October 14, 2021
Identifying relevant regulations, securing the supply chain and analyzing digital storefront data are steps in the right direction, members of the Braintrust say.
Good afternoon! It's not hard to find reports these days saying that the pandemic accelerated the shift to ecommerce by years, plural. Even though clicking and buying has never been easier on the consumer's end, taking an ecommerce strategy to a global scale still means getting around a fair number of roadblocks. With this week's question we asked the experts to think about the kinds of moves that businesses and brands can make to help facilitate international growth. Questions or comments? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
VP, Merchant Services at Shopify
The world is a massive place, but the internet is going to make it feel super small. In 2022, it's expected that upwards of one in four U.S. buyers will buy something from a merchant outside the U.S., according to eMarketer. They will buy it with the same ease as we used to go to the mall.
While the internet has made cross-border buying easy, it has not made a meaningful dent in making cross-border selling easier. For many merchants, cross-border selling is riddled with complexities ranging from duties and shipping to payment, translations and constantly-shifting regulatory requirements in each market. Despite these challenges, consumers expect to engage with brands online in a local context. They expect to visit local domains, browse in their own language, purchase in their currency and check out with a payment method they trust. If retailers want to take full advantage of the opportunity presented by global markets, they need to accommodate these expectations.
Traditionally, only enterprise brands were equipped to navigate the complexities of international selling. But now, the story is going to change: Independent brands and retailers are going to start tapping into the global opportunity. For example, merchants on Shopify generated $20 billion in cross-border sales in 2020 alone. And last month, we announced the launch of Shopify Markets, our end-to-end cross-border solution intended to help even more brands and retailers sell to international markets. Retailers using Shopify Markets are able to identify, set up, launch and optimize their business in international markets, all from one centralized hub.
For any retailer hoping to grow abroad, catering to the unique needs of international buyers should be priority No. 1.
Director, Product Marketing, Adobe Commerce at Adobe
Expanding into new countries is a proven way to grow your business, and consumers are increasingly willing to choose a cross-border brand whey they shop online. Still, many merchants do not choose to sell cross-border at all because it can often appear more perilous than it actually is. For brands that are considering cross-border ecommerce, it's important to do your research about new markets carefully and invest in the right technologies to futureproof your business.
Before you get started with cross-border commerce, you should ensure that your ecommerce platform can support localized product information, multiple languages, currencies, payments and shipping options without adding heavy implementation and management costs.
If you're unsure about which new markets to target first, a great place to start is the data from your existing digital storefront on which country is driving your international sales today. Once you've identified a couple high-priority markets, and done a thorough research, local experts in country-specific marketing, payments, taxes and data privacy rules can be immensely helpful in validating your plans and adding helpful insights.
Lastly, rather than taking a "big bang" approach to launching in new markets, onboarding one country-specific store at a time can help you keep control of your brand. As each store goes online, you can evaluate if localized messages and marketing are working and if you're successfully able to convert local buyers. A phased approach also means you can get to market sooner, especially if your ecommerce platform is flexible enough to support the rapid creation of localized stores.
When executed correctly, cross-border ecommerce can transform your business and fuel rapid growth.
President and Director at Alibaba Group
The pandemic has been a catalyst in accelerating the growth of global ecommerce. Many brands, retailers and small businesses (SMBs) around the world are now thinking about opportunities to go beyond their home markets and find growth abroad. For these businesses, China is a strategic market for growth and is the world's largest ecommerce market. It is estimated that Chinese consumer spending will double by 2030. There is a growing demand in China for high-quality American goods, and I would encourage U.S. retailers and SMBs to take advantage of this demand and start now.
Reaching a new market like China doesn't have to be daunting. For businesses thinking about the Chinese market, they should begin by doing research to evaluate potential consumer interest and take steps to test the waters. Alibaba's platforms are built for brands both large and small to reach Chinese consumers directly through a one-stop shop of marketing, brand-building, logistics and payments.
Thousands of U.S. businesses already use Alibaba to find success and connect with consumers in China. These businesses include household names including Estee Lauder and P&G but also small, family-owned businesses such as Emily's Chocolates and Nuts from Fife, Washington. Last year, American businesses sold more than $54 billion worth of their high-quality products directly to Chinese consumers through our platforms.
From our founding, Alibaba's mission has been "to make it easy to do business anywhere." As more American brands and retailers look to cross-border ecommerce and new global markets, we are committed to partnering with those businesses to make global growth a reality.
CEO at Kornit
One thing that plagues brands and retailers in the wake of the pandemic economy is a severely disrupted supply chain, perhaps best demonstrated by the ongoing shipping crisis now seen in the United States. Not only are far too many of these businesses still dependent on forecast-based production cycles that consistently yield tons of waste — from unsustainable production processes to unsold inventory that consumes valuable capital and materials — but they are slow as well. Too slow for ecommerce, and too slow for a modern consumer who has grown accustomed to immediate gratification.
The answer to this problem, addressing both current conditions and unforeseen challenges likely to arise in the coming years, is adopting an on-demand production model, which is 100% achievable today with digitized production. Using streamlined, eco-friendly digital production technology, brands and retailers can streamline the end-to-end experience, from offering an unlimited virtual catalog at the point of sale to immediate shipping of a finished product, aligning supply with real-time demand to maximize profit margins while giving consumers the fast, reliable fulfillment they expect (and reward with repeat business).
On-demand, digitized production enables nearshoring or onshoring, producing goods nearer the customer to eliminate supply chain concerns and time to market. This model answers the sustainability imperative while increasing profitability, giving customers what they want quickly and ensuring the brand or retailer has flexibility and agility to answer sudden opportunities or challenges, as seen in 2020.
SVP at Analytic Partners
See who's who in the Protocol Braintrust and browse every previous edition by category here (Updated Oct. 14, 2021).
In the short and medium term, retail brands should focus on investing in marketing to drive customer activation and reinforce brand equity by providing clear and detailed information about their brand, including emotional elements. Investing in brand not only allows companies to build their inspirational equity but also entice consumers to visit stores as they reopen and drive long-term growth.
The Analytic Partners ROI Genome shows the strong value of investing in brand messaging. We have found that messaging that focuses on the values of a brand outperform product, promotion or functionality messaging 80% of the time. While there is great benefit to invest in brand, to achieve multiple product and business growth objectives, it is important to have a combination of branding and performance messaging.
At Analytic Partners, we have also seen that a number of clients are centralizing their product development and marketing budgets to improve efficiency across regions and countries. These global and regional teams invest significant budget in developing campaigns and products that can be used in multiple markets often resulting in performance that varies from one market to another. To succeed in this strategy a strong understanding of the market differences between country campaigns is key.
Kevin McAllister ( @k__mcallister) is a Research Editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.
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