Merchants are increasingly looking beyond U.S. borders to attract new customers. While the potential upside is great, sellers should prepare extensively and ramp up gradually to ensure they’re equipped for global success.
Technology researcher Forrester estimates that some 15% of all eCommerce sales will be transacted across borders by 2021, and leading online brands such as eBay report that more than a third of their revenues are already generated internationally. But with new opportunity comes new risk; given cultural differences and regulatory hurdles, there’s a real danger of flubbing entry into international markets.
Merchants considering international expansion should research their options extensively – Export.gov is one good resource to explore – so they understand the logistical and legal ramifications. Among the to-dos:
Know the local calendar. Single’s Day is a key fourth-quarter retail event in Asia, while U.K. customers hunt for post-holiday bargains on Boxing Day. Merchants should familiarize themselves with local customs by tracking competitors’ promotions and connecting with potential audiences on social media to learn their expectations.
Mind the (GDPR) gap. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been in effect for nearly six months now, and it applies to any company doing business in the European Union, even those without a physical footprint there. The law requires companies to protect consumers’ online privacy and grant control over how personal data is collected and used. Merchants should check with their eCommerce and personalization vendors to ensure compliance, rewrite privacy and security policies in plain language, and make access to data collection controls prominent throughout the path to purchase.
Consider online marketplaces as an entry point. Merchants can take advantage of Amazon and eBay’s extensive international marketplaces to establish a foothold, while region-specific hubs from Taobao in Asia to Mercado Libre in Latin America offer still further localized options.
Boost OMS functionality to support international fulfillment. Before launching a localized Web site or opening foreign fulfillment centers, merchants can iron out international logistics by shipping internationally from their U.S. eCommerce sites The potential revenue can motivate merchants to upgrade their order management systems for global operations; for a shorter-term solution, vendors such as FloShip offer turnkey service.
Does your brand have an international following? How do you serve audiences abroad?