The Ecommerce Journey Around the Globe Begins Here
One of the wonders of the internet is its homogeneity – at least, on the surface. In practical terms, there’s little difference between visiting an online store based in your home country and using one from across the other side of the globe.
There’ll be currency differences, of course, and possibly language issues too. By no means is English the lingua franca – Japanese, Korean and Chinese consumers all represent huge markets for businesses, but those populations cannot be relied upon – and nor should they – to be fluent in English.
So, if your organization is expanding its ecommerce capabilities right across the globe, then there are a few ground rules that need to be considered. Choosing an ecommerce partner can be the deciding factor between global expansion and costly failure.
This article aims to look at some of the considerations any commercial enterprise needs to take on board when looking to the internet and the web to truly become a global brand. At the foot of this piece, we’ve highlighted three ecommerce partners you may wish to consider as your guide to global online sales.
Why go global?
The advantages of a worldwide marketplace are pretty clear. In short:
- Accessing larger opportunities
- Offset declining local or domestic market sales with moves into expanding territories
- Diversify revenue sources
Whether you’re selling B2C or B2B, the key is familiarity. The internet is a new medium, in the grand scheme of things, and so therefore, humans still rely on familiarity. Local currencies, local language(s), trusted payment methods, acceptance of returns processes, a friendly accent on the helpline phone, or even a bot which uses the local vernacular: your online purchase facilities need to be part of the scenery, not an alien presence.
Just taking a couple of countries as examples shows some of the variations that exist in the so-called homogenized global internet.
In Russia, for example, ecommerce is a relatively new concept. Nevertheless, in the first quarter of 2017, Russians spent 106 percent more in foreign online stores than the previous year. With an online population of 102 million, the possibilities exist in Russia for any brand to make its mark.
The Chinese government’s position on overseas merchants has varied in the past, as it maintains the delicate balance between capitalist instincts and communist structures. The Chinese economic model is unique, and little understood outside the country in the majority of instances.
The government is now highly favorable towards foreign ecommerce. In fact, 40 percent of the world’s online shoppers are Chinese, but it’s paramount to localize content and shopping experiences. Languages and payment methods vary significantly from other countries’ practices and vary across the gigantic geography.
Three Ps to Perfect Performance
How to crack those lucrative global markets? Your answer lies in honing the three Ps of your ecommerce activities.
A degree of personalization has been proven to work wonders for digital sales figures. One way of achieving that is to show products based on previous browsing patterns, with intelligent, automated suggestions as to further products which may be of interest.
Your sites will need to be able to accomplish A/B testing on a localized basis, as what’s popular and flying off the shelves in one locale may not be so successful in another. What can also help is so-called “searchandizing” – using internal, site-based search to show just the right products, according to the region, to the right shoppers.
And on the subject of buzzwords, “microsites” are particularly effective in the right place. New promotions can benefit from their own areas of the web, especially if offers are time-limited or dependent on events in the “real world,” such as local sporting events, holidays or festivals.
Coupon codes, discounts created on-the-fly, and percentage reductions according to amounts ordered have all been proven to drive better sales.
Your platform needs to be supported with efficient order fulfillment. Global networks of fulfillment and delivery specialists need to offer the same type of delivery (and return) systems which are as local (or local-seeming) to customers as a local shop.
Customer service needs to be seamless, with facilities available to answer product queries, refund or account queries, or even technical product support.
If your call center facilities aren’t local, then you’ll need a partner who can source just what you need with staff able to respond either in text or voice in local languages & vernacular.
The issues of local taxes and fraud management are just too significant to be fully considered in this article, but you’ll need to look for an ecommerce partner who can understand and react to local fiscal conditions and security concerns. In vast geographies like Russia, these can vary inside a country, so national borders are not a concrete guide to best practice.
Payment options should be carefully chosen. To use our previous example, Chinese consumers rely on electronic purchases in many cases. In some areas such as the Asia-Pacific markets, cash on delivery is considered the best option by many.
Purchase plans may not be apposite for specific geographies or will need to be offered under particular terms. Some populations do not always want to accept credit, while in some markets, credit facilities are an expected norm.
Finally, are your sites able to take part payments, recurring payments, or offer the increasingly popular monthly debit models? If you’re providing a service or supply, then your ecommerce facilities need to be able to respond.
