Let’s start with a story about selling globally:
Once upon a time, there was a small business owner named Bob (not his real name) who wanted to sell his homemade soaps globally. He had heard many myths about e-commerce international sales, such as selling to overseas customers was risky and that international shipping was a headache. Bob was determined to find out the truth.
Currently, Bob sells his small batch of handmade soaps at weekend farmer's markets, wellness festivals and pop-up stores. While he is responsible for soap production and packing, he also has a few part-timers to manage his social media accounts and answer any customer enquiries via email and telephone.
Bob did his research and found that by using e-commerce platforms and marketplaces, he could sell his products globally without a physical presence in each country! He also discovered that size did not determine success in global selling and that it was possible for small businesses like his to succeed.
Despite these findings, Bob still felt intimidated by the idea of selling to overseas customers. He was concerned about the costs and language barriers. However, after consulting a business mentor, he learned that cloud-based platforms and translation tools were available to minimise costs and overcome communication barriers.
With his newfound knowledge and confidence, Bob created a solid business plan and launched his products on an e-commerce platform. His products were a hit and he received orders from all over the world. Bob was amazed at the success he had achieved and was grateful that he had explored new international markets.
From that day on, Bob continued to expand his business globally, hired remote teams around the world, and inspired other small business owners to do the same. He showed that with determination and the right tools, anyone can succeed in e-commerce international sales.
In the previous digital commerce article series, we discussed why small businesses like yours should consider expanding into international markets. This included benefits such as expanding your market reach, increasing global brand recognition, and diversifying your business. In this second article, we address and dispel several common myths surrounding international e-commerce sales.
The worldwide e-commerce industry continues to thrive, reaching a value of $5.7 trillion in 2022. Bob's handmade soap business, if he had chosen to sell it online in the United States, would have "only" been a part of the US e-commerce market worth $905 billion. With international e-commerce sales being nearly 6.5 times greater, it makes sense to consider global prospects by looking through the fog of international e-commerce myths.
Myth 1: Selling Globally Requires a Physical Presence in Each Country
One myth about global selling is that a physical presence in each country is required. Nothing could be further from the truth. Digital channels such as online marketplaces, social media, and e-commerce websites enable you to reach a global audience. Plus, instead of having warehouses in each country, fulfilment and shipping services now allow goods to be stored and shipped from a central location for an efficient workflow.
Dropshipping, for example, is a popular business model that enables entrepreneurs to sell things online without holding inventory. The storage and delivery are handled by a third party. When people place an order through a digital channel, the supplier receives the order, packs it, and ships it directly to the consumer. The entrepreneur's role then is to inform the customer about the status of their order and provide service and support.
Myth 2: The Global E-commerce Market Is Too Competitive
It's no secret that the global e-commerce market is incredibly competitive. Many retailers are vying for the attention and business of shoppers, plus consumers now have tools to compare prices, products, and delivery options. This intense competition can be overwhelming for new or small businesses, as you must find ways to stand out among bigger players with established brands, larger budgets, and a loyal consumer following.
The good news is that in a competitive market, companies that focus on innovation and customer satisfaction can stand out with exceptional CX. AI and live agents can work together to resolve issues on the first try. Customers will be absolutely delighted with agents who know what they were browsing for, speak their shared language, and have a clear understanding of their history so that they don't have to repeat themselves.
Myth 3: Global Selling is Only for Large Businesses
Another common misconception is that global sales are only for large corporations. But size does not determine worldwide selling success! Many small firms are selling internationally by using e-commerce platforms, marketplaces, and even social media. In certain regions, social messaging apps are popular, such as WeChat in China, Line in Taiwan, Japan and Korea, and WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger worldwide.
However, managing multiple social media apps for customer interactions can be overwhelming, especially when customers switch to channels like email and live chat. Keeping track of all the conversations becomes a time-consuming task. CINNOX can simplify workflows by integrating social media channels and showing current and past conversations in a unified chat window, making it a practical and powerful solution.
Myth 4: Selling Globally Requires a Huge Investment
Another misconception is that global selling requires a large investment. While it's true that there are expenses associated with selling globally, such as shipping and customs fees, these expenses are part and parcel of conducting business overseas. By using cost-effective tools like cloud-based logistics, communications, and e-commerce tools, you can reduce the need for significant upfront costs and heavy capital expenditures.
SMBs, for example, can have a sophisticated business communication system with the help of Communication as a Service (CaaS) providers like CINNOX. Previously, costly and complicated PBX systems were typically limited to large MNCs, but virtual PBXs have made them accessible to all. When looking for a cloud communication provider, remember to ask these 34 key questions to ensure that you make an informed decision.
Myth 5: Selling Globally Requires Fluency in Multiple Languages
There is a myth that to sell internationally, you must be able to speak more than one language. However, this is not the case. To overcome linguistic obstacles, you could use a translation service like Google Translate. More importantly, the key to worldwide sales success is researching target countries and recognising cultural differences. That means learning the language and customs of each potential overseas market.
If your budget permits, you could hire remote agents worldwide to improve customer experience without translation tools. This approach would help the agents connect with local customers and understand their needs better. They can also provide a personalised experience by identifying their location and language. Plus, enquiries can be directed to the best agents based on language routing rules.
Myth 6: Customer Service and Support Needs to Run 24/7
It's a common misbelief that customer service and support must be available 24/7. While having round-the-clock availability can be beneficial for some businesses, it is not a requirement for all. Factors such as the nature of the business, target audience, and budget should be considered when determining the contact centre's operational hours. In some cases, providing support during normal business hours may be sufficient!
Additionally, offering self-service support channels, such as chatbots and IVR, can help reduce the demand for live support and provide customers with the immediate assistance they need, even outside of regular hours. Elsewhere, convenient features like web links and QR codes can encourage asynchronous communications when customers are not always online and available to use the CINNOX web widget.
Myth 7: It's Hard to Manage Globally Distributed Teams
It's been said that managing globally distributed and remote teams is a difficult task. While remote work brings its own set of challenges, there are also many advantages, such as access to a larger pool of talent around the world, lower overhead costs from rent savings, and the ability to operate 24/7 for overseas customers.
To effectively manage distributed teams, communication, trust, and a shared set of goals are crucial. Technology can also play a role, with collaboration and cloud communication tools making it easier to keep everyone on the same page. Additionally, monitoring and takeover of chats along with real-time dashboard analytics can help maintain accountability and keep team members aligned and engaged.
It's Your Turn to Write Your Story
Having dispelled these seven myths, it's time to craft your unique e-commerce growth story. With a clearer grasp of the possibilities and obstacles of selling globally, you can now make informed choices and improve your chances for international success. Keep in mind, conducting research, establishing a strong business plan, and utilising cost-effective technology tools all contribute to your success in global e-commerce.