Online shopping has gained massive popularity due to the level of flexibility and convenience it offers. With popular eCommerce platforms such as BigCommerce and Magento, launching an eCommerce site has become easier than ever. An eCommerce site allows you to cater to a wider geographic demographic of customers, and with international eCommerce, you can move beyond the borders of any country.
At a global level, nearly 21.8% of the population of people worldwide currently shop online. By the year 2021, the value of retail eCommerce sales is expected to reach US $4.8 trillion. In comparison, the revenue of the eCommerce market in Australia is estimated to reach US $29.7 million by 2021. By selling internationally, an eCommerce site can tap into the global eCommerce market and a much wider customer pool.
Selling internationally comes with its own sets of challenges, but with support from the eCommerce platform, you can cater to international customers with ease. The biggest challenges in international eCommerce include payment methods, currency changes, language barriers, and effective shipments. BigCommerce provides full support for international eCommerce through its dedicated features for global sales.
Advantages of International eCommerce
An eCommerce business selling to buyers overseas s referred to as international eCommerce or cross-border eCommerce. There are multiple advantages of international eCommerce due to which many businesses have slowly expanded their geographical reach. Whether you have an existing eCommerce site that you want to expand internationally, or are setting up a new site, features for international eCommerce can be added at any time. The biggest advantages of international eCommerce are:
1. More Profits
Profits are a fundamental goal of any business, including an eCommerce website. There are several ways to increase profit, for example, by offering more products/services for sale and using marketing and promotional techniques. Expanding into international eCommerce is also an effective way to boost profits.
When you sell internationally, you get a much larger customer base, thereby increasing your sales and profits. This can happen through higher average order volumes or more frequent purchases. The best part about international eCommerce is that it requires a minimal investment upfront. Many features necessary for international eCommerce sales are offered by eCommerce platforms, enabling you to seamlessly expand to catering to a wider customer base.
2. Access to Niche Markets
Online shopping considerably expands the reach of an eCommerce business, especially if it deals with niche items and markets. However, within the country borders there may be limited customers in that niche market. By supporting international eCommerce, a business can reach much larger niche markets available across the world.
The niche markets and demands vary worldwide, and some countries may have larger markets than others. Through careful market research and planning, eCommerce sites can expand their offerings into selected international markets. International eCommerce can be beneficial for B2C, B2B and hybrid eCommerce sites as the size of the target customer group increases significantly.
3. Less Competition
Although the popularity of international eCommerce is on the rise, there are still a limited number of sites that support global sales. While your eCommerce site may be facing extensive competition within the country, depending on the niche, there may be less competition internationally.
If you have a locally sourced or specialised business, the competition will be even more reduced at a global level. By analysing the local markets and competition in the countries your eCommerce site is planning to cater to, you can identify more unique offerings.
Keep in mind, thorough research is vital. If the country and market you are planning to enter is already saturated and has plenty of competition for your product, carving out space can be difficult. If consumers have the option to buy the same or similar products locally, they often will choose the local eCommerce seller first for faster delivery. In that case, lower costs can be an effective differentiating factor.
4. better Brand Reputation
Expanding the geographical reach of your eCommerce business helps increase visibility and improves branding. More people across the world will come to know your brand, and even local customers are likely to have a higher opinion of a brand that is available internationally. An established brand name helps build customer trust and leads to repeat purchases and greater profits for you.
Effective branding will help you formulate a brand image and reputation, and supports expansion in the future. Cohesive branding efforts at a global level will increase your presence in the individual markets. Branding will also help in successful marketing and promotional campaigns.
5. Foundation for Offline Expansion
The is a strong connection between offline and online sales. Many offline sales businesses expand into online eCommerce and eCommerce sites also branch out into offline stores. Launching a new offline store internationally is a big risk and can involve a lot of expenses, especially if you do not have a personal base in that country. Based on the country, the legal process of setting up a store can also be lengthy, or even restricted in some areas.
An eCommerce that can cater to international audiences is an excellent way to gauge the demand and reaction in a new area. Building a reasonably sized customer base in a new area through an international eCommerce site is a great foundation for an offline store. Local customers would already be aware of your brand and quality, and you can invest in a local store with less risk. If legalities do not allow you to own a store outright in that country, you have a competent proposal and proof of concept to show local partners.
BigCommerce Features for International eCommerce
International eCommerce can be complicated, especially if you want to branch out into countries that do not have English as their main language. There are several aspects of an eCommerce site that need to be adapted for international audiences, including interface language, approved products, currencies, applicable taxes and shipping.
