For today’s increasingly tech-savvy customers, the world is shrinking. The growth of devices has opened up opportunities for them to engage with and shop from brands all over the world, at the touch of a button.
Unsurprisingly, this has led to a surge in retailers driving their international e-commerce sales strategies forward in a bid to maximise revenue and growth on a global scale. Nowhere has this been truer than in the UK. With sought after brands and the advantage of the widely used English language around the world, British retailers are well positioned for success beyond their home market. In fact, according to industry statistics, global cross-border e-commerce is set to grow to £28 billion by 2020, with the UK expected to have a 60% share of this.
So, with many UK brands wishing to follow in the footsteps of the likes of ASOS, the vote to leave the EU in June and the economic uncertainty that has followed, will have undoubtedly been watched closely by these retailers, anxious to understand how this might impact their continued growth plans. For consumers, the decision to shop online inevitably comes down to convenience, trust, product variety and price. Failure to deliver this will simply see them seek out an alternative brand. As competition increases and the economic landscape continues to shift following the Brexit Referendum, now is the time for action. Any UK brands with cross-border operations or plans to implement them must ensure that they are serving the needs of their international consumers if they want to continue maximising the e-commerce opportunities on offer.
There are several factors associated with building consumer trust, but making the payment process as simple as possible is certainly one of the key ones. This is true, whether a customer is UK-based or shopping cross-border; they want to shop with confidence and reassurance. Of course, for the customer outside of the UK market, this clarity is even more important, particularly as currency exchange rates fluctuate.
Merchants should look at investing in multi-currency conversion solutions that enable consumers to shop in their home currency. Not only will this make it easier for them to track how much they are spending eliminating any uncertainty around completing an online transaction in a foreign currency, but it will also reduce cart abandonment, as customers aren’t put off having to make currency conversions. Customers also spend more when they can shop and pay in their home currency as they feel more confident in knowing exactly how much they are spending. If a brand can make the shopping experience an easy one, why would the customer look elsewhere?
Eliminating hidden costs
For many consumers, the price of shipping costs when shopping with international brands will often make them hesitant. If these costs aren’t made clear from the start the likelihood of cart abandonment is far higher. UK merchants are now likely to be facing greater competition from international brands more than ever when it comes to offering lower shipping costs, so cannot afford to give consumers reasons to doubt their intentions to purchase. By communicating potential shipping costs early in the purchase journey, customers will feel more in control and more likely to progress with the transaction. Again, offering this price in their local currency will create a more seamless experience. Over the next few months, it will be particularly important for retailers to stay close to changes to shipping regulations so they are able to effectively communicate how these might impact consumers and can act accordingly to maintain their trust.
Adapt to local culture needs
For any merchant extending operations beyond their home market, showing understanding of local nuances is vital if they are going to engage consumers successfully, let alone secure a sale. Technology may mean that access to international markets is much more straight forward, but this does not mean that customers these countries won’t expect brands to tailor to their preferences. Beyond adapting to local currencies, merchants must invest time ensuring the customer journey from browse to purchase is seamless. Not only is this local understanding important to engage the customers in the first place, but it’s a crucial to avoid causing offence. A new consumer is far more likely to remain engaged with the brand and might even purchase if they feel they can trust that brand from the start. From understanding the cultural meaning of certain colours, to adapting to different reading habits and offering multiple payment options, will all help create a positive customer experience.
The prospect of cross-border e-commerce is an exciting one for any retailer. Not only is there a rich consumer appetite for international goods, but the sophisticated technology to connect brands with new markets seamlessly. UK brands are amongst the most sought after, but whilst the post-Brexit landscape remains uncertain it’s never been so important to ensure they are mitigating customer concerns if they are going to be able to maximise growth opportunities.
By Alistair Batten, global head of product at FEXCO
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