3 Quick Tips to Grow E-Commerce Internationally Amid Global Economic Uncertainty

E-commerce boomed during the pandemic. The UK’s first Christmas under COVID-19 saw an increase of over 40% in online retail sales. Across the pond, there has been similar growth, with sales during the first two years of the pandemic being 55% higher than the previous two years.

2020 and 2021 were perfect years for growing an e-commerce business. People were either unable or unwilling to shop on the high street, and so they adopted the “new normal” of online shopping.

But there has been much more trepidation since then.

According to research conducted by the Pew Research Centre, 86% of us think that the world in 2025 will look decidedly different than it did before the pandemic, and many are worried about what these changes might look like.

Tech stocks that boomed during 2020 have since fallen to record lows, while the war in Ukraine—and its effects on energy—has tightened budgets and clamped consumers’ wallets tightly shut.

Furthermore, the international services trade is down and the UK has also been hit with issues resulting from the triple threat of contagion, war and Brexit.

These are difficult times for consumers and businesses alike.

Preparing a Cross-Border E-Commerce Growth Strategy

All of the above outcomes mean that it’s more important than ever for sellers to develop a cross-border e-commerce growth strategy; one that accounts for current obstacles and prepares for future ones.

Cross-border e-commerce is a multi-faceted growth strategy that covers everything from international selling to e-commerce localization and consumer experience.

To sell products in other countries, one must adapt to new cultures and currencies, while also ensuring compliance with laws and regulations. This is tough at the best of times, but in the face of increasing global uncertainty, it can seem like an impossible task. Fortunately, there are strategies and tips that can help you, and that’s what we’ll look at here.

When compiling your e-commerce planning checklist and preparing for new global markets, make sure you take all of the following into consideration:

1. Stay Compliant and Minimise Risk at All Costs

It’s easy to look back on the pandemic and say that it could have been predicted or that businesses could have prepared better. After all, some experts had been predicting a pandemic for decades. But hindsight is 20-20 (ironically) and few could have actually predicted when it would land or how it could change the modern world.

It’s proof that you can’t prepare for some eventualities, but that there are many more things that you can prepare for.

Firstly, make sure that your business complies with all current laws and regulations and is prepared for future changes.

Laws don’t just change from one minute to the next. They are proposed, discussed, voted on and then enacted. If there is a potential change on the horizon, you should consider how it will affect you and what you can do when it happens.

Remaining both fiscally and legally compliant is important for all businesses, but it’s even more imperative if you’re dealing with sensitive topics or products. For instance, the financial sector has very strict rules regarding security, data and privacy, and these can vary considerably from one country to the next.

2. Localise and Keep Your Customers Loyal

E-commerce localization is key if you want to succeed in new markets.
There are several aspects to this. Firstly, you have to think about how your marketing will appeal to local customers. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to e-commerce marketing and what works in one country won’t necessarily work in another.

Consider the cultural impact of your products and services. What need do they fulfil, what purpose do they serve and how will the local populace react?

Secondly, think about the popularity of regional payment methods and purchasing options. In the UK, many customers look for PayPal, Klarna, Apple Pay, Google Pay and debit cards. In Canada, it’s all about Interac. In many emerging markets, customers want cryptocurrency options.

Thirdly, is your website and product range available in the local language? This is not just a consideration for non-English speaking customers. You also have to consider the differences between UK English and US/AUS/CA English, and whether what you’re saying will make sense when placed in a new context.

Finally, consider the competency of your returns process. Customers will not be happy returning a product to a brand based overseas. You can’t expect them to pay for international shipping and you probably can’t afford to cover the costs either.

Establishing a base in the country can help with this, but there are also third-party logistics companies that will do the work for you. In any case, you don’t have the option to refuse returns. Not only will this anger your customers, but it’s illegal in many countries around the world.

Offering returns is one of the ways you can keep your customers happy and provide them with the security they seek, but there are other ways. During difficult times like this, keeping loyal customers happy is arguably more important than attracting new ones, so think about loyalty rewards/programs that will ensure they keep coming back.

3. Do What You Do Best

There is some experimentation involved with growing a business. You’re doing something new and targeting new people, so it makes sense that you’ll consider expanding into different areas.

However, it’s best to stick with what you do best. When it comes to cross-border e-commerce growth strategies, the most successful brands are the ones that focus on optimisation rather than expansion.

It’s more about increasing profit share in current markets than by taking risks expanding into new ones.

We could be on the brink of a global recession. In fact, there’s a good chance that we have already crossed into that territory. Now is not the time to be taking huge risks on products or services that you don’t know well.

You’ll be up against experienced competitors and fighting for a rapidly reducing market share. It’s best to focus on the things that you do well and only let your eyes wander when everything has stabilised and you’re confident that you can succeed.

Other Helpful Tips for International E-Commerce Growth

The above points are some of the main things that you need to focus on. But there are other ways to improve e-commerce operations and guarantee you don’t fall victim to these tough times.

Here are a few more things to add to your e-commerce planning checklist:

Test New Pricing Models

Customers expect price increases when inflation is through the roof and the cost of living is on the rise with each passing month. However, there is a limit to what they will accept. Test new pricing models gradually to better understand their tolerance and ensure you’re not shouldering the burden of increasing costs.

Stay Authentic

Your customers can tell when you’re jumping on the bandwagon. They appreciate a brand that cares, but only if it’s genuine. So, remain authentic in everything that you do, whether you’re appealing to loyal customers or joining a movement.

Consider Subscriptions

A subscription service is one of the best ways to keep customers interested and ensure you have a steady income. Most products and services can be offered via an additional subscription model.

Diversify Your Supply Chain

Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. You’ll leave yourself exposed when that supply chain is cut off or if your supplier increases their prices. Look into other suppliers, diversify, and make sure you have a plan B and C.

Use Advertising Platforms That Work for You

Now is not the time to be throwing money at advertising platforms in the hope that they will eventually start working for you. If the ROAS isn’t there now, it probably won’t be there in the near future. Cut it off, stop the rot and invest that money in something that is actually working.

Ways to Improve E-Commerce Operations During Uncertain Times

Despite the uncertainty, it is still possible to grow an e-commerce business. After all, there are new businesses being launched to great success, and there are also established brands flourishing in these dark times.

Nike has experienced a revenue increase almost annually for a number of years now, and it didn’t slow down in 2022. In fact, the clothing brand increased its revenues by over $2 billion.

Apple has also thrived, recording global revenue of over $97 billion in the second quarter of 2022.

So, consider the aforementioned ways to improve e-commerce operations, keep looking forward and see what the future brings!

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