BigCommerce is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms available, with a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. It is self-hosted with different subscription plans available based on the size of the eCommerce site and business needs. Available across more than 120 countries, BigCommerce has dedicated solutions for international eCommerce with specialised features enabling you to offer global customers a localised eCommerce experience. Here are the key features of BigCommerce for international eCommerce:
- Multi-Store Approach
Rather than having to translate the core BigCommerce based eCommerce site for international customers, BigCommerce follows a multi-store approach. For each new country you wish to extend your services to, a new digital storefront is created. The new storefront can be customised as desired to suit the region it will be catering to. Any number of storefronts can be setup and all can be managed effectively from the core BigCommerce admin page.
- Selling on International Marketplaces
Setting up an additional storefront for a different country is time consuming. Before you invest the time and effort in preparing a dedicated storefront, test out the popularity of your products among international customers through a popular marketplace. BigCommerce supports an omni-channel selling approach and enables you to sell your products on popular marketplaces and social media networks such as Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Instagram and more. Based on your success, you can decide which markets you want to target with a dedicated storefront.
- Localised Content in Any Language
The interface of your eCommerce site plays a vital role in influencing the customer experience of visitors and their likelihood of purchasing and returning. For countries with native languages other than English, localisation is much more important than direct translation. Localisation gives the content a natural and convincing quality that translations tend to lose out on.
With the aid of your developers, you can customise the BigCommerce based eCommerce site to any language, including complex languages with multi-byte characters. The language is changed for the storefront as well as the product descriptions, to give a unified experience for that country. If you want to outsource operations of certain storefronts, there are several languages available for the Control Panel interface.
- Multi-Currency Support
Languages may be common in multiple countries; however, currencies are almost always distinct. The currency options an eCommerce site offers are a major influencing factor on whether site visitors spend time on the site and consider purchasing. If your eCommerce site supports only one currency, that is a big hassle for people from other countries. This is because the purchase will involve conversions and may affect the availability of payment methods.
To optimise international eCommerce, BigCommerce offers multi-currency functionality through which customers can view prices and purchase in their local currency. There are over 100 currencies supported by BigCommerce, and you have the flexibility on how the currencies are displayed. The BigCommerce multi-currency feature has had a visible impact on improving the conversion rates of international customers.
- Custom Catalogues and Prices
Purchasing habits and preferences can vary significantly from place to place, and one product catalogue might not be suitable or successful for all locations. With BigCommerce, you have complete flexibility in choosing a customised catalogue for each individual storefront. Based on the target region, you can decide the products you want to sell, and products that are better left off the catalogue. As you witness customer purchasing patterns, you can adjust the product catalogues further, adding or removing products.
Apart from the product catalogues on offer, you can also customise the prices of products for each of the digital storefronts and currencies. Through the price lists, you can adjust the prices to suit the standard market rates in that region, and easily adjust the profit margins based on currency. Localised promotions can also be setup for selected markets as desired.
- Conversion Tools
An optimum conversion rate is vital for any eCommerce business, and without conversions, even large amounts of traffic and extensive promotions can go to waste. BigCommerce is feature-rich and offers a variety of tools to improve conversions, including their powerful analytics reports.
When you expand into other countries with international eCommerce, BigCommerce provides you with region-specific conversion tools. As each international storefront acts as an independent sales channel, you can examine the sales data and metrics for each individual storefront. Apart from BigCommerce tools, there are also additional apps you can integrate with your site to aid in conversions. This data can help you with targeted expansion in a new market, helping you identify key sources of customers, popular products and general purchasing habits.
- Streamlined Checkouts
Streamlined checkouts are essential for eCommerce, domestic and international. A lengthy and cumbersome checkout process is one of the leading factors contributing to abandoned carts. BigCommerce checkouts are fast and secure, and the efficiency extends to international storefronts.
The BigCommerce international checkouts can be customised with the Checkout API to meet the needs and expectations of international customers. A wide range of localised payment methods, automatically added taxes and accurate shipping details make the process of placing orders fast and simple. There are several BigCommerce approved apps also available for international checkouts that maintain the same look and style of your original site layout. These apps support landed costs, localised compliances and shipments to offer international customers an efficient checkout experience, further boosting conversions.
- Automated Taxes
Nearly every purchase will have some form of taxes applicable, and if you are shipping products internationally, there will likely be additional tax and duty costs. In general, the applicable taxes will depend upon the category of products, and the destination.
