Global E-Commerce: How D-to-C Brands Can Win in the New Digital Landscape
Had we not lived through it, could we ever have reasonably imagined that the entire world would shut down for even one day, let alone several months? If the pandemic had occurred just 10 years ago, the digital landscape then could never have supported the rapid and universal adoption of online services and products. With 80 percent of physical retail closed across the globe, the digital transformation happened seemingly overnight, creating what’s been called the COVID Accelerator. For the first time in history, we saw nearly identical consumer behavior across the world.
The explosion of cross-border e-commerce was one of the most profound trends, with a half-trillion dollars spent in 2020, a 35 percent increase vs. the prior year. Travel restrictions spurred many consumers to experiment with brands outside their own country from the comfort of their living rooms. No longer limited to a local physical store or online offering, customers realized that they have the world at their fingertips.
The availability of new fashion, beauty and accessories brands skyrocketed, either through direct-to-consumer (D-to-C) models such as Nike.com, MatchesFashion.com, Warbyparker.com, etc., or marketplace platforms such as Vestiairecollective.com, Zalora.com, YOOX.com, and many others, with the global catalog of brands now available to anyone with a mobile device. However, without a cross-border strategy in place, fashion, beauty and home brands will be leaving considerable money on the table (up to 30 percent of their total revenues).
How Brands Can Seamlessly and Successfully Enter New Markets
Consumers’ eagerness to discover what lies beyond their own backyard gives brands an opportunity to penetrate new markets quickly and profitably if they can remove complexity to ensure a seamless customer experience. Specifically, the keys to successful cross-border commerce include the following:
- Use native currency pricing and local, secure payment options: Consumers don’t want to have to calculate currency conversions or be surprised by extra duty or taxes on deliveries. And when it comes to payments, the more options the better. Consumers all have their own preferred payment methods and value a secure checkout experience, which contributes exponentially to consumer confidence in cross-border e-commerce.
- Easy, low cost or free returns are a must: The No. 1 reason people are afraid to order from cross-border brands is that they believe it will be difficult or even impossible to return their items. Creating a seamless return process (including covering return costs) will allow consumers to feel like their purchase is less risky and like ordering from a local brand.
- Develop trust: Consumers want to be sure that brands are real. They will check an unknown brand’s social media as well as customer reviews for insight. Being transparent with shoppers will create a trustworthy experience that could lead to a sense of brand loyalty in the future.
- Ensure fast, trackable shipping: It’s imperative to let customers know where their package is and when it will arrive to set proper expectations. Delivering on those expectations is even more important, as it will develop a sense of trust for the brand and encourage repeat purchases.
- Foster loyalty through personalization: Personalizing as much of the customer journey as possible creates a sense of loyalty to a brand and delivers an experience that will be memorable.
Will these trends continue now that the world is opening up again? All indicators point to stickiness in these consumer behaviors, whether for the convenience and ease we've seen across several categories or in the delight of discovery that we've seen in the beauty world. As cross-border shopping continues to grow, exceeding expectations will become an equally important factor in the maturing global e-commerce market.
Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne is the president and CEO of Americas, eShopWorld, a global e-commerce partner.
Related story: Uncovering Cross-Border Trends Impacting Retailers This Year