There are a number of factors that make this a good time to go global your e-commerce operation. While there are recessionary fears everywhere and rising inflation around the world, the US dollar is very strong, and slowly-improving global supply chain issues that are helping to combat those fears.
Overall, consumer purchasing activity around the globe remains high, and the recent surge in pandemic e-commerce activity (including a vastly expanded set of tools and support systems) has made the expansion model less risky than it would have been five years ago.
If you’re a merchant with a US customer base and you’re considering expanding into other geographical markets, here are a few reasons why right now is the time to get started, especially if you have a few years of experience and a budget available to make the expansion happen. It still isn’t a simple push button process to go global now, but it’s much easier now than it was ten years ago!
The Era of SaaS / PaaS E-Commerce
Merchants looking to globalize now have numerous SaaS / PaaS choices, including choices with multistore and multilingual capabilities, meaning that opening up shop in a new country is much easier than it used to be. A small, simple, small-SKU merchant could even opt to set up distinct storefronts using separate SaaS accounts if they wanted and if they understood there would be some manual processes on the back end to manage it. Our client Expanscience – Mustela has taken that approach, and it works well for their particular operating model.
More typical for established merchants with some complexity and a business system of record like an ERP and one catalog database is a “multi-store” architecture, currently available on Adobe Commerce (PaaS or Open Source), BigCommerce (SaaS) and other platforms. Unlike 5+ years ago when you needed to consider how you would manage hosting for different sites running businesses in different international locales, now you can choose a multi-store architecture that runs on SaaS with no need to worry about the hosting or infrastructure. Of course if you decide to, you can. Adobe provides the flexibility of hosting and the security and performance of SaaS with Adobe Commerce Cloud. BigCommerce now also provides Multistore for merchants that can go 100% SaaS.
Increasing Logistics and Systems Simplicity
As recently as a decade ago, e-commerce merchants would have to identify, setup, test, and manage logistics operations and shipping systems in each of the countries where it wanted to do business. Now there are providers in place that allow a merchant to outsource those required services almost 100%. Global E will even help you localize the experience on your e-commerce website and allow your customers to pay in over 100 currencies. When you consider that a merchant needs to contend with local logistics, currency, tax, shipping and delivery, an “end-to-end” system like Global E can make a lot of sense. What you might be giving up in order to outsource 100% is merchant of record control since Global E takes care of this too.
Glopal positions itself as a system that scales merchants quickly without the limitations of a “merchant of record” model complete with a suite of localization, SEO, content optimization, and Google Shopping, Facebook and Instagram connector services. These services provided by Glopal allow merchants to target international buyers with ad spends that are similar to what they use in domestic markets.
Per their site:
“What makes Glopal unique is that it enables you to optimize every part of your international buying funnel. Everything from how to acquire new international customers through to engagement and conversion and ultimately compliance, logistics and retention.”
Reduced Risk: Starting Simple
Solutions like Global E and Glopal still require a significant investment, even though they ease the burden of scaling international expansion for a brand’s e-commerce operation.
Interested in testing one international market or embarking on a more comprehensive global effort? Well it’s much easier now that most of the major e-commerce shipping service providers allow a merchant to prepare an order to be sent to an international location on a one-off basis. One option would be to do this with Shipstation. Or you can add a storefront for one country (Canada? Mexico?) with ease with BigCommerce’s new Multistore solution – allowing a merchant to easily test an international market that can share the same catalog data.
Payments are Easier – Faster Adoption by Foreign Buyers
If you expanded your e-commerce operation a decade ago you would have had to rely on credit cards for payments almost exclusively. The international expansion of different payment providers and technologies now allows e-commerce merchants to provide international buyers with the payments that are most popular in local markets, or specific to the device they’re using.
Digital and mobile wallets like PayPal and Apple Pay account for a majority of transactions and are preferred payment methods for consumers in many countries. This means that any investment you make towards international expansion are likely to result in faster return because it’s now so much easier to include payment methods that consumers will utilize. Adding debit payments, bank transfer, buy now – pay later services, and others gives the consumers in your new international target market great choice and flexibility. For a merchant the process is now typically as simple as configuring and testing the payment method via a simple integration of the payment methods that you select and sign up for.
The Bottom line
Overall, international expansion has become much easier than 10 or even 5 years ago. But there is still no substitute for having a solid plan for an international expansion – even if it is an initial one market (country) test.
If you are interested in exploring international expansion at any level contact our consulting team and we’d be happy to arrange a meeting to discuss your priorities and how we can help.