Understanding the tax system of another country can sound daunting, but with BigCommerce, the taxes can be automated by connecting with local carriers. BigCommerce offers a Tax Provider API through which merchants can request third-party tax providers to calculate applicable sales taxes at the checkout. All the taxation data is saved and ready for future tax reporting and returns. There are several apps on the BigCommerce Apps Marketplace that are designed to support automated taxation. Based on the region your BigCommerce international storefront will cater to, you can choose an appropriate app for taxation.
- Locally Popular Payment Providers
Payment provider preferences can vary significantly from region to region. While there are several payment providers that are known worldwide, such as PayPal, there are also localised providers that only cater to specific regions. As an eCommerce business, you will have a significantly higher conversion rate if you support locally popular payment providers.
A familiar payment mode encourages international customers to complete their purchase without abandoning their cart. BigCommerce offers over 65 pre-integrated online payment solutions across 230 countries in 140+ currencies. Several digital wallets and mobile-friendly payment providers are also available. All the payment gateways can be used through the Optimised One-Page Checkout, without compromising on speed, security or convenience. Based on the specific payment gateway, there are additional features such as refunds, 3D security, stored credit cards and embedded checkouts.
- International Shipping
Shipping internationally can appear to be one of the most daunting challenges for an eCommerce business planning to expand cross-borders. However, with adequate preparation and the right tools, you can make the transition to shipping internationally. BigCommerce shipments can all be directly monitored and managed with the BigCommerce Shipping Manager.
For international shipments, the BigCommerce Shipping Provider API enables merchants to integrate custom and third-party shipping and logistic services to provide real-time shipping rates and time lines to customers. These real-time updates can be visible from the cart and at checkout, encouraging international customers to purchase without worrying about shipping. The BigCommerce partnership with the EasyShip shipping platform further connects the eCommerce platform with more than 250 shipping couriers around the world. These shipping couriers offer discounts of up to 70% and also manage customs and duties, in addition to deliveries.
How to prepare your eCommerce site for International eCommerce?
There are many benefits of entering the field of international eCommerce. BigCommerce has excellent features that make setting up and managing an international eCommerce site easy. From localisation of the interface to customised product catalogues and prices, even payment modes and international shipments, BigCommerce has robust support and capabilities.
If you do not have an eCommerce site, it might be advisable to test out the domestic market first, before venturing into cross-border eCommerce. If you already have an existing eCommerce site, then the decision to expand the reach of your eCommerce site by catering to international customers may seem simple. However, to minimise your risk and get the best chance at success, it is important to thoroughly plan out the international expansion of your eCommerce site.
Planning and preparation for your international eCommerce site can be categorised into 3 broad headings, research, operations, and localisation.
Expanding the reach of an eCommerce site to cater to an international audience is in essence opening a new business for a new market. While you already have an established brand, USP and product range for domestic customers, you need thorough research for the new region. This includes research on the current market, competitors, market trends, your USP, and your sales offering for that region.
- Analyse in-depth the new potential market and your target consumers. Consider who will be your main competitors and what sales models they are following. Is there space for a new entrant? What do you have that will be appealing for customers in that region?
- Examine the legalities of selling in that region and the product range you plan on offering. Can those products be shipped legally to that location? Carefully customise a rough list of the product catalogue you want to offer. Ideally, include a mix of your domestic bestselling items, new products, and items that will appeal to customers in that region.
- A great way to test out the response of customers in a specific region is to start out with international marketplaces. With BigCommerce Omni-Channel support, you can sell selected products on popular marketplaces such as Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, and ebay. International marketplaces are a great way to find out the public response to your products before you invest in a distinct international eCommerce storefront.
Make sure you have a comprehensive business plan for each new international storefront. Market research and competitor analysis can help you avoid entering an already saturated market or one where your products are not in demand.
Once you have a general idea of the market you are entering, the space that is available and your target customers, it’s time to plan the localisation. Many merchants make the mistake of simply translating their eCommerce site without localising it. While translation changes the language, localisation takes a cohesive approach in personalising the customer experience for local customers of a particular region. Even if the language remains the same, for example, in several countries English is a primary language, there are other nuances that change with localisation.
- Apart from the language of your eCommerce international storefront, also consider the other aspects of the eCommerce site interface that can influence the user experience. What products are they more likely to be interested in? What kind of website design will they be most responsive to? Are there any changes in logo or colours that can better attract them? Do you want to display a country flag indicating the regional-specific nature of the website? The first impression of your international eCommerce site is immensely important, and can mould the entire shopping experience of visitors.
