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10 Ways to Improve Your Cross-Border Sales

By: Ted Rogers
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The ability to reach a global audience is a huge advantage for ecommerce businesses. However, coming to grips with complex cross-border sales requirements can seem intimidating at first glance.

To help build your confidence and knowledge, here are 10 tips to help you fulfill your cross-border sales potential.

1. Analyze Your Target Markets

Many of the issues encountered by businesses looking to operate across borders are due to stumbling at the first hurdle with a lack of understanding of local markets. Be sure to conduct the following analysis to get a head start:

  • Local Insights: Partner with local research companies, read industry reports, publications, and relevant online forums to gain deeper insights.
  • Regulatory Research: Look into import and export rules, fraud prevention and compliance, customs procedures, and product-specific restrictions.
  • Market Research: Take the time to understand products or features that resonate with the local audience and identify unique preferences.
  • Competitor Research: Analyze competitors to look for opportunities where you can differentiate your offerings and stand out.

2. Localize Your Language and Look

Beyond basic translation, localization is the art of adapting your brand and message to resonate with a specific culture.

Top-Quality Translation

You should be offering your website and customer service in multiple languages. Prioritize languages spoken by your target audience and go beyond the literal to consider cultural context, slang, and idiomatic expressions for a natural flow.

To take it to the next level, invest in localized marketing materials, advertisements, and multilingual social media campaigns. Consider leveraging the reach and cultural understanding of local influencers to promote your brand.

Content, Media, and Visual Appeal

Adapt website design and imagery to consider colors, symbols, layouts, and models that appeal to the local audience. Consider cultural events and holidays to inspire localized campaigns or promotions for special occasions. However, be mindful to avoid imagery or symbolism that might be offensive or misinterpreted.

Localized product images and videos can showcase your offering in a way that’s relevant and that resonates with cultural context and usage – showing how what you sell (whether physical products or digital services) solves specific problems and/or enhances lives.

3. Embrace the Power of Cross-Border Partnerships

Navigating a new market solo can be daunting. Strategic partnerships with local businesses and individuals can be your secret weapon for success.

Identifying the Right Partners

Start by asking the right questions. For example, what local expertise are you missing? What market access are you looking for? What type of partnership do you need?

This is invaluable in researching potential partners – businesses with complementary offerings, strong local networks, and a shared vision. Different types of partnerships to consider include:

  • Local Businesses: Collaborate on joint promotions, cross-marketing, or co-branding.
  • Distributors: Access a wider local audience through established distribution channels.
  • Influencers: Leverage their reach and credibility to generate awareness and trust.

Once you’ve found a potential partner – do your due diligence. Research their reputation, financial stability, and cultural fit.

A Collaboration Built on Trust

Make sure that, from day one, you are transparent about your company’s values and practices – with the expectation that your partner will reciprocate. Discuss your goals, expectations, and value proposition.

Recognize and reward the contributions of your partners and ensure continued success by being agile in adjusting your approach based on feedback and evolving customer needs. Share feedback and work together to address challenges. This is made easier with clearly outlined roles, responsibilities, revenue sharing, and processes of dispute resolution.

Find out how Digital River’s expertise as a Merchant of Record can support your cross-border sales.

4. Currency Options Matter to Cross-Border Customers

In the world of cross-border sales, managing a range of currency options can become complex and confusing. Here’s how to get a handle on conversions and payment options to ensure smooth transactions and happy customers.

Transparency Builds Customer Confidence

Display prices clearly in both your local currency and the customer’s preferred currency, as this builds trust and avoids confusion at checkout. Also, where possible, let customers see the real-time exchange rate and estimated total in their preferred currency while communicating your payment terms and conditions.

Keep customers informed about the status of their orders and any currency conversions involved. Address any concerns or questions related to payments and currency conversions in their preferred language.

Providing Customers with Payment Options

Research and offer popular payment methods specific to your target markets and allow customers to pay in their preferred currency, even if your store’s default is different. There are dedicated global payment services that can support this.

