Chapter 9 Cross-border Selling Strategies: Marketplaces, Customer Service, and Regional Needs
Why sell internationally?
Buyers all over the world are looking for both products that aren’t available in their domestic market and products at the right price, regardless of where they are sourced.
Nowadays it is not unusual to be able to buy abroad and find the same product cheaper than you can find it domestically, even when shipping is included. This is especially true inside Europe but also outside in markets such as China and the U.S. The only thing buyers usually have to accommodate is increased shipping times. However, even this barrier is becoming blurred as retailers start to store inventory in local markets.
By opening up to the international market in the right way, you put your products in front of, literally, hundreds of millions of new potential buyers. Potentially, products they either can’t get or at prices they can’t find domestically.
You may not be aware of the potential outside your domestic market until you actually start selling internationally.
How to sell internationally?
The best place to start is to get your shipping prices correct. Finding out what can and can’t be shipped at a reasonable price is the starting point for knowing what products to offer.
What is noticeable is that if the shipping price is too high compared to the product price it’s not likely to sell.
You should also think about how much of the shipping cost you can put into your product price.
Grow your cross-border sales through marketplaces
After this, there are two main approaches. If you know a country where your products are either unique or competitive, you can start selling on that market. The alternative is to start testing in multiple markets at once by listing your items internationally on marketplaces.
The obvious ones are eBay and Amazon but there are others. This means you don’t have to invest huge amounts in marketing in multiple countries but can still see what sells where and use that as a basis for deciding which markets to really focus on.
With both approaches, fully localizing your products and/or website is fundamentally important if you want to get the best results. This means making sure your prices are converted, shipping is set properly, sizes are converted and of course your products are in the buyer’s local language.
Customer experience is the key
Customer experience is definitely the key to strengthening the cross-border sales. 66% of customers switch brands due to poor service. 55% are willing to pay extra for a guaranteed good experience. Guaranteed means that it’s not about the promise of a great experience, but the actual great customer experience. This is what makes customers happy.
91% of unhappy customers don’t complain but simply leave. No news is not good news, after all. It all comes down to customer experience.
Some of your customers will be promoters, satisfied with your company and happy to put in a good word for you. This segment is likely to help you grow your business. Others will think your product leaves a lot to be desired, becoming detractors who badmouth your company. And there will be some in between passives.
You don’t really want detractors to dominate your customer landscape. In fact, you don’t even want a single detractor in your client portfolio! If passives could be turned into promoters, that would be great too, right?
Remember it all comes down to customer experience and the level of customer satisfaction. A satisfied customer will come back to you or even promote your business.
As Paul Greenberg, author of the best-selling CRM at the Speed of Light said, if your customers like you and continue to like you, they will do business with you and recommend you to others. To make this happen, you have to know them well: what product they need, who they are and what they like doing. This is necessary in order to be able to serve your clients with a personalized experience and gain their loyalty. It’s worth making the effort to ensure compelling customer experience since it leads to customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is one of the key differentiators in today’s competitive marketplace. It is satisfied customers that drive your business.
For some organizations, the overall importance and value of customer experience may go missing somewhere along the line. Individual departments don’t have the same amount of contact with the client and the same take on this subject, e.g. Customer Support and Product Development.
However, customer experience is an integral part of product development and a company’s finances. Why? Bad customer experience will simply cost you money and can lead to business failure. Your churn rate will be high and acquisition costs will increase. This will affect every department, not only Customer Support. Hence, it’s better to make your customers satisfied enough to continue doing business with you than to splash out on finding new leads. The challenge is to get all employees on board, many of whom may believe it’s a one-man responsibility.
It’s also worth mentioning that your potential clients may look you up online before they buy from you. 70% of a decision is made before a potential customer contacts you. This means that frustrated customers and their reviews can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don’t let poor customer experience destroy your reputation and stop potential clients from doing business with you.
Steps to improve the customer experience
When the customer experience needs some improvement, there are a few steps that you can take.
Above all, you must spend enough time talking and listening to your customers. Dig into their feedback, fix any issues and communicate the changes you’ve made back to your customers. And then ask for feedback again. This process will help you thoroughly understand the actual issues your customers have with your product, not the ones you think they have.
So deal with detractors, but bear in mind that customer experience goes beyond this. You must also care about your promoters and passives to turn them into loyal customers. Reward your promoters and increase their involvement with your product and brand. Ask them to spread the word and actually recommend to your company.
On top of that, investigate what promoters love about your brand and enhance this experience even more. Finally, ask passives about what they are missing and what is holding them back from promoting your brand.
Addressing the actual needs of global online sellers
Today the technology for selling products internationally is available to businesses of all sizes. This availability, however, does not mean that it is a straightforward task to give e-sellers an affordable solution that will bring them millions of extra revenue.
In particular, the localization process is far from simple and the costs of tools and translation can be a real blocker for many sellers.
Selling internationally does not mean that you simply translate your offers and wait for foreign customers to flock to your website.
In fact, you need to take care of the full localization process that involves translation, ensuring low international shipping rates, currency and size conversion as well as communication with foreign buyers and local marketing.
The full website localization process could be a real pain for online sellers … if they wanted to do it on their own. Not to mention the costs and the fact that new needs and more demands regularly arise on the buyer’s part. All this could efficiently distract online business owners from what they should really focus on: ecommerce business management and growth.
The number of global online buyers willing to buy goods from abroad is growing. International online transactions are increasing. Hence, more and more online sellers are deciding to offer their products on foreign markets. Vision, predictive powers and thinking ahead are key features of online sales pioneers.
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