- Across the world, preferences of devices for online shopping vary, while smartphones may be popular in some regions, in other areas laptop or desktop shopping may be more common. Accordingly, make sure that your eCommerce site is responsive and effective to suit the change in viewer device. Test out competitor eCommerce sites on various devices to learn about standard customer expectations so that you can offer an equivalent or better experience.
- Also, consider the time difference between your operating country and the new market and the local holidays in that region. What are the most popular times for shopping? Are their any local holidays or popular sales cycles that you want to support?
Offering a localised shopping experience is a great way to build a relationship and engagement with new customers. By showing that you understand their shopping preferences, they are more likely to trust your brand and purchase your products.
The actual operations of your international eCommerce site will of course be live once you launch the new storefront, but there is plenty of planning required in advance. From the point of view of a new customer, plan out all the requirements expected from your eCommerce site, culminating in purchase. These include product catalogue and availability, payment methods, shipping options, and overall security. Verify the backend requirements from your eCommerce international storefront to support full conversion.
- Check, shortlist and finalise the product catalogue, and confirm that the products can be shipped to that country without any difficulty. Revise the pricings of the products if required, keeping them in line with similar products sold by competitors. Confirm which currency you will be supporting on your eCommerce site and whether you want to give options to switch currencies.
- Taxation compliance is necessary to avoid any legal issues in the future. Go through the overall taxation policies and carefully understand the applicable custom and duty charges. With BigCommerce, you can integrate approved apps to manage the taxation, automatically adding the value of taxes into the customer orders.
- Shortlist the payment providers you want to integrate with your eCommerce site, including the popular local payment options as well as internationally known payment gateways. Insufficient payment gateways are a leading cause of cart abandonment, so research and make sure you have support for the most commonly used payment methods in that area. Ensure that the checkout process is simple, straightforward and quick, while also being fully secure.
- Setting up logistics and shipping partners is also essential before finally launching an international storefront for your eCommerce site. BigCommerce has support for integration with multiple shipping providers that can provide real-time updates on costs and delivery times. Keep at least 3-4 shipping options that can deliver purchased products from warehouses to the destination region.
Although management of an international storefront is relatively straightforward with BigCommerce, it does require time and effort. Consider if your current staff can effectively absorb the additional pressure, or if you may need to hire extra personnel. Dedicating personnel specifically to an international storefront can help you with overall brand management, especially if you launch multiple storefronts.
Tips to Succeed with International eCommerce
In international eCommerce, understanding local online shopping preferences and behaviours is vital to gain a spot amongst local competitors. When you know the prevalent shopping models and typical customer behaviour, you can decide where you should experiment and where to conform. Here are some general tips for succeeding with international eCommerce:
- Local Digital Marketing Experts: Take the help of local digital marketing specialists and agencies to develop effective promotional strategies. Local marketers will have a better understanding of the success potential of promotions.
- Low Prices: A major reason why customers seek international shopping sites is that they often offer better discounts. Lower prices are a great way to break into a new market.
- Full Customer Support: Keeping in mind the mode of customer support most prevalent in that region, offer comprehensive customer aid wherever needed, as soon as possible. Customer support helps build trust when the brand is physically located far away.
- Refresh the Product Catalogue: A new and refreshed product catalogue is attracting and eye-catching for new and returning customers. Even if you do not have any major product rehauls planned in the future, try to regularly have a few new products or promotions available.
Online shopping transcends borders and with an effective setup for international shipments and payments, any brand can benefit from international eCommerce. With an international eCommerce site, merchants can significantly increase profits and improve branding, reaching a considerably larger audience. Already an immensely popular eCommerce platform, BigCommerce has dedicated features available for international eCommerce, including multi-currency support, automated taxations, locally popular payment gateways, and integrations for multiple shipping services.
BigCommerce creates distinct digital storefronts for each country you wish to cater to. Also supported are international marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, and Facebook so that you can try out a regional market before committing to a distinct storefront. There is full flexibility to customise language, interface, product catalogue, prices, and more, without affecting your core BigCommerce based eCommerce site.
For a fully customised and personalised eCommerce storefront, consider using the expertise of developers. A fast and efficient eCommerce site and optimised digital storefronts are the foundation of your success in international eCommerce. Our team of certified developers here at 18th Digitech can help you setup an eCommerce site that meets all your needs, domestic and international. Reach out to us today to discuss your eCommerce needs.