The COVID-19 crisis is by far the most critical issue in the 2020 year. It triggered a massive shift in the way we sell and buy products and do business. Many countries are under enforced lockdown, and hundreds of brick-and-mortar companies have been shut down altogether. Nothing is even close to being called optimistic. For many companies, eCommerce is the only safe harbor. Even here, however, things are not perfect. If you want to stay afloat, you have to rethink your strategy and adjust it to the post-COVID scenery. And one of the most significant aspects of doing online business is your cross-border strategy.
What is cross-border e-commerce?
Simply put, cross-border e-commerce involves buys and sellers in two different countries. All international sales involve crossing borders but modern e-commerce has made the process as easy as possible. More customers than ever are buying from online retailers based on other countries and the process of processing and delivering those orders has been refined and optimized to an amazing degree. There are of course tax and customs issues involved with international sales but these are matters that a good logistics partner will be able to help with.
First things first. Let’s take a brief look at the current situation in the European eCommerce sector. Take a look at this graph provided by Emarsys :
Although it is too early to draw any far-reaching conclusions, it seems that the eCommerce peak in Europe is rather a thing of the past, at least for the nearest future. There are many possible reasons for this. First of all, we can observe the upward trend in the weeks when the global lockdown was just announced–at the turn of March and April. Many people panicked and started buying necessary products “just in case”.
The global eCommerce growth… And then decrease?
Another reason is quarantine shopping. For instance, in Poland, 38% of surveyed Internet users have done their quarantine shopping online. The same trend is observed all over the world. According to the IPSOS Mori report conducted in mid-March 2020, consumers used eCommerce ‘more frequently to purchase products they would normally buy in-store’. In China alone, a whopping 50% of consumers said so. In Italy, 31%. This fueled the global eCommerce growth. But there’s also the other side of the coin.
In late March, MarketingWeek.com informed us that 86% of respondents predict consumers will delay major spending decisions, while 74% expect business customers to delay spending decisions.
We must not forget that due to COVID-19, tens of thousands of people worldwide have lost their jobs or earn significantly less than they did before the crisis. In the United States alone, over 36 million Americans have filed unemployment claims within just two months! That’s almost as much as the entire population of Poland! A similar situation is in Europe:
- Poland: About 660,000 have lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Germany: 300,000 unemployed in March alone, 10+ million on reduced hours
- UK: 600,000 workers on UK payrolls less within the March-May period
This all means that people don’t earn as much as in 2019, many are unemployed, and, as a result, the vast majority of people refrain from unnecessary purchases. Even people who haven’t lost their jobs have significantly changed their purchasing habits. Today, we rather try to save money and buy only necessary products and services. Suddenly, it turned out that many of our purchases can be postponed or even omitted. As Atul Shinghal, founder & CEO of Scripbox said for IndiaTimes.com:
Millennials will be more cautious about spending their money. There will be a rethink in their attitude of ‘buy first and pay later’.
It doesn’t sound like a recipe for growing your store, does it? Thankfully, you are not in an impossible situation. We have prepared a three-step strategy that concentrates on cross-border sales. If you implement it, you will have a much better chance of surviving this crisis and even growing your online store! Here’s what you should do:
Step 1: Go global with your cross-border strategy!
Because this crisis is global, you should not rely on just one market. Depending on the products you sell, it may turn out that one country is not sufficient enough to keep your eCommerce business growing. According to Flow.io, cross-border eCommerce is a way for your brand to expand the reach and drive demand for goods you offer in the less COVID-affected markets. This is especially important when you observe a decline in domestic sales.
Going global through implementing cross-border sales allows you to:
- Expand your reach
- Recover revenue lost in domestic or other markets
- Access a far broader audience
Relying on just one market is like relying on just one supplier–it’s risky. It’s not surprising that COVID affects various markets in various ways, and western, developed economies usually cope a bit better than poorer countries do. In our last article we showed you a map with eCommerce revenue growth/decline. In rich countries like Germany, UK, France, and Sweden, you can see a massive increase in eCommerce revenue while in poorer countries like Poland, Ukraine, Turkey, Spain, and Portugal–a significant decline. Without a shadow of a doubt, expanding your sales to rich countries will help you grow your business.
