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Cross Border Ecommerce Basics

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This article originally appeared on

In the late 19th century, a popular U.S. phrase was, “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country,” but today the saying might well be, “Think global and grow with the international markets.” The metrics confirm it. 57% of global online shoppers purchase from overseas retailers. Cross border sales has achieved a 220% gain (to US $627 billion) in just five years. But although cross border commerce is a logical expansion strategy, moving into new global markets is a complex undertaking.

Cross border ecommerce involves a number of critical issues that must be resolved before a go-to-market plan can be built. To skip one or get it wrong can lead to expensive surprises, greatly extended ramp-up time, unnecessary financial and legal risk, fraud, and brand reputation damage. Fortunately, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to get started. There are companies that focus exclusively on the intricacies and best-practices of selling cross border.

One company with a clear leadership in this space is CleanApps.Org Corporate Member, Digital River. They are well-respected for flexible solutions, strong local partnerships and up-to-the-minute knowledge of what it takes for established and fast-growing brands to sell direct in over 200 local markets.

Recently Digital River Chief Payments Officer, Eric Christensen was quoted in Forbes“While 2020 brought seismic shifts in shoppers’ buying habits, brands looking to set their strategy for future success can’t ignore the growth opportunities in cross-border ecommerce. Setting yourself up for long-term success will mean a well-executed cross-border commerce strategy, including localized payments, to reach new audiences and take advantage of shifting consumer habits.”

We reached out to Digital River for some tips on how to build a successful global ecommerce business and they listed off proven steps for success.

Do the research

  • Conduct demographic research in new global markets.
  • Scope out the local competition.
  • Research common fulfillment channels.
  • Determine how to optimize supply chain logistics in each market.
  • Get familiar with local and national legal concerns and privacy regulations.
  • Learn local buyer shopping preferences through direct interviews, surveys, social listening, etc.

Localize, localize, localize

  • Develop marketing content in local language and appropriate cultural presentations.
  • Use trusted marketing channels that are supported by local governments.
  • Adhere to local data privacy regulations.
  • Understand local buying expectations, tactics and channels.
  • Build customized acquisition strategies for each new market.

Collect customer data

  • What technology will you use to organize the entire customer lifecycle?
  • Will it be compliant with local data protection regulations?
  • How will you harvest this data to gain insight into your customers and plan for the future?

Optimize global payments

  • Optimize your payment system with the necessary resources to offer preferred currencies and check-out experience expected by that market.
  • Use preferred payment methods and/or balance this with what is cost effective for you.
  • Be clear about different financing options.
  • Consider one touch purchasing on smaller items.
  • Partner with a payments expert for each new market.
  • Process payments in-country to avoid costly false credit card declines.
  • Use machine learning to route transactions intelligently.
  • Ensure retry logic is being used to maximize the likelihood of authorization.

Fulfillment is key

  • Partner with a fulfillment expert who can direct seamless cross border shipments.
  • Be able to meet customer expectations with strong and transparent shipment data.
  • Optimize your reverse logistics processes taking tax and regulatory issues into account.
  • Have repackaging procedures and shipping labels in place.
  • 70% of shoppers are unlikely to buy again following a problem delivery.

Charge the right taxes

  • Understand all local tax laws and make this an early strategic discussion to ensure you are charging the right amount.
  • 43% of CFO survey respondents rank taxes on digital services among the top three policies impacting their businesses.

Keep up with compliance

  • Compliance is an ongoing, ever changing beast that must be closely watched by experts. Do you want to invest in an in-house team to do this, or will outsourcing be more effective?

Utilize strategic partnerships

  • Your current team is focused on the core competencies that allow your company to operate. Partnering with organizations with a global footprint and deep experience in local markets enables you to keep your in-house team on track handling the expansion that will occur from launching a cross border ecommerce.

Ecommerce is undergoing continual change as the demand for global purchasing options intensifies and runs into local complexities of cultures, customs and regulations. Perhaps the most overarching benefit of a cross border ecommerce partnership is two-fold: You focus on the quality and relevance of your product while enjoying a direct-to-customer sales experience, and you acquire valuable data from each market that can drive deeper insights into your customers, markets, brands and strategic planning.

  • Looking for a partner who can help to optimize your cross border commerce strategy? Connect with Digital River today to learn how we can accelerate your revenue in new markets.