The Promise and Perils of Taking Your eCommerce Business International

Cyber Monday and Black Friday continue to show a massive shift in customer buying behaviors from brick and mortar to eCommerce. This move has been a boon to the online marketplace seller community, with 28 million items sold by third-party sellers on Amazon on Cyber Monday alone last year — a number sure to be topped this year.

Estimates suggest sales of $6.59 billion for Cyber Monday and $5 billion for Black Friday, both record-setting figures. The shift isn’t simply a matter of storefront to online: data shows that more people are buying through phones and tablets, accounting for 33% of total sales from the combined holiday weekend.

While these figures are impressive and go a long way toward explaining why the online marketplace seller community is thriving, they tell only part of the story. While the move to online and now mobile sales is increasingly well understood, the internationalization of eCommerce — a much larger opportunity than many online sellers may understand, is less appreciated.

The shopping weekend that starts Black Friday and ends Cyber Monday generates major sales figures in diverse markets worldwide

 
online shopping

The (Increasingly Global) “Everything” Store

Amazon has enabled an entire ecosystem of online sellers to thrive, disrupting retail and shopping trends as a result. Recent data confirms that this cultural change is impacting markets across the world, not only in how buying behavior has changed, but when it occurs: The shopping holiday weekend that starts with Black Friday and ends with Cyber Monday is generating major sales figures in diverse markets across the world.

  •  The United Kingdom smashed its previous online sales figures for this time period, generating the equivalent of $45 billion in sales over the four-day period.
  •  In Germany, the same weekend generated about another $2 billion in online sales, partially spurred on by Amazon Germany’s promise to offer discounts on as many as 55,000 items. All estimates are that this next year will top that.
  • And in Australia, where Amazon has officially launched its Prime offering, early stats suggest double-digit percentage growth over the shopping weekend. Many experts predict pent-up demand to be unleashed as Amazon’s Australian platform becomes more robust.
Shanghai shopping

Singles’ Day: 25% Of U.S.’s Annual eCommerce Sales In A Single Day

While not technically part of the same weekend, any budding eCommerce shop would be remiss not to consider China’s biggest online shopping holiday, known as Singles’ Day. The annual event each November 11th combines the frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

In 2017, Alibaba — the company in which most Singles’ Day-related purchases take place — reported $25 billion in online transactions for Singles’ Day. For context, the U.S. generated about $100 million in eCommerce sales for all of 2017.

If you raised your eyebrows at such a sum, you are not alone. OFX customers in the online marketplace increasingly ask about how to take advantage of such opportunities. While running an eCommerce strategy abroad can be very profitable, there are numerous factors to consider before making the leap.

While some of these barriers are more acute in certain markets — China can be particularly difficult — consider the below three factors as a starting point in approaching your first (or next) international market:

  • Cultural shopping differences: The expectations for customer service vary widely across markets in Asia and Europe. Some expect near-instant communication with third-party sellers, while others may have an expectation of bargaining. If you’re selling abroad in a non-English language market, having someone able to interact with customers in their native tongue is a must.
  • Market research: In China, for example, competing on cost wouldn’t be smart, but opportunities for selling higher-quality items can be found. Whichever market you select, ensure you understand the differences in demographics and economic conditions that will make or break your offer.
  • Currency management: Even a high volume of profitable sales can be undercut by surprise currency fluctuations. Working with a third-party solution that plugs into your ecommerce strategy can save on fees and lock in more competitive rates, which is especially crucial when you consider the additional costs already facing online sellers doing business abroad.

While going international with your eCommerce shop can seem intimidating, it’s clear that those who account for some key differences in doing business abroad have a massive opportunity before them. Just as the shift to online and mobile retail sales changed the buying landscape, the ability to profitably sell abroad may be the next seismic shift we see for small and large retailers alike.

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