Five things we learned at the eCommerce Worldwide Cross-Border Summit 2017

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Author: Charles Scherer, Deputy Editor, IMRG & eCommerce Worldwide

Last week saw we hosted our third annual Cross-Border Summit at the ExCel London. Delegates from retailers and solution providers across the globe came to hear and share the latest insight on cross-border trading.


There were panel sessions, breakouts, and expert keynotes in a packed day of insight. If you missed it, here’s a taste, with five things we learned from the summit.


The small things that increase conversion in cross-border online retail


Even if you’ve mastered conversion rate optimisation in a domestic setting (which you probably haven’t, if we’re being really honest), there are new layers of complexity when it comes to converting shoppers in cross-border online retail.


Miles Paterson, Commercial Director of Global-e, kicked off the day with some statistics on (international) shopper preferences.

  • 81% of cross-border shoppers report being discouraged from a purchase by shipping costs
  • 66% of US shoppers research a company’s returns policy before making a purchase
  • 70% of cross-border shoppers choose to pay import taxes at checkout


Vicky Bell, Head of eCommerce at Astley Clarke, offered some best practice guidance for selling cross-border.

  • 93% of international shoppers prefer to pay in their own currency. Failing to offer a local currency payment option jeopardises conversion in a substantial way
  • The three most common shopper desires for delivery are that is it is free, convenient, and quick. When given the choice of one, the overwhelming majority will choose ‘free’
  • In Canada, when Astley Clarke included sales taxes into the price of the goods, rather than adding them at checkout, they saw conversion increase by 60%
  • Consider informing the visitor at an early stage of the local payment methods that you accept. This will build trust and start to reassure the customer that their experience will be smooth
  • Provide reassurance with regular updates on the progress of an internationally shipped order

The realities and opportunities of trading into China


China is an enormous and still-growing market, and it’s true that it represents a huge opportunity. That said, retailers should beware of assuming that they can and should trade into the country. You should be sure that China is the right market for you.


Gregor McMillan, Head of Business Development China for The Hut Group, pointed out some essential things to know about the Chinese market:

  • Shoppers are very savvy, and shopping is very much a pastime. A lot of Chinese customers shop online for recreation, and marketplaces are often their preferred forum for that
  • Channels like Google and Facebook are absent. As such, many of your skills and experiences using platforms like those for marketing and eCommerce will be rendered obsolete
  • Trust is lacking in eCommerce in China, particularly in foreign sellers. Building shopper trust should be at the absolute core of your strategy


Kai Li, VP of International at Revolve Clothing, shared his experience with the Chinese market.

  • The conversion period of a Chinese shopper is much longer than UK retailers might be used to. Three weeks is not uncommon
  • On a related point, shoppers require more touch-points. This ‘hand-holding’ ensures that a sale isn’t lost on a longer customer journey
  • China expects retailers to support non-traditional payment methods, e.g. WeChat Pay
  • “Logistics is Hell”. It’s a very large country, with an infrastructure that isn’t always efficient. Factor that in to your strategy
  • China is a market of rapid growth. There is an emerging middle class, and a growing online retail sector. So despite the challenges, it is a region very much worth considering

eCommerce Worldwide Cross-Border Summit 2017

How and why to use third parties

Melanie Smallwood, International Buying Director at Global Fashion Group, Hans Kristian Furuseth, Head of Country Cluster UK at Zalando, and Neil Tunbridge, Head of Europe at Tophatter discussed the advantages and disadvantages of marketplaces…

  • Hans pointed out that marketplaces can help a retailer cope with demand and extend the product range. The risk associated is that in the mind of the shopper, any problem with the order on the marketplace will be associated with the brand and not the marketplace
  • Moderator Andy Valentine, UK Business Manager for Payoneer, also suggested that marketplaces can remove much of the pain of trading in to a new country. For example, hurdles like retail licences and local payment are taken care of already
  • Neil indicated that marketplaces can ‘de-risk’ a retailer’s growth model

How to earn shoppers’ trust

Melanie also explained some practices that can reassure the shopper.

  • Global Fashion Group offer a 100-day returns policy, which provides an extra level of reassurance to shoppers. The good news is that 95% of their returners send back their items within 14 days
  • In Russia, Global Fashion Group drivers will deliver the item and wait for 15 minutes while the customer tries it on. Then they can return it straight to the driver if they don’t want the item. That way, the customer can enjoy stress-free returns, and the retailer can get the item back into circulation much more quickly
  • Richard Longhurst, Co-Founder of Lovehoney, spoke about his no-questions returns policy, which is free, like the initial shipping. They also offer 24/7 customer service, which not only reassures customers, but also removes the difficulties of time-zones and customer service. Policies like this remove reasons not to make a purchase

Translation is more than words

Jose Nino, VP Global Ecommerce at Perry Ellis International, spoke about the pitfalls of translating into different languages.

  • In Latin America, there are many different dialects of Spanish. Just translating into Spanish will not cover all Spanish-speaking counties in a satisfactory way
  • By way of illustration, if you’re selling jeans, the Spanish word would be ‘vaqueros’. However, in Mexico, the word ‘vaqueros’ is not read as ‘jeans, but rather as ‘cowboys’

There is also translation required when it comes to things other than language.


In his opening keynote, Miles Paterson remarked that consumer confidence can be affected by something as seemingly small as price rounding and expression. While UK retailers are typically inclined to set prices like £24.99, in Germany they are more likely to offer €24,95 (note the comma instead of the point), and in Japan prices are rounded to the nearest 10 Yen.


There is also the onus to translate your proposition to suit your audience - Claire Flanagan, International Strategic Marketing Manager at Cotton Traders warned that your customer profile can easily be very different in other countries.


You cannot assume, for example, that the age demographic will be the same. Nor can you count on them finding your site through the same channels as domestic customers. You may need to translate your marketing and merchandising strategies accordingly.



To learn more about the Countries discussed in all the keynote presentations, download our FREE Cross-Border Country Guides.


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