The final consideration (the last “P”) should be your choice of partner. Sourcing a provider should not just be centered on pure ecommerce specialists.
A partner with good experience of digital marketing in the areas into which you want to expand would be an ideal choice. Such a partner will be able to advise on what may or may not fly in any area – saving you a fortune in wasted time and resources.
Clearly, your marketing partners need to be commerce-centric. Marketers, like online stores, come in myriad forms. Some marketers are specialists in creating buzz, or social chatter – useful in some areas, but not so practical for purely commercial concerns.
People are also a consideration when looking at customer or partner support (the latter for B2B commerce). Even in these digital days, it’s vital to have a friendly voice – speaking the right language – at the end of the phone when queries are raised, orders chased, or even repeat business ordered.
With all these considerations in mind, here are three suppliers of ecommerce facilities, and so much more, which we at Tech HQ think you should examine if, like countless others, your horizons are expanding to lucrative foreign markets.
With nearly 25 years of industry experience, Digital River has certainly had the time to master the ins and outs of global ecommerce. The company specializes in helping brands sell direct to their customers, whether they live around the corner or in some distant area, right the other side of the world.
Leading brands, many of them household names have made the Minnesota-headquartered company their partner of choice. These include Lenovo, HTC, Kaspersky Lab, Samsung, Jabra and ArenaNet.
The company’s cloud-based solutions, monetization tools and consultative frameworks have taken thousands of companies’ products and services to market online.
Digital River makes it easy to manage storefronts, take orders, process payments, automate subscriptions and fulfil logistics. Even in areas of the world where online purchases are an everyday occurrence – and demands can be complicated – the company’s solutions have it covered. Highly particular order requirements can be fulfilled with ease: multiple drop-off points, delivery & return options, part payments, offer codes, gifts, and various currencies.
Digital River masters the complex behind-the-scenes work of managing fraud, billing, taxes and compliance, so businesses and consumers can shop with confidence and peace of mind.
You can read more about Digital River by clicking here.
Shopify is a probably one of the most well-known e-commerce platforms of today, with its vast client base of over 500,000 online shops and big-name customers including the likes of Tesla.
Even the least tech-savvy entrepreneurs can take advantage of this easy-to-use SaaS platform. Things are kept simple and seamless for beginners, though with the power for complex deployments. There are features to help with:
Design: Shopify has over 60 themes for you to choose from and customize. Whether you’re a small niche boutique or a multi-billion dollar business, any developer or designer can customize and create any shop wanted.
Marketing: What’s the use in creating an online store if nobody shows up? This boils down to marketing, which is something in which Shopify really excels. Some of the key features include the ability to quickly and easily create landing pages for marketing campaigns & promotions, plus there are built-in SEO features to help optimize your content.
Customer support: Customer support is another big bonus to using Shopify for your business. Creating an online business is not an easy task, and naturally you will have many questions you need answering.
Shopify offers a large cohesive database of FAQs, email and chat support, as well as the chance to call a real, knowledgeable rep. This safety net will be sure to give you peace of mind.
BigCommerce has helped businesses of varying sizes and industries launch their online storefronts, from small SMEs to large, well-known companies such as Toyota.
This platform is an ideal solution for entrepreneurs who require a fully-fledged online shop without the hassle of coding, integrating plugins, or other technical nuances. Some of the features worth noting are:
The ability to sell everywhere: BigCommerce places emphasis on the need for digital retailers to adopt an omni-channel presence to reach potential buyers. With BigCommerce, sellers can integrate their store with multiple sales channels including marketplaces, social media, and physical stores, to boost sales.
BigCommerce abandoned cart saver feature: With abandoned carts being a big problem in the world of online sales, this feature is definitely worth mentioning. Send up to three timely, automated emails to visitors who didn’t complete the checkout process. This feature helps merchants recover 15 percent of lost sales, on average.
Payment gateways and transaction fees: Not providing customers with a range of payment options will lose you sales. A key benefit to choosing BigCommerce as a platform is access to its extensive range of over 40 pre-integrated payment methods serving over 100 countries. Another thing to note is how unlike many other platforms, BigCommerce does not apply any transaction fees to their plans.
*Some of the companies featured on this article are commercial partners of TechHQ