As you contemplate engaging in cross border commerce, it's crucial to assess the current state of your organization and its supporting infrastructure before formulating a market entry strategy. Irrespective of your brand's size, anyone can establish an international sales channel. However, the approach you take and the criteria you use to determine your readiness will vary depending on your brand's annual revenue. We will commence by outlining readiness criteria for the following categories of merchants:
1. Small Businesses: Small businesses are typically characterized by their size, with fewer employees and lower revenue compared to larger enterprises. They often operate in a specific niche or local market and may have limited resources for expansion.
2. Mid-Market Enterprises: Mid-market enterprises are businesses that fall between small businesses and large corporations in terms of size and revenue. They have more resources and employees than small businesses but are not as extensive as large enterprises. They often seek growth opportunities in regional or national markets.
3. Large Enterprises: Large enterprises are established businesses with significant resources, extensive employee bases, and high annual revenues. They often operate on a national or global scale and have the capacity for significant investments, market dominance, and diversified product or service offerings.
Imagine being prepared to invest in international expansion and localization, allowing you to establish a foothold in a brand-new market well ahead of your competitors. This guide will provide you with the knowledge and strategies to accomplish just that.
KEY CONSIDERATIONS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES VENTURING INTO GLOBAL ECOMMERCE
Accessing global markets has never been more straightforward, thanks to the borderless reach of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. While this visibility can help small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) expand internationally, it's vital to establish a solid foundation to ensure long-term scalability. Here are some essential factors to keep in mind:
1. Building Your International Support Team
In your global market strategy, it's crucial to onboard valuable team members. They don't necessarily need to be in-house; outsourcing from platforms like Upwork or Fiverr can provide international support services, such as translation, that complement your in-house efforts. According to a report by McKinsey, organizations with diverse teams are 33% more likely to outperform their peers in profitability. When expanding into global markets, having a diverse team or outsourcing international support can provide valuable insights into local preferences and cultural nuances, improving your chances of success.
2. Reviewing Product Restrictions by Country
Though most products can be sold across borders, it's essential to examine specific product restrictions by country, which can vary even at the state level. Particular sectors with such restrictions include apparel and footwear, beauty and cosmetics, consumer electronics, health goods, and safety protection. Research from the World Trade Organization (WTO) indicates that countries impose various trade barriers and product restrictions, such as tariffs, quotas, and safety standards. Understanding and complying with these regulations is crucial for cross border commerce. For example, countries like the United States and the European Union have strict regulations on the importation of cosmetics and electronics.
3. Ensuring Scalable Technology
Your ecommerce technology should be capable of scaling without becoming cost-prohibitive. Look for platforms offering standard features for cross border commerce processes, eliminating the need for additional monthly costs or complex app integration. Key features to consider include discounts and coupons, abandoned cart emails, analytics and reporting, customer groups, and integrated shipping and payment solutions. The Statista report on global retail ecommerce sales reveals a consistent upward trend, with sales surpassing $4 trillion in 2020 and projected to reach over $6.3 trillion by 2024. As global e-commerce continues to grow, it's imperative to invest in scalable technology. Furthermore, a study by eMarketer found that 48% of consumers abandoned a purchase due to a lack of convenient payment options. Having the right technology in place to support payment integrations is essential to capture global customers.
4. Leveraging Small Business Apps for International Expansion
Scaling globally is a significant step for SMBs, and as your business grows, so does your workload. Recognize that you can't handle everything on your own. Seek assistance, especially in areas where your internal team lacks skills or resources. Consider these tools to streamline your operations:
- Casengo: Manage customer messages through various channels without losing track, ensuring global customers receive top-notch service.
- MailChimp: Harness robust marketing automation to target the right audience with personalized messages, improving customer engagement.
- ShipStation: Simplify order fulfillment by integrating multiple online selling channels and automating shipping label creation, saving time and reducing manual work.
The adoption of marketing automation is on the rise, with a report by Grand View Research estimating the global marketing automation market to reach $8.42 billion by 2027. This indicates the growing importance of tools like MailChimp, which provide the ability to target customers based on behavior and preferences.
