International E-Commerce: Going Global
The opening of Apple's Shanghai, China flagship store, with 25 more slated for China, marks another milestone in global brands' international retail expansion. But while store-based international expansion has been the privilege of the biggest multichannel brands, online retailers can expand another way: through international e-commerce.
Online retailers of all sizes are selling internationally, and many more are on their way. The potential upside is vast, yet challenges are many and few best practices have yet to emerge.
So why are online retailers growing beyond their domestic markets? Slowing e-commerce growth rates in the U.S. and U.K., especially when compared to high growth in populous markets like China and Brazil, provide motivation to go global. Also, in many markets where e-commerce has yet to hit the apex of growth (based on early sales indicators), the appetite for U.S. brands and products is strong.
While e-commerce matures around the globe, online retailers are increasing their investments and providing better customer experiences through new solutions and added resources. Pure-plays have been the early adopters — successful examples include Overstock, Zazzle and Threadless, not to mention the behemoth Amazon; multichannel brands are lagging, but will most likely catch up as they meet or exceed pure-plays in capability and investment.
A driving force behind the recent surge in international e-commerce expansion has been the emergence of technology and logistics companies with specialized solutions to improve overseas customers' experiences. Companies such as FiftyOne, Access Technology Solutions, BorderJump and International Checkout provide e-tailers with low investment, cross-border solutions, with end customers benefiting from pricing in local currencies, better shipping, returns and improved customer care.
Solution providers in payments and fraud management are also improving their international capabilities, allowing retailers to focus on their core business — generating and serving customer demand.