According to Forrester Research, by 2022 cross-border shopping will make up 20 percent of all e-commerce—with sales forecast to reach USD$630 billion. With the rise of marketplaces, geographical boundaries are disappearing. It is about consumers finding the product they want, at a price they want, to be delivered within a time-frame they want.
Are you a part of this boom? Consumers are buying your products across the world. The opportunities are there for you to capture this market. For example, the US represents USD$340 billion in annual online sales with the UK following at USD$99 billion. Japan and Germany take fourth and fifth spots with USD$79 billion and USD$73 billion in annual online sales respectively. So, are you selling to these regions or limiting yourself to the domestic market?
Many retailers discount CBT because it seems too complicated. But cross-border growth is not as overwhelming as you might think. If done correctly, the opportunity is enormous. It is about understanding the hurdles, minimizing the risks and taking advantage of the opportunities. It’s not about simply launching overseas and hoping for the best, it is about strategising effectively.
If you are worried about putting strain on your already overloaded internal resources, do not let this hold you back. Many marketplaces can warehouse, pick, pack and ship your orders, take care of tax issues and provide local customer service on your behalf. Look at the different overseas options available and start with the ones that will help you to launch as easily as possible.
Apart from choosing marketplaces based on easing the workload, also ensure you choose regions based on where your products will perform well. Understand why your customers choose to purchase and from you, whether it is pricing or product availability. Track where demand is highest to give you an indication of where to start first. Different products and offerings will obviously perform better in different countries.
It is also essential to make sure you get the context right. This means knowing about sales and promotions events locally as well as staying on top of language barriers. Someone may search for ‘trousers’ in the UK but ‘pants’ in Australia. Don’t let your products get lost because they aren’t being listed properly. Optimisation is key and it’s not just about translation, it is about knowing the particularities of each region. For example, a size 2 pair of women’s pants in the US are actually a size 6 pair of pants in Australia. Correct product information is vital. It is about getting the right balance to ensure that your products are well optimised and appear via search, but also have clear messaging to convey the right information to your customer. This will also reduce the rate of returns (which can be more costly for a retailer when it comes to CBT than local returns).
In relation to sales events and promotions, if you are listing a product perfect for Father’s Day, know that it is the third Sunday in June in the US and the second Sunday in September in Australia. These are not difficult things to stay on top of, but they can make a massive difference to whether your products perform well or not, and need to be part of your strategy from the outset.
Also, do not forget that a new customer taking the chance to purchase from you may first research your brand online to learn more about you. How are your reviews and ratings? Do you respond quickly to queries online? Whether you are the biggest and most well-known name in Malaysia or a small business just starting out in Singapore, your potential customer in London who has never heard of you before may only have a few moments to make a snap judgment about your business. What impression will they get?
While it may seem like a big undertaking, the right strategy, integrations and platforms make crossing borders a seamless and hugely rewarding experience. It is about knowing the pitfalls and hurdles and what to do to overcome them. It’s about setting yourself up for success by implementing the right strategies and partnerships from the outset. Research your market and understand what’s required so that you can scale with ease.
Simon Clarkson is the Managing Director for ChannelAdvisor in the APAC region, where he leads the company’s regional strategy and direction for growth. He is responsible for generating new business and extending client relationships across the e-commerce industry and across international markets. Simon brings a wealth of e-commerce experience to ChannelAdvisor from a number of roles, including General Manager of Sales & Go To Market for ReachLocal ANZ, VP of Global Channel Sales for bMobilized Inc and Director of Channel Sales at Bigcommerce.