ChannelAdvisor reveals how retailers can leverage international expansion to ensure a busy festive season


Hanekom: tips for expanding cross-border trade

Rynhardt Hanekom, cross-border trade manager at ChannelAdvisor, on how online expansion can help retailers to capitalise on Christmas trading

November has come, the clocks are set back and merchandise seems to be multiplying at most retail locations. We are in the midst of Christmas-prep crunch time. A new ChannelAdvisor study has indicated UK retailers are expecting a Christmas of increased sales compared to last year, with 38% of UK retailers expecting sales to grow by more than 10%.

As retailers are considering how to eclipse the successes of last year’s festive season, many are looking to new regions to boost their sales. Even though the prospect of cross-border trade (CBT) and all its complexities can bring about uneasiness, especially if you’re a first-timer, this is a topic worth considering as we approach Christmas and beyond.

Before you start to fret, know that expanding through marketplaces is a low-cost way to test the global appetite for your products. Many of these various online marketplaces have pre-established and loyal audience bases who are willing to purchase from retailers across the globe.

Use marketplaces as your passport

If you already sell on Amazon and eBay, take advantage of these marketplaces’ global selling integrations. Beyond these big two, it’s worth looking into other, perhaps lesser-known, marketplaces that can also serve as relatively easy entry points to international markets. MercadoLivre in Brazil, Trade Me in New Zealand, Tesco in the UK and Tmall Global in China are marketplaces we recommend exploring. When starting out, we recommend testing some of your best-selling products — or ones that would appeal to that region’s audience.

Be prepared for localisation

Once your products are available to overseas buyers, depending on the region, you may be required to translate product listings, offer customer service in the local language or adapt to different sizing conventions. To avoid keeping the customer waiting, try to have as much of this information already prepared to help speed up the conversion rate.

Remember your VAT requirements

Be aware that value added tax rates and regulations vary by country, along with who is responsible for the payment of taxes. Consult with a tax expert who can address your specific situation and provide guidance. Also be aware of which payment methods and options are expected by buyers (for example bank transfers are a preferred payment method in Germany), and ensure you can support it. Another consideration to make is to ensure you have a solution in place to get the best currency exchange rates.

Improve quantity management

When it comes to that popular Christmas toy, outfit or game console, it’s a numbers game — you don’t want to order too little and wind up out of stock, and you don’t want to order too many and have a surplus taking up valuable warehouse space.  First of all, optimise your quantity strategy by juggling the quantity across multiple marketplaces and your webstore. This means that if you have 10 widgets, you list those 10 on multiple sites and in multiple countries. For those items that have a high sales velocity, you’ll want to set a buffer of safety stock so you don’t oversell.

Should you end up with excess inventory at the end of the season, nearly every marketplace has some form of a deal programme (eBay’s Daily Deals, Amazon’s Lightning Deals, etc.). Or try bundling items, like a car charger and a wall charger for new electronics. Many shoppers will receive vouchers, so give them something to spend them on.

Uncovering suppressed products

No matter how much time and money you spend advertising your products across different regions, shoppers can’t buy a product if the actual listing isn’t showing up. Take care of listing errors when selling internationally to avoid product suppression. Take the time to audit product listings to verify they meet the marketplace’s standards. Look for issues like missing images, descriptions or UPCs for some categories. Also, consider that some products may be restricted in different territories, so make sure you are allowed to sell that product in each area you trade in.

Finesse your fulfilment 

Free, fast shipping should no longer be on your “nice to have” list. Consumers are coming to expect it. Retailers shouldn’t shy away from the international opportunity because of concerns about not being equipped to deliver goods across the globe. Today, many marketplaces offer specific services to support the fulfilment of stock.

Amazon has Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), which allows retailers to send their products to Amazon, and the marketplace Amazon will store, catalogue, pick, pack and ship orders to their final destinations. Another benefit: FBA products are eligible for free shipping and are accessible to Prime members (who spend twice as much as Amazon shoppers without Prime). This is free to sellers as the buyer pays VAT and shipping.

EBay also rolled out its Global Shipping Programme (GSP) in the UK, which is a great option for saving on hefty international shipping costs. Retailers send orders to domestic eBay locations, then eBay will take care of shipping them to their final destinations. This programme is also free to sellers as the buyer pays VAT and shipping. This is available to 53 countries today, opening up a vast new audience of eBay sellers to retailers.

Whatever fulfilment option you use, define your holiday shipping deadlines and timelines to avoid any unwelcome surprises. Calculate your final day to ship by region and solidify your shipping rates and speeds. Make sure you’re clearly marking last free-shipping days (and last paid-shipping days) within your product listings.

While cross-border trade can be an intimidating prospect at this time of year, you also have the opportunity to grow your audience of shoppers, this Christmas and beyond.