Analysis

GUEST COMMENT Technology will secure retailers a large chunk of the cross-border opportunity

The global market for cross-border ecommerce, which sat at £153bn ($230bn) in 2014 is predicted to surge to £666bn ($1 trillion) by 2020. For UK retailers large and small, this is a huge business opportunity, especially with British brands such as Burberry, Hunter and ASOS gaining in popularity with shoppers abroad.

The internet provides retailers with the ability to offer goods and services to customers in foreign markets without the need for a physical presence, providing brands with an unprecedented ability to quickly grow their businesses internationally.

To meet this opportunity, a rising brand must harness the advantages of the internet to be well-positioned for cross-border commerce success. Globalisation and the widespread adoption of connected devices means that consumers are no longer confined to shopping within their home territory. Our research found that 70% of consumers globally have bought from foreign retailers within the past year.

However, the growth of cross-border ecommerce means that retailers are also facing an ever-growing pool of international competitors. With so many choices online from local and foreign retailers, how can brands ensure that they remain the preferred choice by consumers?

The Internet performance differentiator
Investing in seamless and reliable online customer experiences is the key to staying on top of the competition. Over the next couple of years retailers will find that the capabilities of their technology to scale and provide ecommerce to shoppers overseas will determine their success. For example, 88% of people say that they would possibly or definitely purchase from retailers located in other countries, if the experience was faster and easier.

These changes in consumer behaviour must also change the way companies relate to their customers. They can no longer solely be concerned about how they connect to their customers, but must instead understand, evaluate and optimise how their customers connect to them. The new business paradigm that reflects how businesses live on the Internet means business decisions around vendors and technologies become all the more critical in how organisations stand out from the competition and deliver complete customer satisfaction.

Any business wanting to provide an exceptional end user experience in the increasingly digital market must ensure a well-executed technology strategy is in place to support the company’s ability to monitor, control and optimise online infrastructure. In this way, they can guarantee that their online solutions will be consistently available, efficient, secure, reliable and fast, even across complex, distributed IT infrastructure deployments. Internet performance is key. It bolsters the entire digital supply chain ensuring that, regardless of demand, time or physical location, all transactions and updates work properly.

Internet performance is a critical focus for retailers looking to compete in the global economy and deliver a seamless customer experience. In managing Internet Performance, retailers must ensure that their cloud service providers and end users are aligned, in order to provide the same online experience regardless of geographic location. Proximity does not necessarily equal performance – just because a cloud provider has a data centre in a desired region doesn’t mean that performance needs are being met. By having visibility and insight into providers that best serve each individual market and understanding how networks connect within the Internet, retailers can ensure that they are selecting the best locations to run applications, bring content closer to customers, and connect with the best-performing internet or traffic routes so that globally they deliver an excellent experience. Additionally, this helps retailers to maintain a good reputation and brand loyalty amongst customers, while improving the bottom line too.

Speed, speed, speed
Brands only have a matter of seconds before a consumer will move on to a competitor’s site. According to our survey, three seconds is the longest a majority consumers (64%) will wait for a shopping website to load. Such a small window of opportunity means that retailers cannot afford to have a slow website or functionality. Retailers must monitor, control and optimise Internet Performance at scale to make the internet a competitive tool for their business, regardless of location. Because the internet is dynamic, retailers should be constantly monitoring performance to ensure that they’re keeping up.

It is inevitable that a site will be down for maintenance from time to time. However, retailers must have the ability to take any part of their infrastructure down and still remain online. This is a controlled event and therefore mitigations must be planned in advance. A business continuity plan is also critical because it protects revenue, brand reputation, and a consistent customer experience. Therefore, a contingency plan for both controlled and uncontrolled Internet events is essential for retailers. This starts at the DNS layer and ensures that sites survive outages and traffic spikes without any subsequent loss of performance or revenue.

Tapping the mobile opportunity
The mobile channel now plays a key role in the wider journey to purchase across the world. In markets such as China where mobile is particularly important, the rapid adoption of 4G has made it a truly mobile region. Here consumers shopping via mobile require the same experience on smartphones as a PC or laptop to meet consumer expectations.

Despite the awareness of mobile shopping and evolving consumer habits, many retailers are still struggling to deliver this consistent experience. Retailers’ visions for consumer mobile shopping are not matching customers’ experiences, and according to our research sixty percent of shoppers said they don’t make purchases on their phones or tablets because the experience isn’t good enough.

Retailers must remember that many shoppers’ online experience with a brand starts with a mobile website. Therefore, optimising internet performance for mobile devices (eg delivering the right content and user experience to the right form factor) will be critical for retailers looking to attract loyal customers with reliability and trust in their digital properties.

Bringing it all together
Retailers cannot afford to ignore the cross-border ecommerce opportunity. Retails that do not look to expand into new markets risk falling behind the competition and losing out on international revenue. Therefore, internet performance must be regarded across mobile and the web so that retailers stand out amongst the competition and succeed in new markets. Technology partners that can provide this seamless experiences and keep a brand’s site running smoothly will be critical in building and maintaining consumer trust, whether retailers are looking to crush the completion or make a play for new markets.

Paul Heywood is MD Europe at Dyn