Have you ever felt like your ecommerce business has stopped growing? Maybe your sales are not as good as they once were and you have begun looking for new niche domestic markets to enter. But, what if I told you that the answer to creating higher sales can be achieved by expanding your business internationally?
A cross-border e-commerce strategy might be just what you need to reach more shoppers and allow your business to grow at full-speed again.
What is cross-border e-commerce?
Also known as international e-commerce and international online trade, cross-border e-commerce occurs whenever you sell products to shoppers that are not located in the same country as your business. All sorts of businesses can participate in this market, from online retail stores to SaaS, as long as there is an international transaction
Why should you consider selling across borders?
Firstly, international markets are booming. International e-commerce sales reached $2.290 trillion in 2017, which equalled 10.1% of total retail sales. And this number is likely to surpass 16% by 2021, with $4.479 trillion expected in global sales.
This is a huge potential market that you are losing if you do not have a global expansion strategy yet.
Secondly, you would not have to necessarily change your product strategy when entering a new international market. When entering a new market, you are changing your audience – not your product and service offerings. Just make sure that the foreign audience you are targeting is a fit for what you are selling.
Thirdly, your competitors are probably already doing it. Or, at least, considering selling across borders. This is your chance to become part of the first-mover movement. Several e-commerce businesses already did it. Take AliExpress and Wish, as examples. These e-stores already dominate foreign markets, and have become references in international online retail.
But now you are probably thinking, how can I become one of these cross-border companies?
How to start selling internationally
There are a few challenges when it comes to selling your products abroad, but they can be easily overcome with some assertive planning.
Here is a quick step-by-step guide to help you begin this journey:
Define the right market
All markets bring opportunities and challenges, whether they are mature and well-developed, or have an economy still in the early stages. However, emergent nations have been proven to be the most suitable market option for e-commerce businesses seeking to start a global expansion strategy.
Customers from these nations often identify benefits in purchasing from cross-border ecommerce e-shops that local stores lack, such as:
- Access to a larger selection of services and products
- Brand names and products not available in the domestic market
- Higher quality products and services
- Better pricing
But, what markets are open for business? The whole world to be exact. To make it simple, let’s take a look at three of the more important emergent economies in the world: China, Brazil and India.
China is the leader when it comes to online retail. Almost 50% of all cross-border retail sales came from Chinese shoppers in 2017, according to data from Forrest Research. The country’s GDP increases continuously, as does the interest of the Chinese middle class in purchasing products from abroad. It is an appealing market, with a lot of opportunities, but as market evidence shows, this also can increase levels of competition.
Brazil, on the other hand, is a country with underestimated potential. A research study produced by eBit stated that Brazilian shoppers spent around USD 2.4 billion within the international ecommerce market in 2016. The high taxes applied on international goods when sold locally makes it more appealing for Brazilians to shop from international websites, even if the delivery of the product takes longer. In a few words, the time to start selling in Brazil is now.
And, last but not least, India. India is home to the second largest population in the world (following China) and it has just begun its expansive growth, with an economy predicted to be third in global rankings by 2027. It currently has a low rate of online shoppers, but this scenario is changing as smartphone penetration and internet connectivity booms. You should keep the nation on your radar for the next few years.
Study the local shopping culture, logistics and legislation
After choosing the market that best suits your business needs, you should become familiar with local habits that can impact your sales and marketing strategy. How do customers within this nation shop?
Which items do they shop for online most? Do they prefer to make their purchases through desktop computers or mobile devices?
Knowing exactly how you will deliver the product to the customer, which shipment method you will use, and how to estimate pricing correctly is essential in order to meet clients expectations concerning the complete shipping process. It is important to be honest and upfront with estimated delivery times and also educate your customers about their national laws related to receiving packages internationally (taxes and custom procedures).
Also, make sure to spend time studying the nation’s laws and regulations concerning cross-border operations. Even if you do business from another nation, it is important to follow the local laws of the nation you are selling to. For example, some nations restrict different types of products being sold within their country and other nations require an international tax to be applied to each cross-border purchase.
Offer local payment methods
One of the most important elements when selling online is to offer payment options that your customers trust and have access to. This is especially important as a cross-border e-commerce merchant as customers often expect that you will not provide their local payment methods and thus they cannot purchase from you. Enable them to make the purchases that they desire from your e-store. If you offer local payment methods your customers are familiar with, they will feel safer thus more comfortable to shop at your online store. This will raise your store’s credibility, which will ultimately lead to increased conversion rates.
These local payment methods might vary from country to country. While in China e-wallet options are a must-have payment option, in countries like Brazil and Mexico payments with cash vouchers are essential to reach a large percentage of the population that still feels safer by paying physically in cash for their online purchases.
Confusing? It’s true, in many Latin American nations shoppers prefer to pay offline for online shopping purchases. We explain this process in depth in this article about Brazilian’s favorite cash payment method, the Boleto Bancário.
Invest in a seamless customer experience
My final tip here concerns language. Talking to your customers in their native language is crucial to an improved shopping experience. Think of all the support a shopper might expect to receive from local ecommerce stores and then strategize on how to answer their main questions without compromising your whole operation.
About the author: Nicole H. Schmitz is a specialist in the Latin American e-commerce scenario and produces content concerning the region’s landscape and marketing entry strategies for the EBANX Business Blog.