International Ecommerce

Common Issues to Avoid With Cross-Border Selling

Elizabeth Pokorny / 4 min read

The prospect of expanding into cross-border ecommerce can undoubtedly be tempting for any business. 

Global ecommerce sales are forecasted to reach over $6.5 trillion USD by 2023 and technological advances, trade agreements and increased supply chain interconnectedness put the global markets at our fingertips. 

What’s more, according to The Global Voices 2021: Cross-Border Shopper Insights study, 68% of shoppers surveyed made ecommerce purchases outside their home country in 2020. The demand for cross-border offerings is evident, but does your business have the supply to meet it? 

Cross-border selling, while undoubtedly a lucrative opportunity, can be complicated for the unprepared. However, with the right foundations and guidance, selling into international markets can reap huge benefits for your business and take you to another level of success.

Let’s look at some common pitfalls of embarking on a cross-border ecommerce journey and how to avoid them. 

Your Content Isn’t Localized

When entering new international markets and customer segments, you can’t skip localization. Localization serves to provide international customers with shopping experiences that align with their culture and language.

Failing to localize your ecommerce site’s content can have a number of ramifications. If shoppers can’t understand your web content, your conversion rates and revenue will suffer. You also run the risk of inadvertently coming across as insensitive to cultural differences. 

1. Provide a multilingual website. 

Language is one of the most important elements to consider when expanding into international markets. Achieving cross-border success requires serving content in a language that your target customers understand. 

Research from the CSA showed that:

  • 76% of online shoppers are more likely to buy a product with information in their own language
  • 40% of surveyed online shoppers will not buy from websites in other languages

While website translation can seem like an intimidating task, there are a number of multilingual translation solutions that can take the heavy lifting off your plate.

2. Adapt images and other media content. 

Localizing the language on your site is a necessary first step, but it’s not the only thing you’ll need to consider. It’s good practice to review all the images and other media on your website to ensure that they are culturally appropriate and relevant. Failure to do so can potentially alienate your target customers. 

One particular area of caution is the use of gestures. For example, while the thumbs-up gesture is generally accepted as a sign of approval in the western world, it’s offensive in certain other cultures. In some countries — Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, for example — this can have the equivalent meaning of the middle finger to Westerners! 

You’ll also need to consider differences in holidays and seasonality. For example, a Christmas-themed advertising campaign wouldn’t make sense for shoppers in China, as the majority of the Chinese population doesn’t celebrate Christmas.

Thankfully, some multilingual translation solutions such as Weglot are equipped to manage media localization in addition to website translation. 

Your Ecommerce Checkout Isn’t Convenient

One of the biggest blunders you can make when targeting international customers is using the same ecommerce checkout options you offer domestically. This can increase cart abandonment rates and diminish sales. 

1. Enable payments in your target market’s local currency.

International customers probably don’t typically make purchases using your local currency. A seamless shopping experience will allow them to check out using their local currency — which helps them understand how much they’re actually paying. So, if you’re selling to customers in China, it’s helpful to have the option to pay in Yuan as they may not know how the dollar converts relative to their currency. 

2. Provide local payment methods. 

Personalize the purchasing experience even further by accepting a broad range of payment methods. 

Payment preferences can vary significantly in different geographic regions. 

You Haven’t Accounted for Tax Complexity 

They say that only two things in this world are certain: death and taxes. When it comes to selling internationally, you’ll inevitably need to plan for the tax complexity that comes with it. 

When selling across borders, extra taxes may apply for things like import or excise duties. Failure to understand the tax ramifications of your cross-border transactions can lead to a number of problems for you and your customers.

First, your customers may be subject to hidden taxes or levies they weren’t aware of at the time of purchase — potentially impacting international customer retention and brand loyalty. 

Furthermore, your own business may receive notices from fiscal authorities about unpaid income taxes or levies you may not have been aware of. These unforeseen expenses can decimate profit margins and cause liquidity problems.

1. Consult a tax professional.

Before selling internationally, consult a professional to assess how taxes will impact your business and customers and help you choose the best fiscal optimization strategy moving forward.

2. Provide shoppers with full tax transparency.

Additionally, implementing a tax calculator on your ecommerce checkout can greatly benefit your customers. This tool will provide your international customers with an extra layer of transparency when it comes to costs and fees. 

You Haven’t Considered Logistics Issues 

Our last point of caution is to never overlook the importance of logistics planning — how you plan to deliver goods to your customers, and how long they’ll take to get there.

Customers expect a seamless shopping experience from browsing online all the way to delivery, but without rigorous logistics planning, customers could experience excessive delays.

1. Under-promise and over-deliver.

A cornerstone of Amazon’s success is to under-promise and over-deliver. When communicating estimated delivery times, you must be realistic. Err on the side of caution to account for any unforeseen delays. 

In addition, you’ll need a robust and reliable logistics network in each of your target markets. You can partner with local logistics providers to make this process as simple as possible. 

Initially, however, it’s wise to take this step-by-step. Practical Ecommerce recommends choosing only one or two countries at the beginning of your cross-border journey and then building from there. 

Cross-Border Selling Is The Future 

As our world becomes increasingly global, cross-border ecommerce will increasingly become the norm for shoppers across the world. You’ll need to do your due diligence and invest in early planning, but doing so will prove to be worth your while. A seamless cross-border sales strategy can broaden your client base, increase sales and heighten global awareness of your brand. 

At Weglot, we’re experts at providing a tech solution to easily deploy your store in different languages. Try it for yourself or start a chat with us.    

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Elizabeth Pokorny

Elizabeth Pokorny

Content Manager

Elizabeth is the Content Manager at Weglot. She regularly writes about the importance of localization, internationalization and multilingual websites in the context of growing an international presence.

View all posts by Elizabeth Pokorny

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