Let's start with a story about digital commerce:
A small business owner named Sarah (not her real name) was struggling to keep her handmade jewellery business afloat. She had a modest kiosk in a local mall, but foot traffic was slow, and sales were declining. One day, a friend suggested she try selling her jewellery online. Sarah was sceptical at first, but she decided to give it a try.
She created a simple website with help of an e-commerce platform and started listing her jewellery for sale. To her surprise, orders started pouring in from all over the world! Customers loved the unique designs and high-quality craftsmanship of her jewellery, and they were more than happy to purchase it online for themselves and as gifts.
As her business grew, Sarah was able to expand her product line and reach new international markets. She was also able to streamline her operations, reduce her overhead costs, and hire staff for sales, design and support. The success of her digital commerce business allowed her to quit her day job and focus on her jewellery full-time.
Sarah's story is a testament to the power of digital commerce. With just a website and a product she was passionate about, she was able to reach a global audience online and grow her business well beyond the borders of her local shopping mall.
This ending is probably the dream of most e-commerce sellers. Some of you may be selling products as a side gig, while others may be investing sizeable sums into an e-commerce business that you hope to grow. No matter your goals, global success needs a mix of business acumen, marketing savvy, technology tools, and a human touch.
But how do you get started selling overseas? What kind of pitfalls should you look out for? And what type of technology tools can you integrate into your business to serve the needs of international customers and grow your business at the same time? We answer all these questions and more in this first article in a series about digital commerce.
What is Digital Commerce?
First, let's define what we mean by digital commerce and e-commerce. They are often used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference between the two.
- E-commerce is the buying and selling of goods and services online through a company's website, a third-party platform, or a mobile app. It involves transactions conducted over the Internet, and the focus is on online transactions and sales.
- Digital commerce, on the other hand, is a broader term that includes e-commerce and other types of transactions conducted through digital channels. This includes transactions that happen through social media, mobile apps, chatbots, or any other digital platform.
While there are no specific figures for digital commerce yet, the growth of e-commerce shows no signs of slowing down. In 2021, global e-commerce sales alone reached a staggering $5.2 trillion, and this number is expected to reach $8.1 trillion by 2026! So, the digital commerce market is a lot larger once you include other digital channels besides e-commerce websites.
Why Should You Grow Your E-commerce Business Overseas?
Whether you're a small company looking to digitally transform your business or a seasoned e-commerce seller hunting for new opportunities, you should not overlook the prospect of growing your business by selling to new international customers. Here are some reasons why you should explore new markets and reach a global audience.
- Expanded market reach. Reaching new international markets can open new avenues for growth and revenue, allowing you to tap into new customer segments. If you sell athletic wear in the United States, for example, you could start exploring countries where fitness and healthy living are valued, such as Australia or Scandinavia.
- Increased sales. By selling to customers in new markets, you can increase your overall sales and revenue, helping your business to grow and thrive. Instead of spending money to get more sales out of your existing markets, open new frontiers and sell in countries that may not have been physically possible to access before.
- Diversification. Diversifying your customer base and revenue streams can help reduce risks and make your business more resilient in the face of economic or market challenges. When a long winter hits the United States, for example, you can continue the brisk sales of summer athletic wear in countries in the southern hemisphere.
- Global brand awareness. Building a global brand can increase recognition and awareness of your company and products, helping you to establish a strong reputation in new markets. Competition for athletic wear may not be strong in markets like Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, for example, and you may even enjoy a head start!
- Cost savings. In some cases, expanding overseas can lead to cost savings by leveraging local suppliers, manufacturing, or logistics capabilities. If your athletic wear is made in Vietnam, for example, you may save on considerable shipping costs by fulfilling online orders meant for the South-East Asia, Australian and New Zealand markets.
In summary, expanding your e-commerce business overseas can help you to achieve new levels of growth and success, and can provide a foundation for long-term business success in an increasingly globalised economy.
What Are The Challenges Of Selling Internationally?
On the flip side, expanding into new international markets is not as simple as just setting up a website and waiting for online orders to come in. There are a few important challenges that e-commerce and traditional businesses need to consider when exploring entirely new markets.
Unfortunately, you are not the only business heeding the siren call of the world's markets. The global e-commerce market is highly competitive, and you may face established players with more resources, deeper pockets, and local market knowledge. This may be enough to discourage all but the most optimistic businesses.
You can, however, differentiate yourself with an exceptional customer experience (CX) by adding a human touch to every interaction along the customer journey. Create "WOW" moments by anticipating their needs, ensuring a consistent CX across live chat, social, web calls, and other digital channels. Then use conversational marketing tactics to proactively engage with prospects, personalising the interaction and speeding up the conversion process!
In addition, e-commerce and digital commerce have levelled the playing field. Small businesses can leverage the reach of the Internet and project a presence many times their size. While larger competitors may have the budget for communications hardware and software, you can set up a cloud communications system in minutes with CINNOX.
If your website or app is only available in one language, you may be limiting yourself to only a small portion of the market. Offering translation tools or multiple languages will allow foreign customers to navigate and make purchases in their native language, making the customer experience much more seamless.
To surprise and delight your customers even further, connect them with sales or support agents who speak their language. In CINNOX, for example, agents can pre-empt customer enquiries by knowing which country the visitor resides in and the language they speak. In addition, enquiries can be routed to agents based on language rules.
3. Time zones
As you expand globally, you need to coordinate and communicate effectively across multiple regions and countries. When customers span different time zones, it can be difficult to provide support or responses in real time. This can result in delayed response times, miscommunication, and affect the customer experience.
To overcome this challenge, you could hire a team of customer service and support agents and offer 24/7 support. Or be upfront and honest about it and use an offline support form when enquiries are made outside of your home business hours. This allows customers to leave their names and contact details for subsequent follow-up.
4. Remote agents
To access a wider pool of talent, reduce overhead costs, or ensure timely responses for overseas customers, you may decide to hire remote agents. Managing a remote workforce, however, potentially means communication issues, inconsistent standards, lack of coaching, and poor productivity levels.
To address this issue, you can invest in technology like CINNOX that supports and provide ongoing training and support to your remote teams. The employee experience is enriched by transferring enquiries to the best agent for first-time resolution, and the monitoring and takeover of chats for quality assurance.
5. Culture barriers
What works in one country may not work in another. Using eBay, for example, as your platform in the United States may not work in Asia. To overcome this, conduct market research to understand the preferences and habits of consumers in each market that you enter, including how they prefer to buy their goods. This will help you create a marketing strategy that resonates with people in each market.
So, how do you have an online presence that appeals to consumers in different countries? Some may like a quick checkout at a website while others may prefer the human touch in live chat or social media. One solution is integrating CINNOX into platforms like Shopify or WordPress via plugins or using an open API.
Once integrated, you can now offer the convenience of quick checkouts at your website or engage prospects in conversational marketing using the CINNOX web widget. Your agents can then work on shortening the path to conversion by giving website visitors a rich multimedia experience through voice, video and sharing of sales collateral.
Stake Your Claim in the Digital Frontier Now
Digital commerce has opened a world of opportunities for small businesses to expand their reach and tap into new international markets. However, you need to consider language, time zones, remote agents and more, when entering new markets. When you address these challenges using a platform like CINNOX, you can successfully unlock new international markets and reach a global audience.