Tommy Kelly, Executive Chairman of eShopWorld, talks about how technology can simplify international expansion for retailers
How can retailers drive growth In cross-border sales?
Retailers have to start from their customers’ perspective. Establish what drives satisfaction in terms of both product type and shopping experience. Domestic, in-country online experience has matured, particularly in the US andEurope. In contrast, going cross-border adds complexities, including different regulations, taxes and duties. However, when the product leaves the country, retailers should not lose sight of the fulfilment process. Complete visibility, measurement of customer satisfaction and focus on the shopping experience are all import ant. Retailers should focus on making that experience as user-friendly as possible from start to finish.
What are the main challenges for meeting customer expectations in an International context?
E-commerce is a challenge for every company, especially when it is hundreds or thousands of miles apart from its target market. Shoppers expect a timely, well informed shopping experience. This applies both when they’re shopping and when they’re waiting for delivery of the purchase. It doesn’t necessarily mean the product has to arrive tomorrow, but its arrival needs to be predictable. The same goes for cost; the shopper wants visibility of total cost upfront. Separate hidden charges, and unclear international taxes or delivery, result in shoppers abandoning baskets, causing loss of revenue. We have to remember that people shop on line for the convenience and variety. In the past,domestic retailers had a clear advantage, but now with technology we can replicate the in-country experience while selling from overseas.
So technology helps to overcome some of the hurdles?
The US domestic market is made up of 300 million people sharing a language and culture across a vast area. In Europe, selling to that number of people means dealing with multiple language sand in-country requirements. Technology can overcome those challenges: from currency problems to language barriers.Our technology eliminates the requirement to launch a country-specific website for every market. It means that retailers can take more of a mass-market approach – like a US retailer – and expand into new markets quickly. This approach allows retailers to test local demand before committing to specific market requirements, such as site localisation.
Which is more Important: customers in different countries having the same brand experience or retailers having localised websites?
It depends on the brand. Luxury and high-end brands tend to unify shopping experience across markets and countries. Smaller brands usually offer more country-specific solutions. In my view, the shopping experience is key. It has to be as close as possible to the domestic shopping experience, and at least provide options for shoppers to buy in their own currency. However, there is always the challenge of people using price comparison sites, and then trying to shop in different jurisdictions and countries and on different websites.
How is technology helping e-commerce to develop behind the scenes?
Take payments as an example. Almost 50 per cent of online shoppers use smartphones for browsing online stores and buying. Those customers want simpler payment methods while they’re on the move. Retailers have to ensure security and ease of use, while adapting to changes in the way that people buy online. Payment types vary massively between countries, and this has to be accommodated at the checkout too. There’s a difference between what the customer sees and what logistics retailers need to provide – the latter requires an array of infrastructure, evolving technologies and solutions.
How can retailers keep up with the pace of change and adapt to technology as and when It becomes available?
It’s a challenge. E-commerce is at an early stage. Everybody anticipates huge growth, and this puts pressure on retailers. Online stores need to be flexible about technology, as it is ever evolving. Even the more traditional brick-and mortar retailers will move on line. Use of mobile devices is on a sharp rise, shaking up the way we buy things online. Social media is another key driver. One trend is common for all these changes: making the shopping experience easy, convenient and satisfying.
Which retailers do you think are using technology to best effect?
Look at the brand leaders in different industries. Brands that are growing aggressively, and that are controlling brand experience, have gained big shares of the online market. Excellence in the product and in shopping experience is a winning combination, for both crossborder and in-country on line retailers.
Originally published in Send magazine.
For more information visit http://www.sendbyasendia.com/issue4/gb/#p=12
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