Along with the seismic shift by consumers to shop more online since the Covid-19 global pandemic arose, a new focus has emerged on cross-border shopping.
According to data from Euromonitor, some 17% of goods will be bought online this year – around double the percentage as recently as 2016.
Last year, most international borders remained all but closed to travellers and government-imposed stay-at-home orders and store closures were introduced in many countries to reduce the risk of virus transmission. That helped the volume of goods bought online surge by 24% – while sales from stores fell by 7%.
The combination of home confinement and an inability to travel abroad has sparked new interest in cross-border shopping, a trend brands and retailers need to embrace if they want to grow their business – and in many cases it may well be necessary just to protect their market share.
For a time last year, the disruption of international passenger travel together with the closure of factories due to Covid outbreaks in Asian and South American manufacturing hubs caused widespread interruption of traditional supply chains. But in the latter half of the year, companies had adapted to the disruption; new air cargo routes were developed to expand capacity and considerable investment was made by last-mile delivery companies suddenly seeing a surge in orders.
Research by PayPal undertaken prior to the pandemic shows that around half of cross-border shoppers cite having access to a wider range of products than are available domestically as their main motivation for buying from overseas. Others are drawn by price savings.
All of these factors have combined to create a fertile opportunity for companies to serve customers outside their home markets. Distribution channels have expanded, and there are multiple logistics providers competing in the space.
Reduced opportunity to travel or dine out for up to the past 18 months have left many consumers cashed up and looking to spoil themselves in other ways, splurging (online) on items they might have previously bought abroad, or – even more likely – might not have considered buying in more ‘normal’ times.
Another research house, Forrester, predicts the value of cross-border e-commerce globally is likely to rise to US$627 billion by next year, accounting for 20% of the overall e-commerce market.
Where to start in your cross-border foray
With the obvious increased sales opportunity offered by cross-border online sales, it is important to look at how companies can make the most of it. While it may be tempting for many to contact a logistics partner and then post a notice on their e-commerce website saying they now ship abroad and hope for the best, that approach is flawed, because it fails to recognise the unique cultures and customer mindsets of overseas markets.
One size cannot fit all. Even in geographically confined areas such as Asia, there are multiple languages, currencies, cultural influences such as religion, holiday observations and festivals. Even sizing may differ – an oversized westerner in Vietnam, for example, may learn the hard way that XXL-sized clothing bought online from a local vendor could well be too small, but an XXL ordered from the US or Europe is too large.
Successful brands and marketplaces know how to adapt their product mix and marketing strategies to manage multiple consumer preferences.
The good news is that these challenges can be met easily and cost-effectively by back-end Software as a Service solutions, like Techsembly’s platform. By adopting such an approach, a retailer can seamlessly offer a localised customer experience rivaling that of a rival retailer actually located in the market.
Techsembly’s founder Amy Read wrote in a recent thought piece that brands often make the mistake of moving cross-border as an afterthought.
“If you decide to move into a new market, start planning a localised solution immediately. Start with making sure the logistics arrangements are practical, stable and cost effective. Make sure you have the resources you will need to have in house in order to satisfy customer expectations – for example, staff who can speak or write the predominant language of the market so you can offer advice or information to shoppers on the site, and resolve any after-sales problems smoothly,” she advises.
If a retailer gets these basics right, the software enabling cross-border sales can actually be the easier part of the challenge, with minimal upfront capital cost, and smoothly scalable to meet any growth rate.
Site language, currencies, product range, different endorsers, custom shipping fees, may all require careful evaluation and decision making, but Techsembly supports all of these features in its enterprise solution.
In summary, if your company is selling goods online and has a stable client base in its home market, there is no reason you should not be considering branching out further afield. Experienced, professional partners are available to resolve all the challenges in delivering a quality cross-border customer experience.