10 things retailers must consider before attempting cross-border trading

LinkedIn Twitter Facebook


Author: Bianca Mercer, Senior Consultant, Practicology


A checklist for retailers and brands who want to trade online overseas.

Never before has it been easier for businesses to expand their customer bases through cross-border eCommerce. Offering global shipping, launching localised websites or selling via international marketplaces, the reality is that testing and developing new markets online tends to be quicker, simpler and more economical than other channels to market.


There are success stories of UK brands now seeing more than half of their sales being international and online. ASOS is the most well-known, Boden has also passed the 50% mark and Boohoo is making headway with 35% international sales.


So what are the top 10 things these brands would have investigated before crossing borders online and turning a global strategy into reality?


1. Gather insights, trends and data to underpin your global strategy

Most brands start their global online expansion plan as a response to international customers knocking on their door. Analyse where these customers are based and test if they are prepared to buy. Decide whether adding shipping to the existing website is a good first step, or if a more localised experience is needed straight away.


If you want to explore the latter, assess the size of the prize by looking at the opportunity a country represents and the difficulties of entering that market. Factors to consider include eCommerce penetration, eCommerce growth, online market size, fulfilment complexity, levels of localisation needed, cultural and retailer brand fit.



2. Identify which markets to prioritise

Apply a weighted ranking to the markets you want to expand into, and prioritise your list. You have to start somewhere. It makes sense to start with the countries that offer the biggest opportunity, but are operationally easy to enter.


Also bear in mind that no matter how prepared you think you are, things will go wrong and there will be an element of learning. So give yourself time to roll out your first local country sites, and after that blueprint your approach for scaling your international online operation.



3. Assess your operational readiness to go global

To ensure success in your global expansion plans it is important to assess the areas of the business that can easily be scaled for international growth within your current set-up, and where the gaps are. Areas to assess are your eCommerce platform, fulfillment, customer services, payment service provider, resource capabilities, product and merchandising.



4. Ditch your global strategy and adopt a “market-by-market” strategy

Every country may require a different digital approach, meaning a “market-by-market” strategy may be more appropriate than a global plan. Retailers that are very successful in their domestic market are more at risk of getting internationalisation wrong, as it’s easier for them to overlook how their business model needs to adapt. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.



5. Establish the areas that are important to localise first

Localisation should be regarded as a journey, rather than a one-off development. Establish the areas that are important to get right from the start, such as your URL structure to give sites visibility in local search engines. Other aspects to consider per market are logistics, currency, translation, payment types, customer services, sizing, marketing etc.



6. Determine how much you can afford to invest in your international expansion efforts

Before you determine your route to market be clear on what you are prepared to invest. Will for example your investment be based on 10% of your domestic business profits, or on a pay-as-you-can-afford basis? If you go down the localisation route be aware of ongoing costs like translation, and have a realistic commercial plan in place.



7. Accept that your brand awareness might be non-existent outside of your home market

Be prepared to invest in brand building and educating a new audience on who you are, and why they should buy from you. It is not unheard of to spend up to 30% of your revenue on marketing in the first two years of entering a new market to get your brand off the ground.



8. Be prepared to test and learn

As previously mentioned, be prepared to test and learn when adapting your strategy; and be open to doing things differently in different markets.



9. Get company-wide commitment

Every employee should be a vital member of your international team, including the board, customer service, IT, purchasing, production and logistics. The aim is to ensure that international does not become an afterthought and ultimately fails due to lack of commitment. Team members who take on an international remit need to have their workload balanced with existing domestic commitments.



10. Be patient and plan for the long haul

Last, but not least, it takes time and patience to build a great, enduring global business. Expect to be in this for the long haul.

LinkedIn Twitter Facebook

Royal Mail Sponsor

Register today for unlimited article views, and unique insights

Register Now

What can UK online retailers learn from major sales events in China?

What can UK online retailers learn from major sales events in China?

By cleverly orchestrating a string of headline-grabbing shopping holidays throughout the year, China is reinventing retail. But why are Chinese consumers embracing these shopping frenzies so readily and offers and how can overseas retailers learn from this to gain and maintain the competitive edge?
How WeChat is used for Business

How WeChat is used for Business

WeChat has been a hot topic for many marketers for a long time. However, how much do we really know about the most used social network in China? And how is WeChat used for business?
Ecommerce in Australasia

Ecommerce in Australasia

The New Zealand and Australia cross-border eCommerce markets are booming and it is looking to continue this way for the coming years. With almost 17 million savvy and highly engaged online shoppers in the region, what do you need to know about these eCommerce markets and which are the most successful retail sites there?
Ecommerce shipping to Australia

Ecommerce shipping to Australia

It’s easy for any retailer to be attracted to the impressive digital adoption Australia has taken with online retail sales of USD $9.5 bn last year. However, this success is not without its challenges as shipping into this widely fragmented country can affect your business - but how?
Online retail in the Nordics: which payment options to offer

Online retail in the Nordics: which payment options to offer

People foreign to the Nordic region might not realise that the combined markets of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland are in many ways leading the world in payments innovation. And through this, it is also apparent in its consumers’ progressive payment preferences when making online purchases. However, which payment option should online retailers offer when launching in these markets?
How can online retailers earn trust in Belgium?

How can online retailers earn trust in Belgium?

Belgium’s online presence is growing year after year and with a growing healthy appetite for cross-border purchases, what should online retailers take into account if they are to enter Belgium’s eCommerce market?
Delivery preference of Dutch and Belgian online shoppers

Delivery preference of Dutch and Belgian online shoppers

Dutch and Belgian consumers are increasingly buying their goods online, but they differ in how they want those goods delivered. A savvy online retailer needs to localise its delivery options to meet these local requirements. But what are these delivery preferences?
What can UK retailers learn from the Amazon model?

What can UK retailers learn from the Amazon model?

Amazon’s reach is so pervasive that it’s overtaking Google to become the search engine of shopping. And it’s just as attractive for retailers as it is for customers, allowing brands to offer their products to the biggest audience in eCommerce, and offering attractive and easy fulfilment options. But what can UK retailers learn from the successful Amazon model?
The fundamentals of retail: Which European countries are leading the way?

The fundamentals of retail: Which European countries are leading the way?

From delivering on promise, to quickly resolving contact centre queries, to minimising the amount of returns, there are myriad aspects for retailers to get right when it comes to delivering a great customer experience. But which European countries are most successfully delivering on the fundamentals of retail?
Beyond Black Friday: Unmissable international events for 2017 eCommerce plans

Beyond Black Friday: Unmissable international events for 2017 eCommerce plans

In the US, the day after Thanksgiving has been a key focus for US shopping. Now, Black Friday is becoming the unofficial start to the Christmas shopping season in countries across the world. But there are hundreds of other events across the world to be aware of when developing an international strategy. Here are a few...

Contact Us

eCommerce Worldwide
2 Ching Court
49-53 Monmouth St

Tel: 0203 696 0980
2016© eCommerce Worldwide

Keep In Touch

powered by Affino

About eCommerce Worldwide

eCommerce Worldwide provides online retailers with all the information, and resources, they need to develop cross-border strategies for entering new markets around the world
Read More