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Viewpoint: The missed opportunities of cross-border etail

According to research by The European Commission, a third of consumers say they are willing to buy online from another country because it is “cheaper or better” but only seven per cent actually do so. Steve Davis, EVP & President International of GSI Commerce, explores strategies that UK retailers can use to buck the trend and seize the opportunity.


Viewpoint: The missed opportunities of cross-border etail

The E.C. report states that there is a low level of trust amongst consumers making transactions online from another country. Overcoming this low level of trust remains the most significant challenge for cross-border e-tailers. However, there are a number of strategies and tactics e-tailers can use to initiate confidence within their customer base.

Ultimately, the biggest secret is not to make it feel like a cross-bor

der shopping experience. Try to make the shopping experience feel as “local” as possible, from payment to fulfilment to call centres and customer service. Understand how local retailers serve their customers, map your own capabilities and try to close the gap between the two.

Resist the temptation to appear “international” by displaying a currency converter giving the option of paying or seeing the price of a product in 180 currencies. Payments should be made in the currency of the country you are selling to, giving the consumer the feeling that they are making a transaction on their own terms.

Clear security statements should be in full view from a known company from that country. Contact details of support services, including local telephone numbers and addresses, should be plainly visible.

No exception should be made for fulfilment where expectations across European countries vary considerably. In terms of delivery times, for example, the average delivery time in the UK is two days, compared to ten days in Italy. Take into consideration local customs and levels of service and match these as closely as possible with a view to surpassing expectations where possible.

Marketing plans should also incorporate local national holidays and customs. One good example is “The Three Kings” national holiday in Spain which surpasses Christmas as a gift-giving holiday, occurring on January 6th. Overlooking the importance of local national holidays usually equates to lost sales opportunities.

All support services need to be local. Customers should be able to pick up the phone, dial a local number and speak to someone in their own language, with a native speaker if possible. Returns addresses should be local also.

An international marketing and public relations campaign should always leverage local media. As well as traditional media channels, there can be a significant return on investment from spending time engaging with your customers through social media. Carrying out an online media audit is essential to assess a target market from blogs, forums and social networking sites. A testimonial from a customer who has had a great fulfilment experience in a local market will have far more impact than a generic, global advertising campaign.

Recently, some e-tailers have seen currency fluctuations in the British pound as an opportunity to target consumers who would like to take advantage of this. While this can boost sales in the short-term, it is not something that e-tailers should spend their resources investing in long-term. Currency fluctuations are by nature unpredictable.

However, investing in getting all of the mentioned elements correct can push a business forward, enabling it to seize the opportunities of cross-border e-tailing in new territories. Creating a shopping experience online which is as close to an offline, local experience as possible is the secret to boosting cross-border sales.

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