Keep up to date with changes in currency exchange rates and regulations, adjusting your pricing and payment options accordingly. Monitor popular payment trends in your target markets and adapt your offerings to meet evolving preferences and new technologies.

5. Savvy Shipping is Key for Cross-Border Sales

With cross-border sales, the customer’s experience doesn’t end at checkout. Shipping your products efficiently and effectively is crucial for customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

Clear Communication is Crucial

Be upfront about shipping costs and timelines, displaying clear estimates on product pages and during checkout. Show that you cater to different budgets and urgency needs with express, standard, and economy options. There are also opportunities to cater to environmentally conscious customers with sustainable packaging.

Keep customers up to speed with updates on their delivery (e.g., delays) and estimated arrival time to manage expectations, with the option for multilingual support if more information is requested. Welcome feedback to improve shipping processes and communication, and be sure to offer flexible return and exchange policies to build customer confidence.

Cost and Logistics Efficiency

Research regional shipping hubs to reduce transit times and costs. This will also allow you to compare quotes and leverage your volume to secure better deals. Partnering with local retailers or post offices can give the option for click-and-collect, improving both convenience and choice for customers.

It’s also a good idea to invest in shipping management software to automate tasks like label generation, customs documentation, and carrier selection. On the subject of processes, stay informed about evolving shipping regulations and adapt as needed to avoid delays or penalties.

6. Effective Cross-Border Customer Service

In the competitive world of cross-border sales, exceptional customer service can be the difference between a loyal customer and a lost sale.

Speaking Your Customers’ Language

Where possible to do so, offer multilingual customer support and utilize native speakers or translation tools to ensure accurate and culturally appropriate communication. Consider providing agents with cultural awareness training to equip them to understand cultural nuances and navigate potential sensitivities.

You can reduce the need for direct content by creating multilingual knowledge bases and FAQs with accessible information in languages your customers understand. Use feedback to refine both these and your customer service strategy, identifying common concerns and opportunities for improvement that are specific to each region.

Making Sure You’re on Their Time

Offer support hours to cater to different time zones and make it easy for customers to reach you when needed. Mitigate this by being proactive with information like order updates, pre-shipment notifications, and customs clearance guidance. Providing a range of communication options is also beneficial. Consider:

  • Email
  • Phone
  • SMS
  • Live chat
  • Social media messaging

Whatever the medium, remember that your service should be empathetic, understanding, and offer solutions that go beyond the minimum expectation. Address customers by name, reference past interactions, and show genuine interest in their needs.

7. Read up on Relevant Cross-Border Sales Regulations

Cross-border trade can feel like a maze of rules and regulations. Compliance with international trade regulations is not just an option, it’s a necessity. Here’s how to ensure compliance and avoid costly pitfalls.

Clarity and Compliance

Familiarize yourself with import/export regulations, tax requirements, data privacy laws, and consumer protection policies in your target markets. It’s also essential to accurately classify your products. Certain items, like dual-use goods or hazardous materials, require special licenses or permits. Look at collaborating with customs brokers or freight forwarders who understand the specific regulations of your target markets.

Be sure to stay informed about active sanctions and embargoes, strictly adhering to these restrictions to avoid hefty penalties. Utilize government watch lists and compliance tools to identify and mitigate risks associated with sanctioned entities.

Maintaining Secure Records and Documentation

To ensure you’re in line with regulations, it’s important to implement a robust compliance program. Establish clear procedures, training, and internal controls to ensure adherence to regulations. This will help to maintain accurate and detailed records, including:

  • Invoices
  • Customs declarations
  • Product specifications
  • Proof-of-origin documents

Enact regular audits and put robust data security measures in place. This will help to comply with data privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA, which govern the collection, storage, and use of customer data.

