International expansion through eCommerce.
Whether you have customers, fans or members, the international market can be very lucrative; but dealing with an International eCommerce channel can be very challenging for some retailers. So what are the right steps to global reach eCommerce?
If you have an eCommerce site that is doing well with your local market you may have looked or have already had interest further afield. The International market can propel your company and dramatically increase your revenue. You may have something that is not available elsewhere and there could be a large international appetite for your products or services. But you may be asking “What is the best way to expand my eCommerce channel internationally and what are the costs?”
When a retailer tries to expand internationally they sometimes run into these common problems: language, currency, payment, delivery, marketing, tax and call centre. This may seem a lot and may put you off international expansion, however the end reward is worth a little investment. And here are common areas that I normally recommend that retailers investigate:
- Territory expansion: First thing is to understand and plan is which territories you are going to offer to your international eCommerce offering. The first territory that you expand into will be the most important as this will be your basis for expanding into other territories. The first choice should be based on your decision over language, carriers, marketing, tax and other factors. One of the common choices for UK retailers is to expand into Europe; because of it closeness and single currency it is an easy option. However one problem with Europe is that revenue rewards may not be as great as expanding into China and the number of languages that need to be supported will mean hiring either a multi-lingual merchandiser or using a 3rd party to perform all the translations.
- Language: As I mentioned previously language can be huge barrier to International expansion, it requires merchandisers and marketers to be fluent in the language. 3rd party translators could be used be this can be expensive. Even though online translators are an easy and cheap option they can create mistakes which may insult or put off buyers. One of the easy options is to go for territories that already speak the same language.
- Tax: Within the EU this does not change, so the price including VAT in the UK is all that needs to be paid. However if you are shipping goods outside the UK then VAT does not need to be charged, so you can offer products to shoppers outside the EU a cheaper priced product then EU customers get. However to adjust the price you need to obtain where the shopper is to be able to change the price. Another thing to bear in mind for taxes is that some countries may charge an import tax to product.
- Delivery: Just as a shopper in the UK expects a quick and multiple of delivery options so does an international shopper. So selecting a carrier that allows different delivery options is very important. Of course price point will be a key factor as the international shopper will not want to pay over the odds for delivery, yet as a retailer you will need to make a profit from the delivery charge. The carrier will also need to handle the product returns and provide tracking on all international parcels.
- Payment: To engage with international shoppers the price of products needs to be in their local currency. As mentioned earlier, one of the easiest currencies to choose would be the Euro, as this covers a lot of countries across Europe. One of the challenges with currencies is figuring out the best way to price each product. This could be a fixed amount that you monitor each month, or be based in real time on the currency markets.
Payments can be very critical for conversion of international shoppers and being able to accept their payment method is essential. This would be easy if every country used the same payment methods of credit and debt card but unfortunately they don’t, so selection of a good payment gateway that accepts the majority of payment methods is essential.
- Marketing: When entering into new international territory marketing is essential to ensure that you can make a success of this market. Understanding the best approach will either mean doing lots of research or hiring an expert for that territory. Of course using free SEM techniques like speaking to local bloggers will save you a lot of money.
- Call Centre: It is very easy to forget that shoppers will have difficulties and they will to call up to sort out these difficulties, so having call centre staff that can speak the local language will cut the call time down and also keep the international customer happy. It is possible to use a Live Chat system with in-built translation to handle this type of inbound enquires but this may lead to translation issues.
Expanding internationally can be very rewarding and it is well worth every retailer exploring all options of the best way to approach this. As always the customer should come first and the experience that they receive should be engaging and responsive to encourage them to return time and time again.