10 Expert Tips to Plan Your Cross-Border Ecommerce Strategy

International Fulfillment

Brands that are serious about long-term success in the ecommerce space are constantly thinking about ways to find new customers and sustainably expand. Something that EcommOps commonly sees is businesses will overly invest in markets they’ve already saturated, making it hard for them to grow or find new customers. What’s the solution we offer? Cross-border ecommerce.

Businesses are often (and understandably) anxious about expanding into the world of international ecommerce, and rightfully so. It requires time and resources to find new markets, a certain measure of capital risk in pursuing those markets, and international fulfillment across multiple countries can get complicated in a hurry. 

Cross-border ecommerce international shipping

It’s been our experience that the vast majority of businesses, especially our clients, are positioned to successfully expand into international markets, just as long as they have the right guidance and expertise to lead the way. EcommOps specializes in cross-border ecommerce, specifically leveraging China fulfillment for supporting flexible, reliable supply chains. 

In this article, we’re going to talk about the concrete benefits of expanding into cross-border ecommerce, and we’ll also give tips straight from the EcommOps experts about how to successfully expand into international ecommerce. 

The Benefits of Expanding into Cross-Border Ecommerce

The benefits of expanding into cross-border ecommerce are enormous, which is why we regularly help clients who are prepared for sustainable scaling. We’ve also found that many businesses aren’t aware of all of the concrete benefits of expanding into international ecommerce, so let’s take a good at what the primary benefits are:

Improved Product Visibility and Brand Awareness

First, beginning to market your product in new countries gives your product more visibility and brand awareness. Of course, you’re courting new customers in new markets, but customers may be interacting with your brand for the first time, too, not just a specific product. 

If your product acts as a gateway to your brand, then you open the door to other products you sell, even products you may not specifically be pushing as part of a marketing campaign. 

Improved Accessibility

When customers are more aware of your brand and your products, they naturally want to buy them. However, customers know too well that finding a great product in an international market often means they won’t have access to it when they return home. Selling across borders allows customers to buy your product in any major market they happen to be in, and easy sales usually translates to increased sales. 

increase profits

Increased Profits    

With increased sales comes increased profits. While this benefit is usually the one most businesses are aware of, what many of them forget is the profit per unit will not be the same as it is in a domestic market. How much your profit ends up being depends on your fulfillment strategy, too. We’ll talk more about different fulfillment strategies, like China fulfillment, a bit later in this article.

Increased Scalability 

When you have an established presence in multiple markets, it makes it easier to scale. Instead of trying to wring out every possible customer in one market, you can just spread your reach in multiple markets, using less resources and time to find and entice new customers to your product and brand. 

Increased Customer Feedback

With more customer orders comes more customer feedback, which is crucial for any ecommerce brand. Getting positive feedback can:

  • Help you discover a subset of customers that find your product particularly appealing
  • Affirm that a marketing strategy is working appropriately 
  • Entice new customers to trust your brand and make a purchase

While negative feedback presents challenges, certain negative feedback is also important, since it can:

  • Highlight problems in your fulfillment supply chain that need to be addressed
  • Bring product design problems to your attention, making future product iterations more successful
  • Inform you on features you may want to add, or even companion products that may help resolve certain pain points
online shopping ecommerce

Not Stuck in Local Selling Cycles

When you sell internationally, you’re not tied to the local selling cycles of your local market. While your domestic market may hit a downturn in demand (for example, Q1 in the United States). 

If your product is seasonal (like winter coats), then selling in international markets means you don’t have a down selling cycle. Instead, you could have peak demand year long, opting to continue to follow the seasons and push products in different countries year round. 

How to Successfully Expand into Cross-Border Ecommerce

The benefits of expanding into cross-border ecommerce are pretty easy to see, but how to do this successfully and without causing headaches is a whole other matter entirely. Since EcommOps helps businesses break into cross-border ecommerce regularly, we’ve collected a group of tips to help steer businesses in the right direction:

1. Choose the Countries You Want to Ship To

First and foremost, you need to decide what countries you want to ship to. You may decide that you want to keep logistics easier and ship to countries that are connected by land mass (for example, if you’re based in the United States, shipping to Canada or Mexico). You could also choose a country that you think your brand or product would particularly appeal to. 

Regardless of your choice, remember that this isn’t a permanent choice. You could always choose new countries to ship to if you want to continue to grow, or you could stop shipping to certain countries where your products struggle to find solid footing. 

2. Understand Your Target Markets

Once you decide which countries you want to target, you need to take time to understand your target markets. Research what similar brands or products are being sold there, especially local competitors. It will be a challenge for you to compete with local, trusted brands, but it’s not an impossible hurdle to overcome. 

Take time to establish a firm marketing game plan catered to your target market, and don’t make the mistake of using a “one-size-fits-all” approach to new markets you enter into.

international taxes for cross-border ecommerce

3. Learn Local Tax Laws

We have seen time and time again businesses get excited about breaking into a new market, finding success in discovering a new customer base, only to get hammered because they didn’t understand local tax laws. For example, confusion about VAT laws in the E.U. and the U.K. has led many businesses to lose money per unit because they didn’t understand how much tax to collect or when to collect it. 

You must take time to fully understand local tax laws. If you’re serious about breaking into an international market and having a long-term, sustained presence, you must abide by local tax laws

4. Consider Shipping Costs 

Ecommerce international shipping costs are a huge barrier of entry for most online brands. This is especially true when you consider shipping overseas while using traditional fulfillment methods. Many businesses have approached us specifically with help resolving the barrier of entry into new markets because of untenable shipping prices. 

