The promise of eCommerce is that it breaks companies out of the store-based model. How far they take this new freedom is up to them, but global operations are possible. The question, then, is how should organizations expand from a home region to reach the rest of the world with logistics, advertising and customer service? Companies making this complex but promising transformation should look to forecasts and figures to determine which parts of the world offer the best prospects; eCommerce's expansion is not uniform, and some regions look especially promising.
Asia is a likely target for eCommerce expansion - it's a huge market that's still growing.
Focus on Asia-Pacific sales
A 2016 eMarketer report predicting the next four years of eCommerce growth broke down expansion rates by territory and found that the Asia-Pacific region will remain the single largest center of online retail activity. The nexus of this huge area is China. The source specified that 2016 Chinese eCommerce sales are estimated to total $899 billion. That's 47 percent of all online retail, worldwide. This means that expanding into China could represent a huge opportunity.
The source noted that other parts of the Asia-Pacific region are currently less prepared than China to host major eCommerce booms. In Southeast Asia, payment systems and logistics structures are not yet ready to handle the kind of high-speed digital economy that is already transforming China.
Despite these tech deficiencies, the whole Asia-Pacific area is predicted to show impressive growth over eMarketer's study period. The source estimated that an over-$1 trillion sales figure in 2016 will become $2.275 trillion by 2020. Those numbers are promising for web retailers planning a move to serve Asia, as they imply there is still room in the market for new entrants. The sales total is already gigantic, but is expected to grow robustly.
Customers in India look to global sites
For specific examples that show eCommerce customers in Asia are ready to look beyond their borders for purchases, India provides a good test case. According to Business Insider, Indian customers, unhappy with the selection at domestic websites, are willing and able to send their money to the U.S., China and the U.K. American sites fared especially well, drawing nearly half of the overseas eCommerce dollars spent in India in 2016.
The challenge for new entrants into the India market will be offering the otherwise-unavailable products consumers are looking for without being bogged down in complex processes that drive shoppers away. The source cited PayPal and Ipsos data finding that consumers in India tend to abandon carts of foreign eCommerce sites when they are confronted with high import duties, unacceptable return rates or long delivery times.
Excitingly for companies that maintain a strong brick-and-mortar presence, recent Pitney Bowes research found that one of the major causes of cross-border eCommerce is consumers continuing to shop with brands they visited in person during overseas travel. The source found that cross-border online shoppers based in South Korea, China and India are especially interested in using the internet to revisit merchants they shopped with while traveling.
The idea of creating a brand that reaches consumers online and in-store, then reaching out to continue the customer-brand relationship, has long been a pillar of domestic omnichannel commerce. The fact that this concept is workable at a global scale should be all the impetus retailers need to strengthen their omnichannel branding and appeal.
What should eCommerce brands know before going global?
Strong logistics fundamentals
The promise of the overseas market is appealing for any eCommerce brand. Now it's up to leaders to pursue those dollars through carefully crafted strategies. Organizations that cannot deliver the same benefits experienced by their domestic customers - great customer service, quick deliveries, and affordable shipping and returns - may fail to break through in new regions. Every viable market in the world has its own local commerce providers, meaning half-hearted eCommerce operations won't cut it when it comes to entering these markets.
Sites that are viewable in different languages and easily accept the currencies and payment options popular in target territories are par for the course. Organizations will also need strong backend options to ensure they don't lose track of inventory, no matter where in the world it may be. The challenges and rewards of transitioning into a global eCommerce model are clear. Now all that remains is for leaders to make the call and take aim at new customer bases and opportunities.