As the leader of an e-commerce company which is currently fulfilling domestic orders but contemplating expanding to include international sales, shipping logistics is a serious concern. Since the internet gained mainstream acceptance decades ago, the technology’s ability to take a local company global has become crystal clear. However, leaping into cross-border commerce without solid planning and preparation can create significant obstacles for your company.
Important Readiness Questions
To ensure you’re prepared to make the most of your international opportunity, you should ask yourself some challenging questions. The answers could reveal areas where you’ll need to invest in order to ensure that you hit the ground running in your new market, rather than failing to make an impact. Maybe your organization is ready for your international debut, or perhaps you have work to do—either way, you’ll know if you’re prepared.
“Does my company have a strong and flexible production supply chain?”
If your production capabilities cannot support increased demand, efforts to expand your brand are bound to run into trouble. It doesn’t matter whether you’re shipping domestically or internationally, your manufacturing and distribution capabilities are fundamental to your company’s success. Expanding capabilities to suit customer needs and retracting during slow seasons are vital processes for your organization to master. A slow-moving or inflexible production supply chain is a financial liability.
There is one caveat associated with internal supply-chain development: You should not insist on absolute perfection. There are always improvements to be made, no matter how big or prosperous a company has become. It’s important to build a strong and flexible manufacturing and distribution process, one that can handle domestic needs and simultaneously can ramp up for a new market. Once you’ve hit those benchmarks, it’s time to move on to the next step.
“Have I performed sufficient research on my new potential audience?”
Assumptions can have devastating consequences for international commerce. Each market has its own audience profile so if you assume that your new target region will have the same preferences and norms as your current base of operations, your international strategy may not match consumer demand. For instance, if your e-commerce store accepts credit cards and PayPal, you may have a hard time breaking through in Asian markets where cash on delivery is the most widely used payment method.
Everything from mobile penetration rates to delivery expectations can change drastically from one country to the next. Don’t assume that geographic proximity equals cultural or commercial similarity. Even neighboring nations can differ when it comes to consumer preferences. Research is always a worthwhile investment of time and resources at the beginning of a new regional e-commerce expansion. To help evaluate where your next best market may be based on website traffic, contact a Certified International Specialist at DHL. They have in-depth knowledge of local markets and can help you get a handle on your future marketing costs.
“Can my e-commerce platform handle localization?”
The question of localization can mean many things. While you may assume that simply translating key web pages into a local language will suffice, or even assume that visitors will use in-browser translators, full-featured localization includes more elements. For instance, when a properly localized website detects that a site user is from a particular country, it will shift everything, translate key webpage text, display prices in the appropriate currency and list shipping details that relate to the chosen market. Even selling to customers in nearby Canada—a top export market for 35 of the 50 states—requires careful localization efforts.
A website that does not adapt to a customer’s location may be far more harmful to your brand’s efforts that you expect. As Common Sense Advisory’s frequently cited research on international consumers discovered, 87% of customers who don’t read English well, or at all, will not buy from an English-language website. You can’t afford to leave large segments of your audience behind. Despite the frequent use of English for international communications, it’s far from a global language for most everyday consumers.
“Can my shipping partner handle cross-border express delivery?”
Getting your products to customers in a timely manner is an important part of cross-border commerce—you’ll be competing with domestic businesses that are headquartered closer to your new audience. It takes strong delivery operations to offer speed, prices, and visibility that compare with these in-country options. As Multichannel Merchant reported, 89% of consumers now consider two-day shipping to be the standard, rather than the accelerated option. Due to taxes, duties, and customs declarations, shipping to international buyers is a complicated process—even when the geographic distances involved are short.
Consumers carefully weigh the shipping options when deciding to buy from your company. They’ll consider multiple factors including the expense of shipping, the predicted delivery time, the ability to track packages or make changes to deliveries in progress, and the reputation of the shipper. Dealing with an experienced partner such as DHL Express is a powerful way to boost your company’s performance. From moving efficiently through customs declarations to providing a reassuring and reliable brand name, DHL Express offers outstanding logistics support that can help your international expansion succeed.
Strong International Partnerships
A partnership with DHL Express may be the catalyst that helps transforms your online storefront experience by wowing your global shoppers with enhanced delivery options. Offering an unparalleled level of support, DHL can make the difference between a failed expansion effort and a successful foray into new markets.
Due to the difference between specific international audiences, your cross-border moves should methodically target new audiences, giving each your undivided attention.
When it’s time to pick the next country for your e-commerce progress, it will pay to work with a partner from day one, carefully developing each stage of the strategy and getting results that reflect your work and preparation. Contact a Certified International Specialist at DHL to help you evaluate your readiness and get started.