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7 Tips for Successful International E-Commerce

Jan 27, 2022

Making the move to an international e-commerce offering is a big deal that involves a lot of things to keep track of. Here are some tips to make it a little easier.

When it comes to e-commerce, the world is your oyster. Or, well, it can be if you go about it in the right way. 

In reality, there are a lot of things to take into consideration when you decide to expand your market to international customers. For instance, you’ll probably want to stay away from idioms like “The world is your oyster” in any copy that you write for an international audience. Why? Because idioms might mean something totally different where your potential customers live. 

The good news is that the very nature of digital commerce means that you can bring your storefront to entire new demographics anywhere in the world without a lot of heavy lifting. It’s certainly a lot less work than, say, opening a new brick and mortar location in another country. 

Below, we’ll talk about some tips to help you find success in your international e-commerce endeavors. 

Just remember that it’s important to have a plan before starting a new leg of your business’s journey. 

Try fail/try succeed

There are well-defined strategies to enter a new market, developed for different sizes of companies, different markets, and different industries. These strategies are built on experience and should, of course, be taken seriously. But there are also strategies that are built on and supported by modern technologies. Strategies that make it easier to enter a new market with a more agile approach - a try fail/try succeed approach.

To some, this may sound dangerous and reckless. That’s why we want to emphasize that the try fail/try succeed approach is a complement to existing strategies. You definitely need to understand the culture, language, etc, of the local market. But today, with modern technology, you have the ability to be more aggressive and can hit the ground running at a much faster pace.

One way of testing your market is to start by using a local marketplace. They offer local customer support, a storefront, and maybe even fulfillment services. Your investment will be lower and safer (and of course it will affect your margin as well, but you’ll see results and learn much faster).

Another way is to go with a local business partner, a reseller of your products. This depends on if you are a manufacturer/brand or a multi brand retailer of course.

Don’t go for the 4-week cheap platform option just to try. Go for the platform that will bring you success.

Ensure Your Platform is Apt for International E-Commerce

If your current platform is not a viable option for internationalization, you should upgrade if you are serious about succeeding. Don’t go for the 4-week cheap platform option just to try. Go for the platform that will bring you success. 

It’s like trying to sell a car by having your potential buyer test-drive a junker! Your customers will feel the lackluster foundation of the platform, and that will affect performance. 

Many platforms allow for multiple currencies, localzations, languages, etc. But can they manage feature adaptations per market? Different types of integrations depending on the market, different assortments, personalization per market, etc, etc?

Modern platforms that have a certain level of composable capabilities will allow for adaptations per market making entry to the nex market even easier, and the next, and the next, and so on.

Research Your International E-Commerce Market

It may sound like we’re stating the obvious, but we really can’t over emphasize the importance of thorough research into an international market. 

The reality is that the same tactics that are bringing you the big sales numbers in your home market might not work at all in another locale for a different demographic. Not just that, but a misread on your part could completely backfire and work against your business. 

A famous case that comes to mind is when Pampers tried to sell its line of diapers in Japan. Instead of thoroughly researching the market, the brand simply tried to reuse their existing marketing materials that featured a stork carrying a baby in diapers. Well, in Japan there is no folklore about storks and babies, so the result was a lot of confused, and maybe a little concerned, shoppers who avoided the brand completely. This basically resulted in Pampers falling on their face in their Japanese efforts.

The more you understand your customers, the better you’ll be able to speak to them effectively and create a shopping journey that fits their wants and needs.

Research your demographic and find out what drives their shopping interests. Understand their pain points in regards to your products, and adapt to address those pain points specifically. Learn their shopping patterns, their national interests, how they approach retail, etc. Basically, do everything you can to learn about the cultural reality of who you’re trying to sell to. 

The more you understand your customers, the better you’ll be able to speak to them effectively and create a shopping journey that fits their wants and needs. 

Translate Your Digital Storefront

It’s easy to assume that most people out there can speak English. Not only is that not true, but it’s also missing an opportunity to connect with your new customer base on a very basic level. In fact, in some places trying to sell to non-native english speakers with an all-english website could be seen as somewhat insulting. 

The bottom line is that you should have a digital store that speaks to your demographic in their native language. And that doesn’t mean using Google Translate, either. You should hire one or more native speakers to handle the translations. If they’re local to the area where you’re trying to sell, that’s even better. 

A good localization partner doesn’t just translate your storefront to the local language. They should also be helping you with the cultural adaptations of your content as well. 

You should also have a local presence of some sort in the form of customer support. People want to feel like they’re speaking with somebody who understands their situation, and using local customer support can aid with that.

Remember, great e-commerce strategy puts the customer experience before anything else, and that’s harder to do if you’re not even speaking their language. 


Connect With Your Customers

Part of moving into a new territory as a business is engaging the people there to understand them better. In a way, this ties a lot into the first tip as it will result in some incredibly valuable research data about your new customers. 

How does one connect with a new set of customers, though? Well, there are a variety of ways, and you’d benefit from exploring all of them. 

For instance, social media is a great way to interact with your customers. Create a social media presence and ask questions about their interests. Make posts that create an opening for feedback. Open yourself up to questions through private messaging or chats. 

The more you talk with the people you’re selling to, the better you’ll understand them and the stronger they’ll feel towards your brand. 

If you’re willing to go that extra mile, you could even host in-person launch events for your brand or donate to local charities in some manner. Or, maybe you can connect with local influencers and form relationships on that front. 

Not only are you working to understand your customers better, you’re also trying to become a recognizable option for their shopping needs. 

Make a List and Check It Twice

There are a lot of little details that you’ll need to be on top of when expanding to an international market. You’re going to need a list to keep track of the things that need to be done, and if possible you’ll probably want multiple people keeping up with that list to ensure that everything is being done as it needs to be. 

Some things that you’ll have to keep track of are:

  • Do you have enough inventory to keep up with the (hopefully) increased demand? Have you done research to help you predict which products you will need more of for this market?
  • Have you updated your payment methods to reflect the most popular forms of payment for the new demographic?
  • Have you reinforced your customer service capabilities to be able to handle customer interactions in different timezones
  • Is your marketplace platform capable of handling an uptick in site traffic? Are there scheduled downtimes that conflict with peak shopping hours of the new timezone?
  • Do you have the shipping capabilities to handle international demand?

Consider Getting Some Help from the Experts

We know that we’re biased, but expanding your business into a new territory can be a massive opportunity when done correctly, and it’s always a good idea to have some experts on your side to make sure your venture will be successful. 

At Avensia, we have some of the top international e-commerce experts on hand to help you with your expansion strategy. We can help you uncover and use existing customer and market data that will give you a better idea of how to proceed, among many other things. 

Not only that, but we have technology specialists as well who can help you ensure that everything from your marketplace platform to your digital customer experience are up to the task of catering to an entirely new market. We can even help get your staff onboard with any procedural changes that may be necessary for the transition. 

At Avensia, our business is your success. So contact us today and find out how we can help you make your dream of an international e-commerce business become a reality.