The reason why international shipping costs are a problem is because of how traditional fulfillment has looked in the past. Businesses would need to:

  • Place a bulk order from a factory partner, typically a partner in China
  • The bulk order is completed and shipped via sea freight
  • The products clear customs and are delivered to domestic fulfillment centers
  • The products sit in domestic warehouses, waiting for customer orders to come in
  • Customer orders are packaged and then shipped to domestic and international destinations

This process is long and expensive, and many businesses opt to not to leave their domestic markets because they don’t know of any ecommerce international shipping solutions to make it worth their while. 

This is where China fulfillment can step in to change the game. With China fulfillment, the process for DTC parcel shipping is way shorter:

  • Place a small batch order from a factory partner in China
  • Products are driven to a Chinese fulfillment center, which takes 1-2 days
  • Customer orders through the website, orders are packaged and shipped to international destinations

Instead of choosing one fulfillment method, many of our clients choose to go with a hybrid fulfillment model. This involves a mix of the above methods. Contact us to see if this could work for your company.

Target audience for DTC ecommerce brands

5. Pinpoint Where Your Customers Are

Just because you’re breaking into a specific country, that doesn’t mean your potential customers are every citizen of that country. You need to take time to understand where your customers actually are. If you’re just breaking into the market, that may mean concentrating on densely populated areas, especially major cities. 

If you’ve been in the market for some time, that may mean seeing where most of your orders are being made and concentrating your marketing efforts in those areas. You should not waste time marketing in areas where there’s few customer leads or in areas where you’ve aggressively marketed and you just haven’t had success connecting with customers. 

6. Abide by Local Laws 

If you’re serious about making a long-term commitment to saturating a market, you need to not only abide by tax laws, but you need to abide by local laws as well. Don’t try to sneakily sell products that are illegal in certain cities, regions, or countries, and don’t skirt rules that regulate how certain products should be shipped or other consumer protections. 

7. Plan Your Supply Chain

After you have a clear marketing strategy for a specific country (or region within a country), and you have a full understanding of tax and other local laws, you need to take a solid look at your supply chain. Supply chain planning is crucial to international ecommerce, and poor planning is a primary reason why so many businesses fail to enter new markets. 

One of the biggest challenges in international supply chains is understanding how to navigate long fulfillment times and high shipping costs. We touched on this in point 4, and explained why international shipping costs are so high, and those same factors also make fulfillment times exceptionally long

The traditional solution to this has been to establish a fulfillment center in the country that you’re targeting to avoid the time delay of dropping off inventory at a domestic warehouse to then ship internationally. However, fulfillment times can still be long if you need to restock to fulfill orders, and considering other options can make it far easier, and less risky, to test new markets. 

supply chain partner for cross-border ecommerce

One of the strategies that EcommOps regularly encourages our clients to follow is China fulfillment. In this strategy, sea freight shipping and a domestic warehouse is cut out entirely, and instead results in a streamlined fulfillment strategy that looks like this:

  • Products are delivered from a partner factory to a China fulfillment center
  • Customer orders are shipped directly from China to customers across the world.  

China fulfillment cuts down customer shipping times to 5-8 days, and reduces the cost of international shipping by 50%+. It’s an excellent, low risk, low cost way to enter an international market and establish a brand presence before committing significant financial investment in a new region, like committing to a new domestic warehouse. 

8. Understand Your New Customers

As you begin to break into a new, international market, you need to take time to understand your new customers. Take time to analyze new buying patterns and unique feedback you receive from new customers in a new area. Their feedback will help you sell to that market more effectively and could even provide insight into your products that other markets haven’t provided.

9. Optimize Conversion and Increase Reach

You won’t find new customers if you never try to increase your reach to new markets. Becoming active on social media, creating engaging posts, and finding novel ways to interact with your audience can be huge factors in creating organic reach. You could also consider paid ads via social media, Google, or other applicable platforms.

When you have a solid plan on how to increase reach, then it’s time to focus on optimizing conversions. This requires keeping an eye on the Google Analytics account attached to your website and constantly evaluating where your website traffic is coming from. When you know where your traffic is originating from, you can target your outreach more precisely, increasing conversions. 

For onsite conversions, take time to identify your top-selling products. Then, consider how to raise the average order value using your successful products as an anchor. For example, you could consider adding a companion accessory that enhances your product, or you could consider offering discounts on buying multiple units (especially if most customers are only ordering one unit at a time). 

Amazon FBM international ecommerce

10. Leverage Fulfillment by Amazon and Multi-Channel Fulfillment to your Advantage

Breaking into international markets doesn’t mean you have to stick to a single fulfillment solution. EcommOps encourages businesses to use Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM), or multi-channel fulfillment (MCF)to enter markets as flexible as possible. 

Using multiple fulfillment options allows businesses to take advantage of the logistical ease that FBA offers, while taking advantage of the cost savings that using your own fulfillment centers allows for. EcommOps helps businesses create strategies to use FBM effectively, which we encourage businesses to use if they are new to FBM, MCF, or fulfillment to multiple countries.

EcommOps: Cross-Border Ecommerce Experts

Cross-border ecommerce is an incredible opportunity for businesses to effectively scale, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t complicated. Breaking into international markets without a good plan can be costly, risky, and can permanently taint your brand in a way you can’t repair. If you want an expert partner to make cross-border ecommerce a success, then consider partnering with EcommOps.

By leveraging China fulfillment, we help businesses expand into new markets efficiently, keeping shipping costs low, fulfillment speeds manageable, and supply chains flexible. Contact us, and our team will get to work creating a plan catered to your specific needs to successfully break into new, international markets.

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