Taking your eCommerce operations global is likely to be a major step in any business model. The opportunities when expanding internationally are bountiful and not be missed, but there are a number of traps along the way that you will want to avoid.
Overselling is never a good thing but doing it internationally is even worse. Why? Well, unless you have a customer service team that is collectively fluent in every language that you are shipping to - bearing in mind that there are 23 officially recognised languages in Europe alone - contacting your international customers to apologise is going to be difficult.
The best way to avoid oversells is to ensure you have accurate stock, and the best way to ensure that is to implement a warehouse management system (WMS).
2. Multi-lingual support
So, you’ve decided to take your eCommerce operations global. You’ve translated your site into different languages so that you can start increasing the number of international orders. You ship an order over to Germany but there’s a slight problem with it. Your German customer raises a ticket or complaint with your helpdesk but, as you’d expect, it’s written in German.
If you’re eCommerce operations extend to shipping orders outside the EU, you will need to make sure that you are using the correct customs declaration forms. These will need to be filled out before the order is shipped so you will also need to allow extra time for this to be completed at the pack bench. Sorting your orders by country will help a great deal in maintaining accuracy and efficiency with international orders.
It is possible to automate this process at the pack bench with MetaPack, a similar piece of carrier management software, or suitable warehouse management software. With a WMS you can setup rules so that international orders automatically trigger a printed CN22 form.
4. Carrier management
If you’ve done your research, it should come as no surprise to you that different countries operate a variety of carriers. It may be that you will need to take on the services of some of these carriers, as well as your UK-based ones. It is possible to sort your orders by carrier so that at the pack bench the right order is put with the right carrier.
It might be that the carrier you have chosen for one country only manages a small volume of orders and so is not worth integrating into your core system yet. It is good to monitor this and work out at which point the inefficiency of doing carrier data transfers manually warrants an integration with your other systems.
5. Realistic shipping
We’re going to let you in on a secret here: if you’re shipping eCommerce orders internationally, you’re probably not going to get it right first time. But that’s OK! Us over here with the knowledge of logistics understand that there will be hiccups when you go international. Those less forgiving though - and by that we mean your customers - will not be nearly as understanding.
If you use sites like Trustpilot or Feefo, be aware that a few bad reviews may come your way from customers who don’t like waiting weeks for their order to arrive. In most cases, you should have the option to setup multiple accounts on your preferred feedback site for each domain. That way, the delayed shipment to Australia won’t affect all those fantastic reviews you’ve had from happy UK-based customers.
6. Long-distance returns
International eCommerce returns can be tricky for two reasons. Firstly, the country that you have shipped to may operate different returns laws to the UK which need to be considered before the product is shipped. Secondly, the cost of shipping returns back to your main warehouse is going to be pricey.
A women’s fashion client of ours handles a lot of international sales and to overcome the high cost of US returns they use a rebound service from TSB Supply Chain. The way this works is that customers in the US who wish to return their orders send it to a local hub. TSB Supply Chain then collect all of the UK-bound returns for multiple retailers and ship them over in one container. Overall, this works out considerably cheaper for the retailer, and much more convenient for the international consumer.
7. Payment method
As with returns, there are two hurdles to overcome with international payments. First up, you’ll need to ensure that you have a payment provider who can serve the countries that you are selling to. Companies like Adyen specialise in serving international eCommerce businesses and are an option worth considering.
Secondly, you will need to make sure that your operational processes can handle the variations in international payments. For example, our client Barbour wanted to start shipping to Germany where it was common to pay for orders on delivery. The integration with Hybris had to be tweaked slightly and Klarna was integrated to enable the process to work.
8. Multi-language despatch notes
Let’s think of this from the customer’s perspective. If you ordered a pair of sandals from a Spanish retailer, you’d be pretty miffed if the despatch note arrived in Spanish, no? Unless of course you're fluent in Spanish but let’s assume that you’re not. On the flipside, you shouldn’t be sending out English despatch notes to your foreign customers for the same reason.
We recommend working out a way to easily create and amend your despatch note contents so they can be tailored to different languages. Ideally, you would want to automate the printing of this, too, so no mistakes are made at the pack bench. A warehouse management system designed for eCommerce should be capable of doing this.
9. Marketplace integration
Your M2EPRO connector for Magento, or your dedicated marketplace solution like Volo or ChannelAdvisor has you covered for your UK marketplaces. But you’re splashing into foreign waters now and there’s a whole load of new marketplaces to sell on.
Taking the time to locate the individual marketplaces that would be suitable for your eCommerce business in the countries you’d like to reach is vital. We have known companies to take on multiple marketplace integration platforms to give them the global reach they need.
All in all, to succeed in taking your eCommerce business global, you need to really understand the countries you’re targeting. You need to become fluent in every nuance of each culture so that you don’t look like any old outsider trying to flog their wares in another country. You have a brand to uphold and you’ll want that brand to be recognised and enjoyed wherever it is seen.