Step 2: Open business to cross-border customers
In order to succeed in a European market, you have to adjust your website and customer service. The very first step is to offer your store in other language versions. English is a must-have, but it’s just a start. Strongly consider implementing German, French, and Italian language versions.
As a follow-up to this, you have to offer customer service in the languages mentioned above. You have several options here:
- You can hire employees who speak these languages
- You can hire translators who will translate every e-mail and phone call (many online translation agencies offer express service)
- You can outsource your customer service to another company that will deal with foreign customers on your behalf. However, we advise you to focus on the first two options.
Finally, you have to promote your store in these foreign markets. There are many tools designed for online promotion, specifically in the eCommerce industry. Again, we recommend your read our article about crisis-proof eCommerce.
Here, we can only mention that you should focus on Google Ads, Google PLA, and Facebook Ads. All these channels are tailored to conducting international marketing campaigns and allow you to reach potential customers in almost every country on Earth.
You have to remember, though: As always, quality is the key to success. If you want to serve international customers, you have to provide high-quality translations and customer service. If you can’t afford to build three or more fully-fledged foreign versions of your website, concentrate just on the English version. As a start, it’s fully sufficient! After all, the English version gives you access to an enormous target audience located in the United States, Canada, Australia, UK, and Ireland.
Step 3: Cross-border logistics
When it comes to cross-border logistics, the order fulfillment service is by far your best bet.
Order fulfillment is a service based on outsourcing of all the logistics processes in your store:
- Storing products
- Packing and managing orders
- Shipping and complaints
This is exactly what we do at Omnipack. The fulfillment center you work with is responsible for dealing with orders on your behalf. The products are sent to the customers directly from our logistics center, where inventory is packed, labeled, and shipped. Omnipack has two logistic centers. The first center is located in Nadarzyn, in close proximity to the Warsaw airport and the S8 route. The second is placed in Gorzów Wielkopolski, at the Germany-Poland border. Both these locations offer great access to other parts of the world (airport) and Western Europe (Germany).
How can order fulfillment improve your eCommerce business?
- You save time. You don’t have to think about logistics and can focus on growing sales.
- The fulfillment company can send parcels much quicker and cheaper. Our infrastructure and contracts with local and international courier companies allow us to negotiate much better rates and conditions for our clients. As a result, no matter how big your store is, you have the Amazon-grade logistics service!
- You achieve unlimited scalability. We ship parcels to almost every country, so you don’t have to worry that a Canadian customer cannot be served, for instance. With us, they can!
If you want to adapt to the post-COVID business scenery, you should think about implementing our three-step cross-border strategy:
- Decide to expand your business to foreign markets
- Adjust your customer service and website so that you can serve international customers
- Implement cross-border logistics, so that you can easily ship your products worldwide
Although challenging, it’s a fantastic way of scaling your business and ensuring that it survives not just one, but many crises. If you want to find out more about going global, go directly to the contact section. It's more straightforward than you think!
What is cross-border e-commerce?
All international sales involve crossing borders but modern eCommerce has made the process as easy as possible. More customers than ever are buying from online retailers based on other countries and the process of processing and delivering those orders has been refined and optimized to an amazing degree. There are of course tax and customs issues involved with international sales but these are matters that a good logistics partner will be able to help with.
What does cross border logistics include?
Cross border logistics involves preparing online orders for delivery in other countries. Logistics services prepare parcels and turn them over to shipping agents for delivery. Cross-border logistics also involve official matters like tax and customs issues.
How to choose a target country for international sales?
There are several factors that you should consider, including the size and location of the market, how similar it is to markets you already serve, the level of internet and credit card usage, the general business environment there (especially with regard to eCommerce) and more. Scaling up is a must but choosing the right markets requires detailed research and careful consideration.