Why consider selling internationally?
International selling has never been so accessible. The pandemic has driven a spike in cross-border commerce, with more consumers than ever before choosing to shop outside their home countries. For retailers looking to expand their businesses internationally, Shopify Plus offers “global growth, without the growing pains”. The platform’s flexible, and continuously evolving, technology empowers merchants to deliver an exceptional online shopping experience, no matter where your customers are in the world.
Knowing when to internationalise
It’s easy to get caught up in dreams of rapid growth and soaring sales figures when first exploring the idea of international ecommerce expansion. The question is though, is your business ready to go global? It’s important to make the most of your domestic market before expanding overseas – you don’t want to risk taking your brand cross border if there are issues tainting your ecommerce operation on home soil. There are also fundamental financial and logistical considerations to explore when weighing up whether your business is ready to start selling internationally.
Knowing where to internationalise - the global picture of ecommerce
As an ecommerce merchant, you’ll know how important it is to weave customer experience (CX) into your strategic thinking. This is especially pertinent as you set out on your internationalisation journey. CX needs to be at the forefront of every decision, whether that’s choosing how to structure your online store, if you should outsource your supply chain, or how to manage international returns.
Prioritising customer experience when you internationalise
Once you’re sure it’s the right time to take your brand international, you’ll need to do your research into where to expand. Things to think about include potential return on investment for each region, the overall growth of ecommerce in a particular area, and which markets make a good fit for your product. There are also plenty of practical things to consider, like time zones and language barriers, for instance.
Preparing your online store for international selling
When it comes to preparing your ecommerce site for world domination, there are several things you’ll need to consider. Will you go for a single store, or does the multi-store approach better suit your needs? How will you structure your international domain architecture? How will you ensure customers see prices in their local currency? As you get your website ready to sell internationally, you’ll need to balance things like CX, SEO and operational implications against the commercial opportunity of a region.
Translating your content for the local market
Having your ecommerce site available in a customer’s local language is important for building trust and boosting sales. You’ll need to consider the type of content you need to translate, who (or what!) will do the translation, and how you’ll ensure accuracy in the finished product. And it’s not just words you’ll need to translate – clothes sizes and other measurements will need to be tweaked to suit the local region, and you may need to adapt your contact page to suit the local custom.
As well as optimising your website, you’ll need to expand and adapt your operations. Think offices, personnel, supply chain, warehousing and customer support – these are all important cogs in your international ecommerce machine. Plus, the bigger your business grows, the more you’ll be looking towards automation to streamline and centralise all those repetitive tasks. How does automation software like Shopify Flow help maintain seamless service across multiple different regions?
Managing logistics and fulfillment in multiple locations
Scaling a business across multiple markets requires razor-sharp logistics. How can you fulfil international orders in a timely, sustainable fashion, without eating into your profit margins? You’ll need to get clued up on the intricacies of managing inventory, warehousing and shipping across numerous locations. And, as ever, knowing your market is crucial – what do customers in your new markets value most when it comes to order fulfillment? Make sure to familiarise yourself with customer expectations in each region, so you can focus your efforts and resources exactly where they’re needed.
Engaging new international customers
When you’re first starting out in a new foreign market, local consumers will be unfamiliar with your brand and specific products. One way to establish your brand as a trusted, long-established entity is to leverage user generated content (UGC) from your existing markets. Visual UGC, like photos and videos, is a must-have, as it transcends language barriers. This sort of content can keep users on your site for longer, help boost consumer confidence and provide an overall richer ecommerce experience.
Building customer loyalty when selling internationally
Going cross border means more competition than ever before – you’ll be battling it out for customers with international and local brands alike. So, be sure to integrate loyalty into your international marketing strategy from the get-go. There are plenty of tactics to leverage when it comes to nurturing loyalty amongst your overseas shoppers, including implementing a rewards program, creating a global VIP community, and using influencers to tell your brand story.
Adopting an optimisation mindset in foreign markets
When you’re breaking new ground in international markets, it’s important not to be too rigid in your strategy. Customer behaviours will vary in different regions, and you’ll have to be ready to respond. Adopting an ongoing cycle of testing and optimisation will help you reduce friction in the purchase funnel and turn more clicks into conversions, which is particularly important when you’re branching out into international ecommerce and really want to make the most out of your traffic.
International tax and compliance
Last but not least, there are a whole host of legal regulations you’ll need to be aware of and adhere to when taking your business cross border. It may not be the most exciting of tasks, but taking the time to understand the rules and requirements in your new markets is vital. Do you know your VAT from your GST? If you’ve decided to set up a new international base overseas, are you familiar with local HR legislation? And are you clued up on the varying data protection laws around the globe? By doing your homework and keeping up-to-date with evolving regulations, you can avoid any nasty surprises for you and your customers.