5. Explosive Growth in Cross Border Ecommerce
According to a report by eMarketer, cross border ecommerce sales reached $1.476 trillion in 2020, and they are projected to continue growing. By 2025, it is expected to surpass $3.563 trillion. This rapid growth is fueled by increased internet penetration, greater access to international markets, and consumer demand for a wider range of products and brands. As a result, small businesses have a significant opportunity to tap into this growing market by effectively expanding their international presence and leveraging cross border ecommerce.
EXPLORING CROSS BORDER COMMERCE OPPORTUNITIES FOR MID-MARKET BRANDS
For mid-sized brands operating in an environment where many global and emerging markets are already saturated with similar products, it becomes essential to conduct a comprehensive market assessment before venturing into new territories. This evaluation should encompass the following critical aspects:
1. Competitor Analysis and Market Evaluation:
- In-Depth Competitor Analysis: Beyond just identifying competitors, it's essential to study their market strategies, target audiences, pricing models, and product offerings. This analysis should also encompass their strengths and weaknesses.
- Market Research: To thoroughly understand a new market, look into consumer behaviors, preferences, and local market dynamics. Conduct surveys or gather data to gain insights into the needs and expectations of the target audience.
- SWOT Analysis: Create a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to assess the competitive landscape in the new market. This will help you identify where your brand can capitalize on opportunities and address potential challenges.
2. Expanding Your Team:
- Creative Localization: When localizing creative assets, it's not just about translating text. Consider cultural nuances and visual elements that resonate with the target audience. This could include adapting imagery, color schemes, and content style.
- Customer Service Excellence: Offering customer support in the local language is vital. In addition to email support, consider implementing live chat services that cater to the preferences of the local customers. Additionally, leverage social media platforms like Facebook Messenger for customer inquiries, especially in emerging markets where mobile usage is prevalent.
- Order Processing Localization: To build trust with international customers, ensure that payment and shipping methods are localized to suit their preferences and expectations. E-commerce platforms, like BigCommerce, can provide tools for easy localization, including altering currency based on IP addresses and setting shipping rules for specific regions.
3. Merchandising for Diverse Markets:
- Climate Considerations: Pay close attention to the climate in the target market. Ensure that your product offerings are seasonally relevant. What may be a summer product in one region might be a winter essential in another.
- Competitive Positioning: Study how your competitors are positioning themselves in the market. This includes understanding their unique selling propositions, product offerings, and the channels they use for marketing and distribution.
- Consumer Trends Analysis: Be cautious about assuming that trends popular in your domestic market will have the same appeal internationally. Conduct thorough research and consumer testing before launching in a new region to understand local trends and preferences.
- Cultural and Religious Sensitivities: In some markets, religious and cultural factors can significantly influence product usage. Ensure that your products are culturally and socially acceptable or adapt them to meet local needs.
4. Leveraging Technology for Efficiency:
- Email Marketing Automation: Implement email marketing automation tools to create and manage audience segments. Regularly update content to align with your brand messaging and any regional variations or A/B testing required for specific markets.
- Product Information Management (PIM): Invest in a PIM system to efficiently manage localized content. This system can serve as a repository not just for product information but also for content and media. It's essential for keeping product and content usage organized and separate for different regions.
- Streamlining Order Processing: Avoid creating silos in different countries or markets by investing in systems that connect your channels. This enables better strategic planning and smoother operations. Consider using Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems like NetSuite or eBridge, or platforms like BigCommerce for these purposes
5. Managing Momentum for Mid-Market Merchants:
- Ecommerce360 Strategy: Implement an Ecommerce360 approach, which involves having a holistic perspective on how global expansion affects your internal organization. Understand that different regions have unique consumer expectations and shopping habits. Having local insights and teams in each market can help bridge these gaps effectively.
- Logistics and Shipping: Decide whether to manage logistics in-house, with localized warehouses or centralized shipping, or through partnerships with 3PL providers. This decision should take into account shipping costs, duties, and customs considerations.
- Localizing Management: When expanding globally, it's crucial to have a dedicated resource or team on the ground in each market. This team should be well-versed in building and managing global operations.
- Communication and Alignment: Maintain clear and consistent communication between your global teams and your headquarters to ensure alignment with your brand's core values and objectives. Use regular meetings and technology platforms to facilitate communication and keep everyone updated on business news and needs.
