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Your Customers Are Everywhere, Why Aren’t You?

By: Tara Allison
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4 Principles for Global Ecommerce Expansion

This was originally published on LinkedIn

The global online marketplace might seem like a land of opportunity where brands flourish and customers delight in the thrill of choice. Figuring out how to get to this land of ecommerce opportunity, however, depends not only on a deep understanding of cultures, people and commercial operations, but also a trustworthy map and local guide.

There is no doubt that potential revenue gains of entering new geographies are huge. Analysts are bullish on this point. Forrester predicts European online retail sales will continue to grow by double-digits and contribute to a global online retail market worth €233.9 billion by 2018.

Just two years later, emarketer predicts that the global retail ecommerce estimate will top $4 trillion.

Whatever you’re selling, chances are you could sell a lot more of it over the next few years – if you get your online growth strategy right. Ecommerce success in the global marketplace comes in large part from understanding local nuances that vary from country to country. Each market is unique. No single set of ecommerce practices will work everywhere.

4 focus areas for going global

To successfully expand your online presence to new countries, you have to understand your customers in each market and they have to understand you – what you sell, your company values, why you differ from competitors, etc. Ecommerce success is about far more than just translating your online store into the local language.

To develop lasting customer relationships, you need to provide a local ecommerce experience covering four main areas:

  1. Regulatory compliance: Ensuring compliance with local regulations is important, and with new regulations like GDPR coming into effect in May 2018, it’s increasingly complex. When you move into a new territory consider establishing Merchant of Record (MOR) and Seller of Record (SOR) arrangements. This is important when it comes to managing tax and compliance risk, and processing consumers’ credit and debit card payments – including full and partial product returns.
  2. Technical infrastructure: Your back-office technical functions need to accommodate new ways of relating to customers, as well as plugging into the broad commercial infrastructure of each country or territory you enter. This includes for example, instantly processing automated local fraud checks.
  3. Payment methods and payment processing: Another infrastructure component that needs to be localised is payment arrangements – the methods used and the processing requirements. Although your business might be new to a market and unfamiliar with local payment methods, your customers aren’t. Right there, in their comfort zone, is where you need to be from the get-go.
  4. Logistics and reverse logistics: Receiving and returning products must be easy for your customers. Local brands have already built logistic processes that meet customer expectations so you should use and build upon these existing systems as much as possible. Your commercial operation should be developed, built and ready to put into place as soon as you arrive. Consumers can be unforgiving when things go wrong; they take it personally.

Vive la difference

Online shoppers’ expectations, tastes and languages vary. It is vital that you take time to understand not just the market you intend to enter, but also the broader culture and its traditions. Look closely at how the competition behaves – what makes them successful, how they communicate with customers and frame their overall value proposition. If you arrive with an offering that exceeds local customer expectations, you will be set for success.

Can manufacturers enter new markets and beat local competitors? What do you think?