How to Grow E-commerce Business Internationally
International eCommerce is growing quickly and is expected to be a important growth engine for online retailers in the near future. Selling globally has become more and more a significant opportunity for your business in today’s eCommerce. Recent market research shows that the global e-commerce sales are expected to increase nearly 250 percent and will hit the $4.5 trillion mark. Clearly, the e-commerce sector is expected to remain healthy and resilient growth and opportunities are there for business of all sizes.
However, like with any gold rush, being empowered by eCommerce platforms like Shopify, which made it fast and inexpensive to get your online store up and running in simple steps, had attracted a bunch of business owners trying to get their products discovered via online. This big market has been attracting tons of large retail corporations and startup entrepreneurs that intend to capture their piece of the pie. What started off as a handful of eCommerce sites in the infancy of the internet has now grown to more than one million eCommerce businesses in the U.S. alone. And eCommerce continue to grow daily, online retailers are competing for consumer attention at some remarkable websites.
In today’s market, being present on the popular eCommerce websites is essential to add credibility especially when you first starting off an online store. But, there is a limited supply of positions on the first page of those website search results. With limited supply and growing demand, the price of getting discovered keeps going up and up. As a result, the cost of acquiring a new eCommerce customer is quickly increasing, eating into the profitability margins of eCommerce businesses. If you were hoping for repeat sales to drive your long term profits, you can find yourself head on a very difficult journey as some platforms like Amazon does not allow you to share any of the customer records created. The customer data belongs to Amazon, not yours, and you are not allowed to repeat market to them anywhere except on Amazon.
If you want to gain success long term in eCommerce, stop thinking solely about what products you want to sell, start to think more about how you can profitability grow your business without relying too much on Google, Facebook and Amazon. When you first start off, word of mouth is important. Good recommendations from people whom you know, can help tremendously in giving the first fuel for your first sales. Start by engaging with your audiences and connect with them via email, and collaborating with smaller websites to push with proprietary or patented products only found on your website. This is where the real profits are long term, without having to deal with all the merchandising, warehousing, markdowns and other headaches that come with running an eCommerce business.
Before you expand your business, you need to do some research to understand if your business will be successful on an international level. So, where can you find the research you need? Firstly, you can test market interest from other countries using Google Trends. To go one step further, dive into your data on Google Search Console. Go to Google Search Console dashboard > Status > Performance report, then segment by country. You can dive in further using this data collected and link it to your Google Analytics report. Go to your Audience reports to break it down by geographic region. Then, you can conduct a competitor SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis in your potential target markets to identify gaps. Lastly with all the data gathered, you should be able to answer the following questions:
- What countries are currently visiting your site?
- What countries are buying products similar to yours?
- Who are your competitors?
- Do your products need to be modified?
- Will your price point work within the market?
- What distribution channels can you use?
- What will be your duties, taxes, and other costs?
After all the analytics, you can test your global presence in an international marketplace, such as Amazon, eBay, or Taobao. When you’re serious about expanding internationally, you’ll have to think about how you’re going to integrate your brand and grow in other countries. Localization is the key to success. What about localization? It’s all about providing individual sub-domains or even sites in each country you plan to sell your products. If you want to be one of the leading players, you have to localize. They used in-country teams, locally-relevant offers, created dedicated websites in strategic markets, and adopted local currencies. From transactions to merchandising products based on shopping habits, you need to provide a unique and personalized experience for each geographic location. Something you need to understand about the consumers in different markets prefer different payment methods. You could potentially risk losing out on sales if you don’t allow people to purchase using their preferred payment method. At the end of the day, people just want to be able to checkout easily.
International shipping is another crucial element you have to consider about. It will affect your bottom line and customer satisfaction. You can opt to find local shippers within a country. By choosing a fulfillment partner with a warehouse location close to your target country, you will be able to ship your orders faster in that country. This helps you to compete more favorably with local retailers. In 2017, eMarketer estimated “mobile commerce will account for more than 70% of eCommerce sales in both China and India, and 59.0% in South Korea. In Germany, the UK and US, Mcommerce will comprise at least one-third of total retail eCommerce sales.” In today’s eCommerce trend, it’s not just about having a mobile-optimized website. It’s about designing a clean mobile-first site, building a mobile app, and personalizing the user experience. Hence, be prepared to ensure your online store is optimized for mobile presence as well.
Statistics shows that there were almost 2.8 billion social media users in 2017, which equals to a 37% penetration. Hence, social media is getting huge potential as a means of increasing your store visibility. Take for an example, IKEA is a global organization with a brilliant localization strategy, extends their marketing effort using social media too. They have a global presence on social media, including dedicated pages for different countries. You can also collaborate with local influencers to gain a strong following in new markets.
Networking with your existing distributors to see if they have any of the infrastructures you need to expand your reach. Some of your distributors may also be able to help when it comes to warehouse space and logistics in untapped geographic areas for your company. Despite the increasing political and commercial uncertainties expected this year, the fundamentals underpinning e-commerce remain strong. With the right strategies, businesses should be able to gain from e-commerce’s potential to weather the storms and emerge stronger than ever.