When is a company ready to sell abroad?
Companies often decide to expand abroad when the home market is saturated and new growth opportunities are needed. Alternatively, traffic from other countries might have indicated a demand and motivated an expansion to a specific market. In order to make a decision that is not regretted in retrospect, a company must evaluate the situation realistically:
- How much investment is needed, and how much investment can be made?
- Is there enough personnel to manage an internationalization project with the necessary dedication?
- Can the systems be adapted to multi-currency, multi-lingual, multi-tax and multi-assortment sales?
- Is the cost structure of expanding to a new country sustainable in the long term?
- What are the cultural, policy, tax, marketing channel differences in the new market and should the business make adaption?
- How scalable are the resources in order to ensure the company is flexible enough to get through the starting phase?
Are your systems ready for cross-border ecommerce?
Selling in new markets means that your CMS must be capable of adapting to sales in different currencies, displaying varying assortments and imagery per country, communicating with local payment systems and other local system integrators. The illustration below provides you with a clear overview:
For a successful cross-border ecommerce strategy, especially the following areas require attention:
The assortment offered in a new market may be reduced or different from the one offered in the home market. This is motivated by two factors: the assortment might be adapted to the local product preferences, or the retailer might be offering a limited assortment to initially test which products work best in a new market. The assortment will then eventually be expanded to more categories/ items. The system behind this operation must thus be flexible enough to deal with these changes and adaptations.
Shipping costs differ from the home market and may vary per item if there is a lot of variation in sizes and weight. Transactions Selling in other countries (outside the Eurozone) often implies selling in other currencies. Moreover, transactions are subject to a different set of taxes and regulations. Multi-currency pricing is an art in itself and needs to be backed up by a system capable of flexibly handling changes. For more information about taxes, please refer to our Online Taxes and VAT chapter.
Support in several languages
Translating a website’s content not only means that you may need different buttons and headers because, for instance, German words and sentences tend to be longer and French words even more so, your site will eventually also need to fit different character sets (such as Russian, Chinese, Korean and Arabic). Furthermore, it is advisable to hire native speakers as customer service agents, or a local team to take care of daily operation. They will eventually need to deal with the backend, the order management system, etc., so make sure it is available in all necessary languages. Below you see an overview of language options offered by international e-tailers in 2013. For more information about Translation Management, please refer to our Translation Management chapter.
Customer preferences may also vary per country. If, for example, buyers in Spain prefer to shop through their smartphones, you might lose sales when you are not optimizing your website for mobile use. The same goes for delivery preferences: local stores, parcel lockers or click & collect might be options you need to think about in order to gain the new clients’ trust. These new offers require investment and coordination and therefore need to be thoroughly planned.