The COVID-19 pandemic was a world-changing event that has hugely impacted e-commerce. According to the International Trade Administration, it more than doubled regular forecasted global sales growth rates in both 2020 and 2021. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Retail Trade Survey shows a 43 percent increase in e-commerce sales, from $571.2 billion in 2019 to $815.4 billion in 2022.
In today’s highly competitive e-commerce world, growth comes to brands that make the decision to sell in other markets and regions outside their home base. For retailers, there’s an opportunity to increase online sales through cross-border e-commerce. And above all else, numerous online shoppers are ready and willing to buy across borders. So what should be on your e-commerce planning checklist for 2023?
Here are five ways to improve e-commerce operations for cross-border e-commerce success:
1. Analyze the market.
The global economy is in a recession, and most people can’t even agree that it’s happening, much less predict how long it will last. Different parts of the country and world are protecting their domestic e-commerce in various ways while consumers and businesses alike are reassessing their spending habits.
During the pandemic, brick-and-mortar businesses, from retailers and restaurants to professional services, had to learn how to pivot virtually. Nowadays, if your current customer base is stagnating or falling, it’s time to look for other opportunities to leverage and promote this virtual footprint in different geographic locations where you can open new markets to keep revenue from redlining.
2. Always remain compliant.
Whether in the U.S., Europe, or elsewhere, local governments are raising restrictions on cross-border e-commerce. Different governments are protecting their slices of the pie in ways that can pressure sellers. These restrictions mean you must do your research and be fully prepared before expanding into a new legal jurisdiction.
Study local laws, enforcement, taxes, fines, and everything else you can. It’s best to visit the location yourself and get to know the locals before making any moves that could add unnecessary legal liabilities to your business. While you’re learning about the legalities, add understanding the local culture to your e-commerce planning checklist.
3. Understand the current culture.
Business growth comes from brands that sell in markets and regions outside their regular routes. However, even within your operating area, the culture most likely changed drastically from the pre-pandemic world to now. The pandemic was a global event, meaning traditions and cultures across the globe have been forever impacted by this “new normal.”
If you want to successfully sell cross-border, you must fit into the current culture. To do so, it’s important to ensure you’re offering localized e-commerce experiences by taking into consideration currency conversions, payment methods according to each market, and even languages you use for business. Keeping all of this in mind will help you avoid cultural mistakes that that could harm your business.
4. Be where your customers are.
Not all customers have the same wants or needs. To maximize customer satisfaction and keep them coming back to your business, it’s imperative to meet them where they are. From a global e-commerce standpoint, this means offering localized services and transaction methods that they are already accustomed to. It could also mean making sure your brand is visible on social media channels or through affiliate marketing.
Wherever your customers are, you should be there, too. If they have a problem, it’s your job to ensure your business can offer the solution. However, this is only possible if you consistently track your marketing efforts and target your specific audience. Make sure your cross-border e-commerce strategy is effective at both the selling level and the marketing level.
5. Choose the right partners.
One of the most effective ways to improve e-commerce operations is to choose the right business partners. Whether it’s legal, tax, logistics or marketing, don’t just blindly throw money at it. Perform due diligence to ensure you’re working with the right people and processes to mutually benefit both parties.
The pandemic didn’t necessarily change how we do business — it simply provided a two-year glimpse into the near future. Brick-and-mortar retailers that hadn’t already upgraded to modern technology and e-commerce learned a quick and valuable lesson when global lockdowns began. Now that the virtual infrastructure is built, it’s time to expand geographically into new areas to grow your e-commerce business in a tough economy.
Daniel Viniegra is the chief commercial and partnerships officer at Go Global Ecommerce and one of the longest-standing members of Tech Barcelona, a leader in Barcelona’s ever-evolving digital and technological ecosystem.