6 Tips for Taking Your E-Commerce Business Global

One of the benefits of running an e-commerce business is the ability to reach new customer bases, including those overseas, with relative ease.

Scott Heimes, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for e-commerce solutions provider Digital River, said that before making the decision to expand worldwide, e-commerce business owners must first assess their product or service, to ensure it's a good fit for global customers.

In addition, e-commerce business owners should ask themselves if there is sufficient demand in global markets for what they sell, and if their product or service is something that translates well to other cultures, Heimes said.

"If the answer is 'yes,' and you're ready to take on the challenge of expanding globally, your next step is to plan how you'll roll out e-commerce operations worldwide," Heimes told Business News Daily.

To help e-commerce business owners who are looking to expand internationally, Heimes offered six ways to achieve a successful launch, including the following:

Global + local = think "glocally." To successfully sell products or services abroad, it is important to adapt your global marketing strategy to target each local market. It's not as simple as applying an existing strategy to new regions. A strategy that works in North America won't necessarily resonate in Africa or Asia. Rethink the marketing strategy and shopping experience for each local market your business plans to enter, and adapt the approach to accommodate regional expectations. "Glocalization" is the only way to build the credibility and brand trust needed to succeed on a global scale.

Create a detailed, repeatable regional rollout plan. Regional launches should be carried out under a replicable approach that can be adapted to each market. Develop and test a comprehensive plan that can be used to create a local sales presence, making it broad enough to apply (with local caveats based on region) to each region targeted for expansion. The plan should lay out a way to form the local partnerships that will be needed and provide guidance to local teams or partners who will work with you. It should also identify the market characteristics and customer preferences that will be included in the "glocalization" plan.

Make sure the e-commerce site accommodates local languages and customs. The first impression potential customers form of e-commerce companies likely comes from the copy on the company's website. Straight translation isn't enough. Language is subtle and complex, and context is everything. To adapt the content to a new market, expert help will be needed. It should be a local team capable of translating the message using excellent grammar and language that resonates with shoppers in that market.

Develop a pricing and tax-compliance strategy. No matter where you operate, local tax-collection regulations must be followed, so it's critical to have an accounting infrastructure in place. This reduces liability exposure in the event of an audit. Taxes on e-commerce operations can be complex, involving local nexus issues and export regulations. In addition to the tax issue, the pricing needs to reflect local market realities. The cost of each item will also need to be displayed in the local currency. Additionally, make sure prices are in line with local averages and expectations.

Design a scalable e-commerce infrastructure. A global-expansion strategy generally involves a step-by-step e-commerce rollout, which will be much easier to accomplish at every stage if you've kept expansion in mind when defining back-end processes. Find a cloud-based infrastructure and secure off-site technology resources that are designed to make expansion quick and easy. Ensure that the infrastructure offers features like flexible automation so that you can expand to new markets quickly, without reinventing the company each time.

Establish an operations plan to deliver robust logistics and support capabilities. While preparing to launch an e-commerce site and e-marketing operations in global markets, it is important to carefully build a network to handle logistics on the local level. Include detailed supply-chain and transportation plans based on information from local teams who can walk you through every stage, from order receipt to delivery. Make sure to provide 24/7 support via customer-service representatives who have local language skills in order to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction, which is critical for building a brand.

Originally published on Business News Daily.