Selling Across The Border: How eCommerce Has Helped Businesses To Expand Into International Markets

By Salt

When media theorist Marshall McLuhan coined the term “global village” in his book The Gutenberg Galaxy, he hinted at the world becoming a single community through new media technologies such as radio and TV. People across the world would be able to know what was happening at one end of the world without having to be physically present there. 

However, the concept is now more relevant today than when it was originally coined. 

Constant technological advancements in telecommunications and the internet, especially the growth of smartphones and social media platforms, have seen the world become increasingly interconnected. The best example of this is the rise of eCommerce. eCommerce has presented an undeniable growth opportunity to businesses to expand their customer base beyond their borders. According to Ecommerce News, 25.5% of Europe’s eCommerce sales in 2020 were cross-border (accounting for €146 billion).

In this article, we’ll discuss how eCommerce has helped businesses to expand into international markets and how you can leverage the opportunity to grow your business.

What is International eCommerce?

In 2021, according to Statista, eCommerce accounted for 19.6 percent of retail sales worldwide. It is estimated that 95 percent of retail purchases will be online within the next 20 years. 

International eCommerce refers to businesses selling their products online to buyers in other countries. It allows businesses to venture into foreign countries without having to open a physical store there. 

The proliferation of digital tools and increased internet penetration has made online cross-border sales easier than ever before. Online retailers are now facing their greatest chance in industry history to expand internationally.

This does not however mean that venturing into a foreign country for an eCommerce business doesn’t require work. Every country has its own unique market perspectives regardless of how much they may have in common. The laws and regulations governing eCommerce are also different. France isn’t Belgium and Canada is not Ireland. 

Every market will require its own methodical planning and consideration. Don’t just assume you’ll sell and ship your products to a buyer in another part of the world in the same manner you would to a buyer in Dublin.

Benefits of International eCommerce

International eCommerce requires choosing the right platform, complying with the country’s legal requirements, and gaining the trust of the target market among other things. But, despite the intricacies, international eCommerce has immense benefits for businesses. 

Some of the benefits of international eCommerce include:

  • Expanded Customer Base: Entering more markets gives businesses the opportunity to expand their customer base. This helps to grow their revenue and increase profitability. 
  • Increased Brand Visibility: Businesses also get to enjoy increased brand visibility More consumers becoming familiar with their products and services hence it becomes easier to establish trust.
  • Testing of New Markets: International eCommerce also provides a testing ground for businesses that want to reach a global audience. Before opening a physical store in a foreign country, businesses can launch an eCommerce store first to see if the market will be lucrative and profitable.
  • Faster Expansion Into Global Markets: Cross-border eCommerce can help businesses to settle faster in foreign markets. Businesses can rely on eCommerce analytics to make data-driven decisions on the spot instead of waiting for end-of-month numbers. Even if they are to hire employees in the foreign country, they can easily rely on social media hiring to get qualified personnel.
  • All-Year Round Demand: Having a presence in different countries ensures a business can sell its products throughout the year. They don’t have to be confined in the same season, climate, and occasions as would be the case if they were selling in a single country. Businesses can leverage seasonal surges for demand in different markets to optimize profits.

Tips For Expanding Your eCommerce Store Internationally

eCommerce has turned the world into a global marketplace. Getting your products across the world is just a click away. Expanding your eCommerce store internationally is no longer a luxury. For every online business, entering the global eCommerce market should be a key goal. 

But expanding your online store to an international market needs marketing and revenue growth strategies tailored to each marketplace. It also requires strong commitment to the work.  Your international eCommerce strategy may begin as simple as translating your website into the local language. Or a web redesign to a format suitable for a particular market.

Here are nine things to consider when launching a cross-border ecommerce store:

1. Identify and understand your target markets

While international eCommerce is a must for online retailers, the reality is that you won’t be able to sell in every country. This is why it’s important to do proper market research and build effective buyer personas for your target markets. Evaluate different markets, identify those where your products are likely to perform, and understand their consumers and demographics. 

Look beyond the figures and see if there’s a market gap you can leverage to grow your revenues.

2. Localize your strategy

When we say localization, we don’t mean simply translating your website into the local language of your target market. That helps too, but localizing your cross-border eCommerce strategy goes beyond just translating your website. 

