A new report by Tech., a collaboration between Retail Week and the World Retail Congress, reveals that seventy-five percent of U.S. retailers believe the need for digital transformation has increased since 2016. The report, called “A World in Motion: Retail Digital Transformation Across the Globe, and the Technology Supporting It,” notes that global retail technology spending will reach nearly $203.6 billion in 2019. 

But for many companies, it won’t necessarily be a smooth journey. Digital transformation can be daunting in an industry often inhibited by legacy systems and outdated tech stacks, and where retail employees’ core skills and competencies are not usually rooted in digital functions. 

The report also highlighted regional differences: while Target, Walmart and Wayfair are viewed as global leaders in retail tech, retailers in the U.S. are less confident than their European counterparts about their leadership teams’ ability to deliver on digital transformation objectives over the next 12 to 18 months. 

In light of these challenges, it’s vital that global e-commerce retailers and businesses find the right vendor and platform to facilitate a smooth digital transformation, particularly when seeking to expand their e-commerce efforts abroad.

As you begin your digital transformation, start by discussing these questions with your own team and prospective vendors.


1. Where should your digital transformation begin? 

You should focus on leveraging tech to solve particular problems instead of starting from scratch and potentially disrupting your business. Begin your company’s digital transformation by identifying all pain points. What’s not working at all and what could work better? Where do issues frequently arise? What causes frustration for you because of its impact on your customers? Are you satisfied with the solutions offered by your current providers? 

Make a detailed list of pain points and note whether they occur most frequently in shipping and logistics, localization, user experience, or across the board. Are you planning to expand the business in any particular countries or regions where these issues might be exacerbated?


2. Does a prospective vendor offer a complete e-commerce tech package? 

Many technologies only solve one specific challenge. There are many pain points in cross-border e-commerce, however, so you’ll need a solution that can solve most (if not all) of the localization challenges that may arise across the customer journey. A complete solution will be efficient and cost effective.

If elements of your current platform are working well, ask prospective vendors if their solution is modular (meaning: you can pick and choose which features to use or integrate with) or whether you will be required to integrate with the vendor’s entire platform.


3. What are the platform’s capabilities and features? 

When evaluating a new vendor, ask questions both about the platform itself and the customer support you’ll receive. You should ask whether your business will have a dedicated account or support manager, for example, and whether product training is offered during implementation. 

You’ll also want a thorough understanding of exactly how the vendor handles the primary challenges impacting areas like shipping and logistics, localization, user experience, order management, and pricing. Questions for the vendor might include:

  • What percentage of international packages are delivered to the customer within the delivery time stated at checkout?
  • What kind of flexibility does the solution offer to configure landed costs?
  • Are local payments accepted in local currency?
  • Can the solution display local currencies? 
  • Does the solution offer global and local carrier options including global express carriers, consolidators, postal solutions, and last mile carriers?


4. Is the vendor future facing?

As a retailer, you might urgently need a particular technology today, but it’s important to consider what happens in 12-18 months or 5 years down the road. How do you envision your needs changing? During the search process, partner closely with your internal tech team to choose a platform that is built to evolve and that will respond to your future business needs.  

These solutions typically appear as disruptors in the retail tech space: they challenge the status quo and offer a unique approach to cross-border selling. But don’t be star-struck by AI and the latest buzzy features. You should examine whether the vendor’s platform will be relevant to your business five years down the line.  

Some questions to ask as you research platforms: 

  • What is the age of the core technology?
  • How are new releases applied to the code?  
  • What is the impact of upgrading to a new release? 
  • How much will upgrades cost? 


5. Have you walked a mile in the customer’s shoes?

Finally, take a close look at global e-commerce businesses and retailers that use platforms you are considering, because the best way to understand the customer experience is to become a customer yourself. Place an order and decide if the platform creates a positive customer journey and localized experience (tentree did just that when evaluating our software). Note any pain points. It’s always best to use the tech first hand to understand whether it can really improve your business.

Digital transformation takes time and shouldn’t be an all or nothing scenario. Examine what you have and what works well, then add or replace parts of your digital tech stack as necessary. Finally, make sure to choose a next-generation platform and reliable vendor that can really future-proof your business. 

For a comprehensive list of thought starters and questions, download Flow’s Request for Proposal template to help kick-start digital transformation for your cross-border efforts.