Six Steps for Cross-Border E-commerce Brands to Rally in Global Markets

June 4, 2020

There’s no denying that economies all over the world have been hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. For many brands and retailers who were enjoying e-commerce momentum before the outbreak, that momentum may seem lost. As a leading brand in your market, you exist to solve a problem for your customers, and you need to continue doing that. Adapting to the current situation and focusing on how to serve today’s market can help your business survive in the current economic landscape. But it’s also important to plan for the future, especially as leaders in several countries begin to cautiously ease restrictions on businesses.

As a cross-border e-commerce merchant, you may wonder how to best reconnect with your customers in global markets. Here are six steps to successfully re-engage with international consumers in the markets where you do business.

1.   Acknowledge the loss.

Even in countries that reacted quickly it’s important to understand that your customers in every global market have experienced many different kinds of losses. They may have lost a loved one, a job, a place to live, or their own businesses and livelihoods. Brands and retailers should acknowledge the losses and sacrifices made and be sensitive to the morale of the country. Many retailers, including several Flow customers, have donated (and continue to donate) portions of their sales to charity or local relief efforts. It says a lot about a brand that engages with their community, showing their commitment to public health and safety.

2.   Do some forecasting with wholesale partners in your target markets.

If you have wholesale partners in a country that appears to be on the path to recovery, it’s time to check in with them. What are they seeing on the ground in that market? What items are in high demand? How has pricing or discounting changed due to the pandemic? It’s also important to stay in close alignment with your wholesale partners to make sure their pricing is consistent with your direct-to-consumer online store.

3.   Take stock of your supply chain.

Throughout this ordeal, consumers have had no choice but to deal with long lead times on the delivery of their purchases, especially goods that are considered non-essential. As brands re-engage with consumers in markets where the recovery is underway, they need to prepare for a resurgence of demand. Augmenting and possibly diversifying your supply chain and logistics will be crucial, as consumers grow impatient with long delivery times and seek local alternatives. It may be wise to temporarily relax or eliminate options such as same-day or next-day delivery to avoid making promises that aren’t possible to keep.

4.   Do it in phases.

Given that not all countries are on the same recovery timetable, re-engaging in multiple countries can be tricky. It’s reasonable to anticipate that your strategy will need to roll out in phases. It may make sense to plan your market re-entry based on locations where the greatest demand and web traffic is coming from now. Other retailers may look more long-term at markets where their goods were already in high demand before the pandemic hit. Be vigilant and be prepared to switch your strategy if one of your international markets experiences another wave of the pandemic.

5.    Rethink your catalog.

Research the categories and items consumers are buying the most in the global markets you want to re-engage with. If your offerings don’t fit in, it may be time to consider expanding the breadth of your online store’s product line. Are there items that no longer align with your target audience? Consider replacing them with products that do. For example, several top fashion brands have been making and selling consumer-grade cloth face masks in markets where face coverings are required to be in public.

6.    Fine-tune your international customer experience.

E-commerce retailers may have an advantage over in-store merchants now, but that doesn’t mean they should rest when it comes to customer experience. Making sure the customer experience on your e-commerce website is straightforward and enjoyable is still a top priority. People need respite from the stress and uncertainty of today’s world, so brands that make consumers feel good from start to finish are more likely to be successful. Customers in every market where you sell should be able to browse, make purchases, and receive their orders in a frictionless, easy way. And, if you can show sympathy via messages on your website and other marketing channels, that’s even better.

As we navigate through this unprecedented time, remember that e-commerce stores and their corresponding logistics infrastructures, distribution facilities, and supplier networks simply weren’t built for the rapid shifts in demand patterns we are seeing now due to the current global environment. There will need to be an adjustment period as brands and retailers recalibrate every aspect of their business model, from supply chains to customs to customer service. It’s important to plan ahead, do your research, and address any gaps in your cross-border e-commerce operations.

To learn more about successfully re-entering global markets, get in touch with a Flow cross-border e-commerce expert today. We’re here for you.