International E-Commerce: Expanding Your Digital Footprint
Retailers are moving quickly to open new markets, enticed by double-digit growth and the global scale of international e-commerce. The appetite for U.S. brands is strong around the world, and the desire to shop online is growing at a tremendous clip.
Today, the fastest growth can be found in emerging e-commerce markets such as Russia, where online sales will grow to $36 billion by 2015, according to a Morgan Stanley report. Brazil now represents the world's sixth largest economy, with a $2.25 trillion GDP. Additionally, e-commerce sales in smaller markets such as Mexico, New Zealand, Israel and the Philippines are adding up fast.
As enterprising merchants work through variations in language and currency, as well as the complex, dynamic import/export rules of different markets, seven essentials have emerged. The following fundamentals will help your brand's international e-commerce efforts bolster sales, strengthen its reputation and help to control costs:
1. Cost certainty: Consumers want the fully landed cost at checkout; this includes all taxes, duties, tariffs and fees. These will vary country by country and may even vary on a more local level. Delivering cost certainty is essential. Expressing prices in local currencies is considered a best practice. The bottom line is consumers want to know exactly how much they're spending.
2. Product restrictions: Each country has its own import/export rules, and these often prohibit certain types of goods. Brazil, for example, prohibits pre-owned merchandise, antiques and precious stones. Respecting these rules is essential. Beyond disappointing customers, shipping prohibited goods can lead to penalties or, worse yet, denial of access.
3. Reliable shipping: International consumers don't necessarily need nor do they expect next-day delivery. However, they do want to know what they can expect in terms of timing. Increasingly, shippers offer consumers different shipping options at different price points. Best practices include using reliable, local-market carriers that consumers know and trust, and including tracking as a key part of international shipping services.
4. Low-cost options: It's critical to consider drivers for e-commerce in each market and choose shipping options accordingly. In Brazil, for example, consumers turn to e- commerce alternatives for an opportunity to get goods for less than they would at local stores. This often substantial segment of customers is more concerned about price than convenience or speed of delivery. For them, a low-cost shipping option is essential.
5. Proper documentation: Overall, the ability to manage customer expectations is vital to e-commerce success, so shipments must be accompanied by the required documentation in order to streamline the process. As a best practice, it also helps to have in-market customer support for working through any issues that might arise.