Maximize your international selling strategy.
The global ecommerce roadmap: pinpoint profitable opportunities for your product line — and choose reliable, cost-effective delivery options.
Most U.S. merchants are now focused on what international markets they should venture into and how they can best get there. Globally, ecommerce sales are growing at more than one-and-a-half times the rate of U.S. retail sales (11.8% vs. 18.3% that was projected for 2014). Asia-Pacific was expected to surpass North America to become the world’s No. 1 market for B2C ecommerce sales in 2013. Global opportunities have proven so substantial that early adopters are starting to consider supply-chain realignments to better support their worldwide customer base.
So, how do you maximize your international strategy? The key is in pinpointing profitable opportunities for your product line — and choosing reliable, cost-effective delivery options.
Our research and data shows that international buyers usually go for the following top 10 categories: apparel, footwear, leather, jewellery, electronics, home goods, clocks and watches, carpet and fabrics, computers, and cosmetics. As a rule of thumb, consumers will first purchase low-consideration items, adding a broader selection of online purchases as they become more comfortable with the process. Keeping this in mind can help you select where to focus your initial international ecommerce efforts.
There are three key considerations that U.S. retailers should take into account to help successfully optimize their international strategy and provide a positive buying experience for consumers.
Step One: Assess Demand for Your Products
U.S. retailers need to make sure they have a full understanding of what they are selling today and the current demand. Should you focus on certain international markets? Should you offer your full product line — or focus on specific products that are particularly profitable or in high demand?
Step Two: Test the Waters
Before you dive in, you may wish to consider low-risk, low-cost ways to test global demand for your wares and become better prepared to navigate the logistical challenges of international ecommerce. A number of retailers have set up storefronts on online marketplaces, launching a subset of their catalogues there to see who shops, who buys, and which products are in greatest demand. This approach enables them to gain considerable insight into both opportunities and processes.
If you need to build international awareness, want a clearer measure of market demand, or just want to get to market quickly, these types of solutions may provide you with an easier entry into international markets. This can help you shape a strategy to meet the needs of your business.
Step Three: Help Ensure Cost-Effective, Quality Service
Online consumers can be price sensitive. Our research shows that the majority cite price as the most important factor in purchasing products online, and high shipping costs as the most common obstacle to completing an online purchase. Therefore, it’s critical to find cost-effective shipping options.
Consumers expect online shopping to be simple. Products should be easy to find. Pricing, including shipping costs, taxes, and duties, need to be fully spelled out. Delivery-date estimates should be accurate. The process for returns and after-sales service should be clear and easy to understand. Offering consumers different shipping options with different price points lets them choose the speed of delivery they’re willing to pay for. Consumers appreciate the control this gives them, and it’s an excellent way to manage delivery expectations.
Consumers want service that’s reliable and, since delivery issues can clog your call centers and potentially damage your brand, you do too.
The true challenge in international delivery is in finding and managing the best options for each destination. Local postal administrators establish rules in each country that dictate how shipments must be addressed and prepared. Each country has its own import and export laws. There are even specific laws within different countries when it comes to what can and cannot be shipped. For example, Brazil excludes canes and umbrellas, Sri Lanka prohibits leather goods, Italy bans bells, clocks, and playing cards, and China prohibits walkie-talkies, wrist watches, cameras, bicycles, and sewing machines. Taxes, duties, and tariffs; size, weight, and value limits also impact shipping and costs.
Some retailers turn to a single high-cost carrier who provides door-to-door service. Others try to manage the different import and export rules, regulations, and requirements on their own by building in-house capabilities. But, increasingly, U.S. retailers are turning to global ecommerce solutions providers to help them create a seamless online purchasing and shipping experience for consumers, reduce the challenges associated with international ecommerce, and grow their businesses.
This includes helping to calculate shipping costs, taxes, and duties up-front during the online checkout process to provide clarity to consumers on what they are paying for. Displaying fully-landed costs upfront helps ensure there are no surprises for buyers with additional fees at the time of delivery. Also, offering reasonable shipping costs and providing accurate estimates on delivery dates are important. Other considerations include handling payments in the currency preferred by shoppers, and offering a clear, easy-to-understand process for returns and after-sales service.
The benefits of working with a global ecommerce solutions provider are three-fold:
First, international ecommerce solutions and cross-border parcel services providers can minimize upfront investment for the retailer, delivering the necessary technology and services on a revenue-share basis.
Second, these providers offer a level of established expertise across countries and carriers. Their built-in processes help ensure that they stay up-to-date on the latest changes and challenges in parcel shipping to as many as 200 different countries and territories.
Third, these solutions help to increase speed-to-market, lower costs, and create online shopping experiences that encourage international consumers to shop time and time again.
By using a global ecommerce solutions provider with international shipping options, U.S. retailers can ship packages and parcels to centralized facilities within the U.S. The third-party providers take it from there, shipping packages cost-efficiently to their destinations around the globe.
Retailers can benefit from streamlined shipping processes and gain a partner that can help them avoid the pitfalls inherent in international shipping. From keeping up-to-date on restricted products, to managing import/export compliance, to providing full track-and-trace capabilities for shipments worldwide, global ecommerce solutions providers can help make international buying and shipping run smoothly.
The Time Is Now
The shift is on. Ecommerce is changing the shape of retailing worldwide, and retailers must move swiftly to stake their claims in this fast growing marketplace.
Along the ecommerce continuum, most U.S. retailers have already decided if they want to be global or not. For those who have decided to go global, knowing their product catalogue, having the right solutions and services in place to expand into international markets, and providing the best international online shopping experience for consumers will help lead the way to global ecommerce success.