In addition, they can give you advice on handling mistakes and returns in a way that’s in accordance with local customs.
5. Prioritize Mobile First
By the end of 2021, the percentage of total ecommerce purchases that happen on mobile devices is expected to have surpassed 54%. And that number is only increasing. With the gain in popularity of online shopping from mobile devices, it's crucial to ensure your website is optimized for mobile viewing. While more costly and luxurious purchases often still occur on the laptop, the smaller convenience purchases of our day-to-day lives take place on mobile.
A reactive website was once enough to cover your mobile bases but at today’s rate of mobile and tablet adoption, along with wearables, VR, and in-game experiences, genuinely mobile-first design is not an option - it’s a requirement.
Related reading: Omnichannel Strategy & Investments in Mobile Commerce
6. Adapt Your Pricing Strategy
You will need to adapt your pricing strategy on your various sites if you're selling internationally. If you don't, your pricing will come off as odd and off-putting. The US and the Nordics, for example, are accustomed to prices ending in .99, while in Asian markets, prices are favorable to consumers if they are rounded to the exact dollar. If you fail to localize your prices, you will also fail to build trust in that market.
Another thing to consider is the localization of pricing that may fluctuate with currency values and exchange rates. While this can feel like an overwhelming task to handle, it's essential to make sure you maintain your margins.
Once your pricing strategy is in place, we have seen great success partnering with companies like PriceShape to leverage dynamic pricing models and monitor your competitors. The more you can automate processes to streamline your pricing model, the more time you will have to focus on your brand and the more nuanced and design keys to localization.
Related reading: Dynamic Pricing in Ecommerce – How It Works
7. Use the Right Automation Tools to Ensure Compliance
Understanding all of the laws, requirements, and regulations that come with sending money, charging taxes in multiple areas, and passing products through numerous agencies can be quite a challenge.
If you only sell your products in one or two foreign countries, you will probably be able to do the necessary research and sort things out. But once you open the door to selling across multiple countries or regions, the best strategy is to link an automated tool to your platform to make sure you don’t miss anything. That way, you’re also exempt from fault if something were to go wrong.
One example of this type of tool is Digital River, a solution that works as a merchant of record on global transactions. This would exempt you and the recipient of your product from responsibility if anything were to be overlooked, significantly reducing if not eliminating your risk.
8. Localize Your Customer Service and Be Aware of Different Expectations
The expectations customers have after a purchase vary widely across the globe. In the US, for example, returns are widespread. While in France, all sales are assumed to be final. In LATAM, it is very common that customers will make one payment to purchase an item and then fulfill the rest of the payment over time.
Understanding the demands and expectations in the different countries is essential to providing a positive customer experience. It is also important to consider whether your customer experience will adapt to the countries you serve or if you can establish one rule or set of rules that apply to all of your customers, regardless of location.
How Vaimo Can Help
At Vaimo, we're experts in digital commerce. We work with brands, retailers, and manufacturers all over the world to create winning ecommerce strategies and great customer experiences. We'd love to help you implement a more personalized approach to take your online sales to the next level. Get in touch with our team of experts to learn how we can help you expand your ecommerce business.