There’s no sugarcoating the fact that the retail industry has been deeply affected, on a global scale, by current global events. Retail outlets that depend on the revenue from brick-and-mortar stores have suffered the most. There are going to be more difficult days ahead. But we have seen extraordinary acts of kindness and support from those in our industry who are part of the solution. But things are looking up for e-commerce, and online merchants will need to find new ways to be there for their customers as needs continue to shift.

This is an opportunity for e-commerce as an industry to take time to reflect. The current circumstances have lifted the veil on some glaring problems in the e-commerce customer experience and global supply chain. The retail model has been under the ultimate stress test for the past few months. What were the major shortcomings? How will retailers refine their disaster response and contingency plan to be better prepared for the next event? What can brands and retailers learn from the spike in demand of certain products?  Now is a good time to take stock. 

 

Cross Border E-commerce: A Recovery Plan

Brands and retailers who were considering international expansion before the current market disruptions might think that goal is out of reach right now. But in reality, it is the boost e-commerce business needs to weather the storm. Sales in global markets where demand is on the rise will help your business to reach a broader audience, expand revenue, and help recapture the lost revenue you may be experiencing now. But to ensure smooth market entry, there are some hurdles you’ll need to clear. 

As you evaluate your current online store and overall customer experience, here are some key functions to thing about for cross-border e-commerce success:

Localization. Is your e-commerce website equipped with the ability to offer the right mix of items to your customers based on location? Does your e-commerce store have the ability to display country-specific product catalogs and descriptions? Certain products or components included in products may not be allowed for import into some countries so they would require category specific or even product specific exclusions. In other cases, there may be products that are lacking consumer demand in some markets, so it might also be worth excluding them.

Pricing. Can your e-commerce store display dynamic pricing based on a geographic region and in the local currency? Are you sure your prices aren’t competing with any in-place agreements with wholesale partners in the same market? Are you able to show pricing that includes any relevant taxes and duties for the countries you’ll be selling into?  Localizing the currency on a website and providing transparency in any associated fees is important in presenting a shopping experience that feels domestic to global shoppers.  Additionally, brands can build trust with their customers by showing them upfront exactly how much they will pay at checkout so that they aren’t hit with additional fees later.

Payments. Does your online store offer the right mix of payment options based on the location and preferences of your local customer base? Shoppers in different markets use different payment methods, so online merchants looking to boost conversion rates will provide local options that meet the expectations and preferences of each market.  In heavily affected markets where a bulk of consumers might be cash-strapped now, it would be important to A/B test alternative payment methods that enable installments so that consumers have the option to pay over time.

Logistics. What kind of infrastructure do you have in place to support multiple shipping options that optimize for cost and speed? Domestic customers demand flexible, simple, low-cost shipping options, so expect that cross-border customers will want the same. Global customers in certain markets may have a higher tolerance for cost and are willing to pay more for faster delivery, whereas shoppers in other markets are willing to wait a little longer to get free shipping. Taking into account these different preferences will create a better experience for customers. Can your business provide direct international shipping and communicate to customers accurate delivery windows? Customers want to know when they can expect their orders to arrive, even taking into account any local disruptions in logistics networks, so clearly communicating this information is important. Will your shipping policy and reverse logistics system support cross-border purchases? Closing the loop on a seamless customer experience also means providing shoppers with the ability to receive refunds or returns on orders. This last step can make or break an otherwise positive customer experience.

During this challenging time, we’ve seen e-commerce retailers all over the world demonstrate their resilience and creativity. It’s time to assess, adapt, evolve, and find new ways to grow, even before this unexpected global event is behind us. Cross-border e-commerce is challenging, but with careful planning and the right partners supporting you, it’s a move that can help brands and retailers come back even stronger than they were before.

To learn more about how to assess your e-commerce store for global expansion, download our free cross-border e-commerce checklist