9 Common mistakes when selling across borders

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Doing something for the first time is never easy. You are bound to make mistakes, but, the smartest – they learn from other’s mistakes.

Unfortunately, many merchants still make simple, yet critical mistakes that hinder the growth of their business when launching internationally.

Below are 9 common mistakes that merchants make when engaging in cross border commerce:

1. Neglecting Total Landed Costs

There is nothing worse for an international customer than to get to checkout and then later be hit with a duties and tariffs bill. When implementing an international checkout, be transparent with shoppers.

As a merchant, you do not have to mandate that international buyers pay for duties and tariffs upfront; however, you should communicate to them that they will have to pay later if they opt-out at checkout.

2. Copy & Pasting

Whether you sell domestically with a localized multi-storefront, on a marketplace, via a social commerce tool or simply on your single website, avoid copy and pasting content and media. It simply does not work.

Here are two immediate reasons:
1) You won’t be appealing to your localized market (which can be taken as offensive)
2) You won’t rank well for SEO in your region (where even the smallest spelling differences matter)

When localizing content, be sure to go the extra mile and check for potential language misinterpretations. Moreover, double check your media. The worst thing you can do is enter a market with poor, on-model product photography. This is not referring to quality, but instead to understanding that consumers in new markets may look different. Take that into account as you use photography to highlight your products.

3. Not Getting Lost in Translation

There is nothing worse than not understanding how words change by country. For example, in 2004, Ford found itself in a bind by calling a car the Pinto, which means “little” –– well, male private part –– in Brazilian. Safe to say that did not go well in Latin America.

Some translations providers to consider:  Qordoba • Smartling • VerbalizeIt

The moral of the story is to investigate what keywords you use, and what they mean in different languages. The even bigger takeaway is that even major global brands such as Ford miss the mark sometimes.

4. Dimensional and Physical Shipping Assumptions
One of the most common mistakes made by businesses new to international shipping is not understanding dimensional versus physical weight and how it impacts your rates.

For international shipping, weight often takes precedence. This means that if the weight of the flat-rate box exceeds the dimensional weight, the merchant will be up-charged for the weight difference. This is a costly mistake –– not only because you will need to pay, but you’ll also risk losing an otherwise happy customer.

The first thing to fully understand is the difference in dimensional versus physical (weight) pricing:
Dimensional Pricing – Shipping costs based on the size of a box, not the weight
Physical (weight) Pricing – Shipping costs based on the weight of the box, not the dimensions

5. Disregarding Localized Merchandising
When merchants sell globally, they must consider more than just inventory as a driver in which they merchandise their digital stores.

When selling globally, the following factors should be considered:

  • Climate – Remember that your customers in various regions of the world will often need completely different things. If it’s Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, your Southern Hemisphere customers aren’t going to be drawn to your sundresses, for instance. After all, it’s winter in those parts. The Australian e-commerce market, for example, is worth $15.5 billion annually, and June is traditionally the local winter sales period. Try to localize your website.
  • Consumer Demand and Trends – Different areas of the world prefer different things. This is driven by several cultural and socioeconomic factors. It is not the merchants job to necessarily understand them, but recognizing them and planning accordingly is a recipe for success in global merchandising.

6. Disregarding Promotional Calendars
Missing the boat on local holidays can mean millions, literally.

Below are key holidays around the world. Take note of those in your region of expansion, and be sure to plan campaigns for them the same way you would in your home country.

1) Eid al-Fitr (Middle East) – The entire Ramadan period sees various sales events and in some countries, Eid al-Fitr is a guaranteed flurry of activity. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, it is estimated that consumers in that country collectively spend 10 billion riyals ($2.6 billion USD) on travel, entertainment and shopping during this period.

2) Mother’s Day (Latin Countries) – RotaKvo.co.mx reported in 2014 that between 20 to 30% of Mexican consumers would check online before considering a physical store for Mother’s Day gifts. Meanwhile, visits to health, beauty, home and fashion sites can increase by as much as 20%.

3) Singles Day (China) – This celebration day for singles has grown to become the largest online shopping day in the world. In 2016, $17.3 billion dollars’ worth of goods were sold through China’s Alibaba Group shopping platforms alone.

4) White Day (Japan & Korea) – KoreaKme.co.kr reports that spending can be 15% higher on White Day, the “answer day” to Valentine’s Day.

7. Ignoring Fraud
As you sell in new markets, the risk of fraud inherently goes up. Thankfully, there are several solutions to meet your business needs and provide you the security that you need to accept payments internationally and reduce chances of fraud.

Preventing Fraud on Your Localized Website-
If you provide international checkout on-site, there are two methods you can use to prevent fraud:
1. Install a fraud suite through your e-commerce platform provider
2. Leverage a 3PL to manage fraud

8. Don’t be too greedy
Simply put, don’t move too fast. Often, merchants become overzealous when engaging in cross border commerce. If you are going to sell, do it right! A realistic goal for launching in to international marketing is to launch into 2-3 markets per year. And that’s if you have dedicated staff to do it! It is always wise to launch in a single market first, get your bearings and create a blueprint to success that you can use in various other markets. This will help you to not experience the same mistakes twice, and give you a guideline (and timeline) to success in each individual market.

9. Government and Political Constraints
When selling globally, you must be aware of and acting in accordance with specific country laws, mandates and political constraints. For example, countries such as Russia mandate that all customer data must reside on a server in-country.

Hope these 9 tips will help you achieve more growth. Happy selling!

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