Cross border eCommerce presents a big opportunity for eCommerce store owners to expand and take on new markets. Currently growing at a rate of 25% a year since 2015, tapping into the online global market in 2017 is a challenge any business that is ready to expand should take on. As technology improves rapidly and online processes become simpler, consumers are quickly becoming accustomed to buying goods online and are more likely than ever to venture into buying goods online that they cannot find locally. Any business, regardless of size or product offering, can take itself global with a clear strategy and enough research in place. Here are a few tips to help you tap into the cross-border eCommerce market.
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 need to ask yourself:
1. What is the predominant language spoken?
2. What are the preferred payment methods?
3. What is the local currency?
4. Are there any cultural or religious norms that will dictate what I should or should not place on the website?
New customers, who will decide after their first experience whether your store meets their needs and expectations, 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. Presenting a price to a customer in Brazil, for example, in US Dollars instead of Brazilian Real will make the customer feel rather uneasy as they figure out for themselves what it could be in their own currency. 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 because they have direct connections to local acquirers and process the transactions locally. Therefore, PayU offers a hybrid solution of allowing you to sell across borders but by processing the transaction 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.
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 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 large enough yet to warrant a local storage space, a central storage hub in your 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 is worth offering both slower and faster delivery times so that customers with different preferences can find an option to suit their needs. In a recent survey conducted by DHL, it was reported that 22% of all respondents found that notification of delivery times and guaranteed delivery times was important, and a factor that would lead to success. Look at what competitors in the same market are doing, and invest in online surveys to establish what local consumers prefer. Once you have the knowledge on these processes, you can decide on a logistics company to suit you and your customers.
Invest in customer service
Customer service is important in any business offering services or products to the public, but it’s even more so if your customers are not in the same region as you and cannot easily pick up the phone to ask for assistance. 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 certain processes to put in place:
1. 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.
2. FAQ’s: 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.
3. Local customer service team: 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.
The world of cross-border eCommerce provides a wealth of challenges, but also opportunities. While there is no one secret to success, and no one path to follow, there are various steps such as the ones above, to help you get on to the right track.