As e-commerce reaches new heights and online processes become easier and more straightforward to manage, customers are more likely than ever to buy from international sellers online. Any online business, regardless of size or product offering, can take itself global with a clear strategy and enough research in place.
Tap into the growing market for cross border e-commerce
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
1. Do local market research
Once you have decided on the markets you want going to expand your offerings to, you will need to research these markets in order to understand the kind of consumer you will be selling to. From shopping behaviour and payment preferences, to local currency, pricing and cultural norms, you need to know everything about the customers whose business you would like to benefit from. Here are some questions you might ask yourself:
- What is the predominant language spoken?
- What are the preferred payment methods?
- What is the local currency?
- Are there any cultural or religious norms that will dictate what I should or should not place on my website?
New customers will decide after their first experience whether your store meets their needs and expectations. They will scrutinize everything from tone of voice and imagery to payments methods and language. While a customer may be in a different country to where your store is based, they will expect a localised experience that looks and feels familiar to them.
2. Figure out storage and localized logistics
After establishing the local needs and preferences of your new target market and tailoring your website to their expectations, you will need to establish a storage facility and logistics provider in order to get your products to overseas buyers.
If demand for your product is not yet large enough to warrant a local storage space, a third party logistics provider or central storage hub in your home country will be your best option. Once demand grows, you can always look into renting or purchasing a storage space where your products may be housed after entry into the market, easing the price customers will have to pay for delivery.
Once you have figured out storage, it is best to do research into what delivery options the local consumer prefers. While some customers are happy to pay more for next day or 2-3 day delivery, others would far prefer to receive their products later in order to save money. If you don’t offer a preferred delivery method, this could lead to a lack of sales.
It may be worth offering both slower and faster delivery times so that customers with different preferences can find an option to suit their needs. Looking at what competitors in the same market are doing, and investing in online surveys to establish what local consumers prefer, is a good place to start. In a recent survey conducted by DHL, 22% of all respondents reported that notification of delivery times and guaranteed delivery times was important. Once you have the knowledge on these processes, you can decide on a logistics company to suit you and your customers.
3. Invest in local customer service
Customer service is important in any business offering services or products to the public, but it’s even more when doing business internationally. There are a number of ways that you can optimize your customer service to ensure that customers are offered the best experience possible. Below are a handful of processes to make sure you have in place:
- Returns policy: Ensure that you have created an easy-to-follow returns policy that is clearly stated on your website. This will offer customers quick access to the information they need if there is a problem with the product they ordered, and they would like to return it. Ensure the policy is in the local language and there is a local service number to call, so that even though a customer might be miles away they won’t have to jump through hoops to get answers.
- FAQs: Providing answers to frequently asked questions on your website will take the strain off the amount of calls and emails you receive, but also provide quick and helpful answers to customers abroad who are confused about any of your processes and cannot get hold of you easily.
- Local customer service: Investing in a customer service team is one thing, but ensuring that they understand and are sensitive to customers from specific regions is another. Ensure your team speaks the languages relevant to certain regions and that they can provide answers to region specific questions. Investing in a localized and professional team of customer service individuals will enhance overall customer experience and provide for local needs.
4. Consider how you will get paid
It may sound simple, but the ability to accept payments in international markets is one of the most basic yet easily overlooked aspects of going global (especially when your business is online).
Investing in a payment gateway such as PayU will help you localize your approach by offering prices in local currencies and allowing multiple payment methods by offering direct connections to local acquirers and processing transactions locally. This will increase not only trust and loyalty in your brand, but also help you set yourself apart from other merchants who may not be meeting local demand.
The world of cross border e-commerce provides a wealth of challenges, but also opportunities. While there is no one secret to success, and no one path to follow, the above steps can be a first step in helping to get you on the right track.