8. Leverage the Power of Cross-Border Customer Data

In today’s data-driven world, understanding your customers and their behavior across borders is crucial for success. Let’s look at how to leverage data for cross-border sales while ensuring compliance with data privacy regulations (e.g., GDPR, CCPA).

Tracking and Data Analysis

Implement website analytics tools to segment your data by market and analyze how users from different countries interact with your website, identifying their preferences and pain points. Track key metrics like:

  • Page views
  • Bounce rates
  • Conversion rates
  • User journeys

Measure the impact of your marketing campaigns, social media output, and website changes. Use data to understand what’s working and what needs improvement and adapt your approach to meet the evolving needs and preferences of your customers in each market.

Customer Data for Personalization

Frequently review messaging, product offerings, and pricing strategies. Data-driven insights help to refine your approach and maximize results for each target audience. Identify what resonates best in each region and optimize your website for higher conversion rates in different markets.

Ensuring you’ve taken the necessary steps to protect customer data can be very useful in personalizing marketing campaigns. Use this to push localized recommendations, display relevant products or offers, and provide information based on user location and browsing behavior.

9. Embrace Technology to Support Cross-Border Sales

Investment in technology empowers you to automate tasks, streamline operations, and scale your reach much more efficiently. Learn how to become a tech-savvy, cross-border seller.

Accessing the Benefits of AI and Automation

AI for ecommerce has some incredibly exciting benefits for cross-border sales. Consider, for example, the potential for 24/7 customer support in multiple languages via AI-powered chatbots. It can also be leveraged to help with personalization, suggesting relevant items based on individual purchase history and browsing behavior.

A less advanced but no less useful approach is the automation of tasks. Scheduling targeted emails, social media posts, and ads based on customer data and preferences, and automating repetitive tasks like lead nurturing or abandoned cart recovery will free your time up to strategize elsewhere.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Succeeding in cross-border sales is about keeping up with the next big thing. Make sure you’re continuously exploring new technologies and solutions.

Attend industry events, subscribe to tech blogs, and stay informed about emerging trends in the cross-border space. Consider partnering with technology providers specializing in cross-border sales solutions and leverage their expertise to stay at the forefront of technological innovation.

Finally, invest in training your team on new technologies. Empower your employees to utilize tech tools effectively and enhance your overall cross-border operations.

10. Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment in Search of Cross-Border Success

The world of cross-border sales is anything but static. Consumer preferences, regulations, and technology evolve rapidly, demanding a willingness to experiment and adapt. Embrace this opportunity for growth and become a fearless, cross-border sales innovator.

Exploring New Markets with Calculated Risks

Don’t limit yourself to the obvious choices for cross-border sales. Research emerging markets with potential for growth and cultural alignment with your brand.

Of course, it’s always best to start small and test the waters before committing significant resources, utilizing partnerships or localized online campaigns to gauge market interest. However, it’s crucial to be prepared to adjust your approach based on market realities. Don’t assume your existing strategies will translate directly to every new region.

Stay Agile and Responsive to Change

Stay informed about emerging trends and cultural shifts in your target markets, monitoring social media, industry reports, and consumer research to understand evolving preferences. Use this insight to adapt your product offerings, marketing messages, and visual identity to resonate with changing cultural attitudes.

Be ready and willing to adjust your strategy based on significant cultural shifts, staying flexible and responsive to maintain relevance and avoid becoming outdated. This means acting quickly to adapt and iterate based on results. There’s no benefit in clinging to a strategy that’s not working. Embrace what you’ve learned and move on.

Supercharging Your Cross-Border Sales

Success in cross-border sales doesn’t happen overnight. It requires careful planning, cultural understanding, and a commitment to providing an exceptional customer experience.

Of course, every business is different, but by taking on board the key points of these 10 strategies and staying adaptable, you’ll be well on your way to boosting your cross-border performance.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your global sales strategy. Interested in learning more about this and plenty of other ecommerce insights and cross-border finance topics? Our Ecommerce Resources have got you covered.