You should adopt your products and services to fit your specific market. This means optimizing your products to suit a different language, culture, and even adopting the local market’s “look-and-feel.” You have to minimize the barriers that would keep your potential customers away. Some of the ways of localizing your strategy are:

Implementing local SEO on your website

Customizing your products to reflect local preferences 

Adapting your website to the local audience, including your website colors, images, logo, and other non-linguistic elements

Ensuring local payment and shipping options are available

Matching the time zones so the company and customers don’t have two different purchase dates

Adapting sales and promotions to country-specific seasons and holidays

Being mindful of the local culture 

3. Expand on social media

Perhaps the biggest challenge for businesses venturing into international eCommerce is how to grow an audience for their product. This is where social media marketing comes in. 

There are 4.65 billion social media users globally (58.7% of world population), according to DataReportal. That means that nine in every 10 internet users use social media every month. This is one of the best ways to penetrate international markets and generate a global following for your brand. 

Social media also makes it easy to localize your marketing strategy. You can create country-specific social media accounts. One of the brands that have perfected this is Ryanair. They have Twitter accounts for Italian and Spanish speakers in addition to the main account

You can also consider signing up on social networks for specific countries. For example, VKontakte in Russia, Weibo in China, and Orkut in Latin America among others.

4. Collaborate with local influencers

Marketing to a global audience, even with the help of social media, can be a bit of a struggle. Especially if you have little knowledge of the local cultures of the target market. This is why it’s important to collaborate with local influencers. 

Influencer marketing has been growing in the recent years and brands find them quite effective. They can be useful on an international level, especially if you’re looking to gain a strong following in new markets. For example, the CocaCola #ThisOnesFor campaign partnered with influencers from different parts of the world.

5. Use international marketplaces (to start with)

When starting out, you may not have the knowledge and resources to go all out on your own. You can leverage global marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace to establish your presence in the international market. For example, Amazon has over 300 active customer accounts worldwide, 90 million of which are Amazon Prime members. It will give access to a significant number of ready buyers for your products.

International marketplaces will help you to save time, money, and effort. You also won’t have to worry about the logistics of fulfilling international orders. Amazon Global will take care of fullfillment and shipping besides providing 24/7 customer support in the local language.

6. Adopt suitable technology

eCommerce, especially international eCommerce, is largely dependent on technology. Which is why it’s crucial to leverage the latest and most appropriate technological developments for business success. Automating business processes such as marketing can help to optimize business costs while maximizing profits. 

You should also invest in customer relationship management (CRM), inventory management, order management, and data security systems. These will enable you to offer seamless services. Don’t forget about chatbot marketing.

On another note, your website also needs  the latest technology to be able to offer the best customer experience and search engine optimization (SEO). 

7. Don’t overlook the importance of mobile commerce

83.72% of the world’s population own a smartphone. Furthermore, 72.9% of all eCommerce retail sales in 2021 were from mobile devices. 

These statistics show you why mobile eCommerce is an integral part of international eCommerce. Smartphone usage has grown exponentially and mobile shopping will only grow bigger in the coming years. You can’t ignore mobile users if you’re venturing into cross-border online trade. You have to have a mobile-friendy website. A mobile app can also go a long way in putting you ahead of your competition. A mobile app will help you to reach a larger audience, especially if your target market includes younger people.

8. Understand your competition

Another important factor to consider is your competition. Both local competitors and other international brands with a presence in your target market. Research and understand their value proposition, gaps in their business, and mistakes you can learn from. There are several platforms you can leverage for competitor analysis.

The best chance of staying ahead of the game by analyzing and understanding your competitors.

9. Get government support

Lastly, you should research on available government support you can leverage to grow your business. At the end of the tax year, the government will want a portion of your revenue so it’s only fair if it can help your brand to gain entry into new markets. 

Irish businesses can get in touch with the Department Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Trade to find out available government support programs. The DFA can help to you to access new markets, pursue export and foreign investment opportunities, and secure market access in key sectors in high-growth and emerging markets.

You can also get a website grant to build an eCommerce store.

Go Global with Salt Marketing’s Bespoke Digital Marketing Services

If you want your eCommerce business to be successful in the coming years, then you’ll have to venture into the global market. But this is no easy task. These tips can help you to get started on international eCommerce. However, the bottom line is that you need an effective digital marketing strategy to make inroads into new markets and grow your business.

Salt Marketing can be your trusted partner in this journey. We offer bespoke digital marketing services for the global market. Our innovative marketing solutions have helped thousands of Irish businesses to successfully venture into new markets, locally and abroad. Learn more about how we can help you get started on international eCommerce.

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