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A cross-border Christmas

By Retail Technology | Wednesday November 29 2017

The pressure is on for online retailers to take their slice of the yuletide pie. But is UK retail doing all it can to maximise cross-border ecommerce sales this holiday season? Global-e co-founder and CMO Nir Debbi explains

High street stores are already reporting sluggish pre-Christmas trading, with a recent CBI survey indicating sales were dropping at their fastest rate since the 2009 financial crisis. However, what may be a challenge for the domestic high street market could well turn out to be a huge opportunity for Britain’s online retail industry to boost international sales over the festive period.

Indeed, with leading British brands such as Boden, ASOS and Astley Clarke leading the online retail charge to increase international sales, there has never been a better time for British brands to capitalize on their reputation for producing top quality products and to take advantage of the current volatility of sterling in global markets.

The fact is that cross-border ecommerce sales over what is known as the ‘Golden Quarter’ present an immense opportunity for British retailers. So what are the key things that retailers need to put in place in order to maximise international online sales in the run up to the big day?

To sell internationally you have to act locally

Retail is in the detail. And to sell internationally, you have to localise your online presence properly. This means that, in order to scoop up those seasonal sales and maximise your sales throughout the rest of the year, retailers need to ensure they give international customers the same seamless shopping experience they offer domestic customers at home. 
Of course, this means paying attention to all of the specific differences in each of your key local markets, paying particular attention to the local markets pricing conventions, local taxes and duties that being applied, common local alternative payment methods, preferred shipping options and more.

If your online experience can reflect all of these things, then you’re successfully removing the barriers that might previously have deterred international consumers from engaging with your e-commerce site and buying your products. 
Removing these barriers and ensuring that your regional offerings are properly localised and transparent pushes up your conversion rates. And, importantly, you can do this without the need to develop and operate costly standalone local websites.

Integrate localised experiences into one site

These days, it is far more efficient, profitable and operationally straightforward for online retailers to develop a single, fully localised global website. This way, retailers are able to avoid the high costs and operational nightmares of creating and running numerous sites for each local market.

Plus, if you properly integrate the localised shopping experience into a single, global website, not only are you able to cut costs, you are also far more capable of developing a strong, international brand identity and, ultimately, increasing conversion rates and making far more international sales. 

Far too many companies, in the past, have equated localisation with language and content without fully understanding a number of much more important features that need to be addressed on any ecommerce site, in order for it to be properly optimised for international sales. These include:

 Displaying prices in rounded-up local currency. According to Global-e’s latest data, when given an option, 98% of customers worldwide would rather pay in their own currency rather than the merchant’s default currency. Plus, pricing should be clear and stable, to avoid any concerns about exchange rate fluctuations. 
 Clear shipping costs and details. In order to be competitive, retailers need to offer multiple shipping options at attractive rates and a clear and reliable returns policy . Plus, retailers have to take into consideration seasonal shipping and delivery issues and allow for a buffer zone to ensure they avoid late deliveries over the festive period and to put international customers’ minds at ease. 
 Support local alternative payment methods. Markets such as Germany, China and the Netherlands, for example, are dominated by local alternative payment methods. Support these and you will ensure you minimise your cart abandonment rates.
 Be upfront about any additional costs. If there are any extra costs such as handling fees or custom charges, then make these very clear to the international consumer. Transparent and guaranteed calculation of all local taxes and duties increases customers’ trust and perception of your brand. For an optimised shopping experience, enable your international shoppers to pre-pay all additional fees at checkout. 

Scalability and cultural awareness are the keys to festive success

Once you have ensured that all of the above features are properly implemented, then there are two final keys to maximising cross-border ecommerce sales during the Holiday shopping peak: having a fully scalable website that can cope with the increased seasonal traffic and being culturally aware of the nuances of local seasonal traditions. A better understanding of your target markets at this important sales time of year can help you to build a year-round international customer base. 

So, for example, while the UK tends to ramp up retail activities until Christmas Day on 25th December, slashing prices in the Boxing Day sales on 26th December, in Catholic countries such as Spain and Italy it’s also customary to give loved ones presents on King’s Day (6th January). Elsewhere, in the Netherlands, it’s customary to give presents to children on ‘presents evening’ or St. Nicholas’ Eve (5th December). 

Essentially, awareness of these local traditions not only helps you to boost your seasonal cross-border ecommerce sales, it also proves that you’re a truly international brand and help you establish  your customer base worldwide. 

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