The past few years have changed the landscape of e-commerce. Global retail e-commerce sales grew by more than 25 percent during the pandemic. Stuck at home, people worldwide turned to the internet for goods, services, and social needs. Cross-border sales rose as closures of brick-and-mortar storefronts, supply chain issues, and lack of product availability led consumers to shop outside their home countries. For some, better prices or a favorable exchange rate influenced cross-border purchases. Regardless of the cause, more shoppers than ever are using the internet to access the global marketplace, a trend showing no signs of dimishing.
Social sharing, search engines, online influencers, and the increased popularity of international TV and movies expose consumers to global brands daily. Enhanced social commerce features make it simple for brands to reach an international audience and entice customers to shop in-app. Social media combined with other global sales channels is a potential game-changer for companies looking to expand to international markets.
Cross-Border Expectations Are Shifting
Modern customers have increased expectations when shopping cross-border, and today few people will patiently wait several weeks for their purchases to arrive. This year, Flow conducted an international survey to measure the changing landscape of cross-border e-commerce compared with a study conducted in 2019. The results highlighted changing consumer preferences regarding delivery windows, payment preferences, and acceptable shipping costs.
Cross-border shoppers want the same great deals, fast shipping, and personalized content that they receive from domestic retailers. Fortunately, improved e-commerce and logistics technology makes this easily achievable. Companies that have yet to adopt a comprehensive cross-border strategy or ignore the needs of an ever-expanding global market do so at their peril. Those who strive to exceed expectations and deliver a seamless experience regardless of location will reap the rewards of increased sales, brand awareness, customer loyalty, and market share.
Trends to Watch
To help brands maximize their cross-border impact, we've identified five key trends to follow for a prosperous 2022:
- International traffic takes over. There are more shoppers in the world than in any single market. Figures for most websites likely include significant international sessions, but we expect global visitors to surpass domestic by the end of 2022. Companies that have not optimized their website for these consumers will miss out on substantial returns. Online, the only borders that customers face are the ones we create. Therefore, it’s critical to localize for every country, and personalize a shopping experience for every consumer.
- Increasing reliance on AI. Artificial Intelligence already plays a large part in smooth sales transactions and a positive customer experience. Self-support, smart chatbots, and real-time A/B testing are just some of the ways AI currently improves e-commerce. As capabilities increase, we expect AI to show the best-performing content to each visitor based on customer profiles and clicks, creating a customized experience for every session. Paired localization, the sky’s the limit for further personalizing shopping experiences for consumers in different markets..
- Social commerce localization. Services like Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok have introduced new ways for users to shop in-app. Reviews and recommendations from friends in other countries and international content creators help shoppers discover international brands. Companies looking to fully leverage social commerce as a sales channel should increase their international ad spend and invest the time to localize ad content for each country. Creating compelling, sharable content for a global audience will mobilize your customers to market globally on your behalf.
- Growing interactive shopping. A product image can only convey so much. New augmented reality features and interactive shopping events like live shopping via streaming give consumers a whole new way to experience products. Enhanced product experiences are especially valuable for cross-border shoppers for whom returns and exchanges are more time-consuming and problematic. It’s important to leverage these technologies to offer detailed information and additional images of products to shoppers in all markets to lower return rates, which are also costly for retailers. Lastly, implementing interactive campaigns localized for customers in all markets, regardless of border or time zone, can significantly increase cross-border brand awareness and sales.
- Payment method diversification. Accepting multiple forms of local payment methods for cross-border shoppers vastly increases the likelihood of completing a sale. Our 2021 E-Commerce Cross-Border report found that consumers cited a lack of the availability of their preferred payment method at checkout as among the top barriers to completing a purchase. More shoppers also seek out buy now, pay later options at checkout in many markets.. Alternative payment methods vary by country, making research essential when localizing sales channels. We will also see new payment methods and digital wallets surge in 2022 as the fintech sector matures and shoppers want the convenience of placing orders and submitting payment through any and every device.
If you have put international expansion on the back burner, or neglected cross-border commerce, it's not too late to get on track for 2022. Consider what adding a small fraction of an international customer base could do for your business in terms of market leadership and revenue. Flow's enhanced cross-border e-commerce solution takes the guesswork and hassle out of global retail and logistics.
Find out how easy it is to add Flow to your tech stack. Request a demo.