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How to set up your ecommerce business for international expansion

By Jordan Sim, Group Product Manager at BigCommerce

Driven by our strong economy and infrastructure, over the last decade, the Australian ecommerce industry has moved ahead by leaps and bounds.

While most retailers now provide online access to their products and shopfront, there is always room to achieve more. In particular, as we enter the Amazon-era in Australia, an increasing number of merchants are looking at their business model and questioning what they can do to increase their reach and sales.

While one of the obvious advantages of an ecommerce business is having access to a borderless marketplace, for many merchants, the idea of expanding internationally can seem daunting. Overcoming this fear, and realising that tapping into new markets is less complicated than it appears, could be the key to the continued growth of Australia’s ecommerce industry in 2018.

International audiences drive sales further

While Amazon’s entry into the Australian market enriches a retailer’s ability to expand in the local marketplace, it also opens the door for retailers to begin thinking about extending their own reach internationally. By tweaking a business model to expand into a new market, Aussie merchants will inevitably grow and potentially thrive in the hyper-connected global marketplace.

It’s increasingly easy for international companies and businesses to gain access to potential buyers in Australia. The flipside is also true — it’s increasingly easy for local companies to gain access to potential buyers in international markets. Given that such a large proportion of our global population have access to handheld devices and frequently shop using their mobile devices, the popularity of online shopping only continues to grow exponentially. Therefore it’s imperative to think about how to drive sales internationally.

Localisation is the key

Many businesses have products that are likely to sell well in international markets and have the capacity to meet international demand, but find that they are hampered by their ability to offer country-specific payment options and offer localised content.

When considering expansion, it’s important to understand the landscape of the country that you are expanding to and along with what the customer will need from you in order to be confident in their purchase.

Customer confidence primarily comes from being offered a localised experience and, in particular, the means to pay in their own currency via payment methods that may be specific to their region.

Customers feel most comfortable when pricing is clear and relevant – no hidden tariffs or taxes– and the content of the website is relevant. It’s more than just copying and pasting your current website content. Localised language, shipping options, localised sales tax (e.g. GST vs VAT) and functionality go a long way in gaining the trust of the shopper and maximising shopping cart conversions.

Essentially it comes back to the foundation of the online business.

When setting up the shop, it’s crucial that merchants know that their online platform provider has the tools that they need to offer cross-border payments and locally tailor website functionality.

International expansion furthers business growth

It took Kristy Withers, founder of Australian business Incy Interiors, less than a week to replicate her successful Australian website for the US on the Bigcommerce platform. Since then, the US side of the business (alongside the Australian business) has skyrocketed – with US revenue, in particular, jumping 109 percent year-on-year.

Incy Interiors was built on the basis of providing stylish and affordable interiors for children. While there was always a demand for Australian products in the US, Kristy quickly learned that a localised website and offering for the US was most successful. The US business now uses separate warehousing and slightly different products to the Australian business. Achieving almost instantaneous growth, the business has even been recognised by US celebrities like Serena Williams.

According to Kristy, the key to successful expansion is using a fully integrated online platform.

“Using our Bigcommerce platform made it phenomenally easy for us to replicate the business for the US market and sell our products internationally. Launching the new US site alone saw us grow two to three times overnight. It was such instant growth and it was just the start for us; we now sell our products in 12 different countries.

“We’ve come a long way over the last seven years; instead of wasting hours manually changing and updating our sites, we understand how important it is for us to work with a platform that is both easy to use and responsive,” she said.

Overall, the potential for the Australian ecommerce industry is tremendous. 2018 is set to be a defining period for merchants, as they look to compete and work alongside international ecommerce giants like Amazon.

Globally, consumers are purchasing more online than ever, and by capitalising on the capabilities of their online platform providers, Australian business owners have the opportunity to look beyond the local market and make a name for themselves in the global marketplace.

Want more advice and how-tos from experts? Check out our Brains Trust.

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