Just like the line between online and offline shopping, the lines between geographic borders in ecommerce are often blurred. Now that customers can have their pick of sellers across the globe, it’s becoming a necessity for brands and online retailers to showcase their products to a global market.
According to a report from research firm, Forrester, cross-border ecommerce is set to break the $1 trillion barrier in 2022, making up a grand total of 20% of ecommerce as a whole. Of course, cross-border ecommerce requires a merchant’s products to be visible outside their own country. To successfully gain this visibility, companies must build and execute a powerful global ecommerce strategy.
These are the four steps to creating a successful cross-border ecommerce strategy, which we go into more detail on below:
- Find & leverage the right channels
- Analyze your international competitors
- Test your new market
- Be prepared to efficiently localize your product data
Why brands & online retailers should go cross-border
According to a survey conducted in 2018, 27% of US respondents said they shop both domestically and cross-border. In Austria, 71% of respondents said that they shop online both domestically and cross-border, while, in Israel, 16% said they only shop internationally. Moreover, in China, cross-border online sales are quickly rising with a growth rate of over 15% YoY according to China Internet Watch.
As these stats suggest, online shoppers are regularly purchasing products from countries other than their own. For brands and online retailers, this trend opens the doors to a variety of new markets and revenue streams as well as a drastic boost in online visibility.
But in order to get your share of cross-border ecommerce revenue, you’ll need to create and execute a seamless international ecommerce strategy. Sound like a lot of work? It can be easier than you think!
The foundation of an effective cross-border ecommerce strategy
Introducing your products to new markets can be a major challenge, and a defined, detailed, and tested entry strategy is required in order for it to be successful. Of course, it is also important to plan the logistics of your expansion, such as shipping, returns and customer service hours. While these are all things that will need to be carefully planned out, the focus of this article is how to build your cross-border strategy in terms of advertising in other countries. For this, you’ll need to focus on a few key objectives.
1. Find & leverage the right channels
Your products need to be visible in order for customers to purchase them. This makes a diverse distribution network absolutely essential for success with cross-border ecommerce. In deciding which channels to leverage in foreign markets, there are many considerations, including:
- which products are in demand in other countries
- which shopping and marketing channels are most popular in your target country
- current levels of competition in the new markets
- required time and resources to localize and translate product information
While many channels are popular across the globe, some are not. Bing, for example, is one of the top search engines in the US, but it is not highly-used in Europe.
With this in mind, you’ll need to define the most lucrative and relevant marketing and shopping channels within each market, which can be a time-consuming process. However, if your company is looking to test the demand or to start selling more quickly in an international market, there are certain approaches that may help.
The most efficient approach is to focus on the channels that you may already be using and already have a global presence. For example, consider leveraging online marketplaces like Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, and Rakuten. This is a surefire way to easily introduce your products to millions of customers in new markets through a marketplace they trust.
Amazon, for example, has successful, reputable marketplaces in 11 different countries, and customers purchasing from 180. This means if you’re already selling on Amazon in your home country, achieving global product visibility could be as simple as adapting your feed to the target country’s language and unique category requirements.
Marketplace giants aren’t the only channels you can leverage to obtain global product visibility, and they certainly aren’t the only way to get your products seen by an international audience. Google Shopping is available, and popular, in 43 countries around the world. Moreover, Google helps its advertisers expand internationally with additional offerings like easy currency conversions and shipping cost transparency to inform customers exactly how much they’ll be paying.
Let’s not forget about social media. Channels like Facebook and Instagram aren’t hindered by geographical boundaries and are popular in all parts of the world. By leveraging Facebook advertising, you can reach foreign audiences directly in the comfort of their own Facebook feed.
2. Analyze your international competitors
Identifying and analyzing your competition is a crucial step in order to understand what makes a strong market approach. When possible, identify and leverage the following to optimize your entry strategy:
Pricing: You’ll want your pricing to be around the same if not better than your competition, especially when you’re just starting out in a new market. This can be made simple with Productsup’s integration with PriceAPI, which allows you to import competitor pricing directly into your product feed.
Channels: Focus on where your competitors are listing products. They could be leveraging niche, regional channels that you should be aware of.
Terminology: How are your competitors describing products similar to yours? Pay attention to these as they could include valuable keywords that you aren’t yet familiar with.
3. Test your new market
Before diving headfirst into a new market, it’s best to test the waters and see how your products will be received. Consider introducing only a few products at a time, rather than all at once. By starting off slowly, you’re able to leave the market without much loss if it proves unsuccessful. Testing will also provide you with further knowledge of the market, allowing you to optimize your other listings if needed before they go live.
Moreover, you’ll want to make sure your entry strategy is agile enough to adapt as you go. You may find that key product information like language, price, etc. needs to be adjusted and you should be prepared to do this quickly. This is one area where powerful feed management software proves very useful.
Wondering which product data edits need to be made for success in cross-border ecommerce? Read this article to find out.
4. Be prepared to efficiently localize your product data
Even with a complete channel portfolio, your cross-border ecommerce efforts would be incomplete without distributing localized and channel-ready product feeds to each touchpoint. However, product feed rules and requirements not only differ between channels and categories but also between countries. These differences can include but are not limited to title character length, image specifications, currency, and its formatting. This means your product data feeds will need to be tailored in a number of ways.
Instead of starting from scratch, you may be able to transform an already existing product feed to meet the requirements of the new channels. Your Google Shopping feed, for example, could be duplicated, tailored, and localized to fit the format of a new channel like Facebook.
Not only will your product data need to meet the requirements of the new channel or market, but it should also be compelling and relevant for the end customer. For example, it would not make sense to display US product sizes to customers in France. Thus you should be prepared to remove or update such information. It is also important to identify key holidays within each region that can be used to leverage higher sales.
Moreover, all product content should be translated into the language used by the specific target market. While consumers do purchase across borders, they won’t purchase an item if they can’t understand the information provided. When in doubt, do some keyword research to see how competitors in different markets describe similar products. If your language isn’t localized, you risk not having your products seen, as local consumers are using different search terms to find your product.
This all may seem like a lot of work, which is why it’s best to plan ahead and implement a solution that allows you to efficiently manage, localize, and optimize your product data. Productsup, for example, has helped companies successfully reach new markets in as little as 24 hours. Read the full case study here.
Productsup powers cross-border ecommerce
Productsup is a scalable, all-in-one feed management solution that can help you take your ecommerce business international in just days, or even hours. With over 1500+ integrated export channels - including global, regional, and niche destinations - Productsup can help you quickly and easily get your product feed wherever it needs to go. Don’t see the channel you’re looking for? No problem, we’ll create a custom export in no time.
Our platform enables you to duplicate, optimize, and transform your product data feed to fit the requirements of any channel, in any part of the world. Complete with 200+ drag-and-drop data edit boxes, Productsup makes tailoring the perfect product feed for any channel in any market simple. Need to translate thousands or even millions of product titles and descriptions? Use our Google Translate service to automatically translate product content within the platform.
Need support or have questions? Productsup’s first-class support team is locally available across all time zones.
This updated post was originally published in January 2019.