6. Customs and Duties Compliance:
When shipping products across international borders, it's crucial to navigate the complex landscape of customs regulations and import duties. Each country may have its own rules and requirements for imports, which can vary widely. To ensure a smooth cross border shipping process, it's essential to understand and comply with these regulations. Failure to do so can result in delays, additional costs, and potential legal issues.
Utilizing the services of a knowledgeable customs broker or partnering with experienced shipping carriers that offer customs support can simplify the process and help you stay in compliance with international trade laws.
NAVIGATING CROSS BORDER COMMERCE CONSIDERATIONS FOR ENTERPRISE BRANDS
1. Global Expansion Challenges for Enterprise Brands:
For companies generating over $50 million in annual revenue, global expansion is typically already underway. However, venturing into new international markets presents ongoing challenges. Enterprises often face complexities due to distributed teams spanning multiple time zones, requiring approvals, and dealing with intricate procurement processes. This can create a sense of urgency to keep up with the ever-evolving global landscape and competitors.
2. Fostering an Agile Organizational Culture:
As larger brands embark on international expansion, it becomes crucial to establish an organizational culture that empowers in-market teams with the autonomy to address localized issues promptly. Flexibility and adaptability are paramount. Furthermore, it's essential to be mindful of the broader impact of your organization on local communities and consumers.
3. Emphasizing Emotional Connection and Lifestyle Value:
- Emotional Connection: For enterprise brands, the challenge is not merely selling products but forging emotional connections with consumers. Understanding how to connect with customers on a personal and emotional level can significantly impact brand loyalty and advocacy.
- Lifestyle Integration: In international markets, the goal is to go beyond selling products and become an integral part of consumers' lifestyles. This requires creating immersive experiences that showcase the brand's value within the local context. Social platforms like Instagram Shopping can serve as powerful tools for achieving this.
4. Data-Driven Decision-Making:
- Leveraging Analytics: In an increasingly data-driven world, it's crucial for enterprise brands to utilize analytics, data, and market insights to make informed investments in different markets. Consumer behaviors vary across regions, and understanding these differences is key to crafting effective strategies.
- Market-Specific Decisions: Decision-making should be market-specific. For instance, while Amazon might be the preferred platform for merchants in the U.S., a brand targeting a young audience in China might find better success on WeChat. To make well-informed choices, it's essential to rely on localized insights and analytics.
5. Establishing Transparency and Collaboration:
- Global Omni-Channel Solution: Scaling rapidly across multiple channels and international markets necessitates a transparent, global omni-channel approach. Communication and transparency are critical in making significant quarterly decisions. These may include investments in regional distribution centers, key executive hires, and the allocation of funds for global support teams.
- Data Standardization: Standardizing data measurement and access is essential to enable localized teams to make agile decisions. Google Analytics and platforms like BigCommerce's Ecommerce Analytics & Insights can provide a consistent foundation for data-driven choices. User permissions can ensure that the right data is accessible to the right team members.
- Collaboration Over Silos: Siloed teams within the organization can impede the success of omnichannel selling and cross border operations. Collaboration tools like Reamaze, Zapier, and Slack can help bridge gaps and ensure a cohesive customer experience.
6. Agile Work Methodology:
- Agile Framework: Applying an agile framework to in-market teams can enhance business agility and the ability to execute projects with measurable business impact. This involves continuous delivery of prioritized tasks every two weeks, aligned with their impact on the business.
- Measuring Global Impact: Employing tools like the Impact Radius platform allows merchants to accurately track conversion events across various channels, optimizing return on ad spend and providing valuable insights to drive affiliate marketing, mobile tracking, and big data initiatives.
In the realm of cross border commerce, enterprise brands must remain agile, data-driven, and focused on connecting emotionally with consumers while adapting to the specific demands of each market. This entails a collaborative, transparent organizational culture that empowers localized teams and leverages technology and data insights for informed decision-making.
Irrespective of the merchant's scale, engaging in cross border commerce demands a substantial commitment of both time and financial resources. Success hinges on a thorough grasp of the destination's terrain and a clear understanding of the essential elements required to make it thrive.