E-commerce has experienced a major surge throughout the pandemic, especially in its early days as brick-and-mortar locations were forced to close. It’s likely that e-commerce will dominate even now as physical stores re-open. But keep in mind that layoffs and furloughs around the world will also continue a while longer. The Economic Policy Institute has stated that furloughs and job losses continue at record highs. This unfortunate trend will continue to have an impact on consumer spending especially as we rapidly approach holiday season. In anticipation, smart cross-border e-commerce retailers must invest now in the technology and tools that will help drive business while streamline operations and creating efficiencies.

Attracting Global Customers

All e-commerce brands, no matter how well they may be faring at the moment, will need to adapt more to the continued global situation and the ‘new normal’. We have written before about how the sharp economic downturn accompanying the pandemic will encourage (and continue to encourage) e-commerce retailers to offer deals and discounts to nervous consumers who may be cutting back on discretionary spending. Additionally, many brands have focused marketing and selling on product categories with higher demand. Attracting new customers to your site and enticing repeat customers is paramount to maintaining business momentum. Expanding out of the domestic market and targeting international shoppers is an important strategy, but customer acquisition domestically is already challenging enough, so how do you also manage selling to a large global customer base that remains largely untapped? 

Here’s where tech solutions and web applications provide value. Localizing marketing efforts can be a big challenge for many retailers. Updating currencies and URLs and other information to populate shopping feeds for google and facebook, for example, can quickly present a high level of effort. But most brands need to do this to drive global sales. A third-party solution, like Flow, can step in and help automate localized product feed generation so that online brands can get started more easily with marketing internationally.  And right now is the time for brands to prepare their localized marketing strategy so that they are ready to hit the ground running for holiday campaigns in the fall.

A Delightful Customer Journey

Many online retailers decide not to properly and fully localize their website experiences because it can be a heavy lift.  And for most brands, undertaking cross-border presents a massive and overwhelming challenge. And we know it’s important: localizing one factor isn’t enough. Successful localization as we all know is not a matter of adapting one detail on a site to the local market. To have the most impact, brands must tackle all the factors along the customer journey that impact conversion. Multi-currency pricing, accurately calculated duties and taxes and fees, local payments, international shipping, and all aspects of checkout are necessary to localize on a site in order to boost conversion.

A cloud-based solution minimizes the risks and increases efficiencies when managing all these factors through automation and centralized management. By leveraging a cross-border solution brands are able to have the visibility and the control to localize every point across the customer journey (by market and country), all within one platform. Localizing all these touch points together is what generates that juicy incremental revenue. 

Cost Savings and Budget Management

Perhaps the best way to prepare for the road ahead is to expect budget cuts and internal cost savings initiatives, and get ahead of these requests from management. Of course this will vary between e-commerce businesses, but in general certain costs are examined first during budget exercises. This often happens to marketing spend, which can be considered non-essential.  And when these cost-cutting exercises begin, savvy brands will look to third-party technology providers to help lower the total cost of ownership related to cross-border selling. A platform that automates and streamlines operations creates efficiencies that reduces the need for internal resources to manage the processes involved in cross-border. Centralization of cross-border e-commerce management means that team members can access all their tools in one place for easy collaboration and increased productivity. This also allows employees to make fast changes to different parts of the customer journey by market through one interface, rather than switching between different systems to complete one tasks.

Third party solutions provide a number of other cost savings as well.  For example, shipping to areas that are very remote can raise costs for your cross-border e-commerce business. This can create a significant amount of friction for retailers and numerous challenges in developing a successful international shipping strategy. There are several fees and surcharges that can be controlled through a technology solution like Flow. Our platform provides transparency and visibility for online retailers so they understand when they will be charged, how much those fees will amount to, and the reasons why these fees are being charged in the first place. Flow’s solution provides management over these fees as well as full landed cost so that online merchants can craft the right strategy for the business that results in decreased overall spend.

An Online Retailer’s Responsibility

As an international retailer, the responsibility is on you to eliminate any complexities on your end and make sure that buying from you is simple for your customers, regardless of where they are located. That mandate for building in efficiencies into your cross-border strategy becomes even more important when there is a global market disruption that influences how your customers shop online. It sounds like a daunting task, but brands don’t have to go it alone. There are technology platforms and tools built for purpose that can simplify complex tasks and automate many facets of the cross-border e-commerce journey.

Incorporating the right management controls for every aspect of the international e-commerce process, like the ones available in Flow’s Console, will bring transparency and control for cross-border e-commerce merchants. Through our relationships with global shipping carriers, Flow can provide our customers with the ability to see where the complexities lie, and make the necessary changes to automate them to lower costs, boost productivity, and increase speed of delivery to the customer. Through these increased operational efficiencies, a platform like Flow’s can provide value for retailers and shoppers alike across the customer journey, from acquisition through fulfillment.

The current global crisis presents some long-term challenges to international e-commerce businesses, but if brands put in the work now to become more nimble and efficient, they will be able to cut costs and increase profits. To find out more about how Flow’s platform can help, contact us to schedule a demo.