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EDITORIAL International expansion offers big rewards – but watch out for the challenges

International growth: be aware of the financial rules (Image: AdobeStock)

As Corona Virus grips the world, expansion is probably the last thing on many minds, but the predicted global pandemic is likely to be a boon for ecommerce – and one that will see opportunities for growth for businesses looking at overseas markets.

As people worldwide are forced to isolate themselves, at least for a month or so, until glorious summer sunshine acts as the Northern hemisphere’s natural hand sanitizer, there is going to be a growing spike in online shopping – if not for masks and man-made hand sanitizer, but also everything from food to games and more.

And this is a huge global opportunity for retailers. Already many of the UK’s SME retailers are looking overseas for growth. A YouGov study for the Royal Mail out this week finds that in 2020, 62% of them are aiming to increase their international sales revenues. Currently, almost a fifth (18%) of UK SME retailers import goods; 16% export goods and 49% do both.

But expanding overseas, while offering rich rewards, has its challenges. In one of two case studies this week, fitness-for-all company Swedish Fit, which has seen amazing international growth in the past few years, explains how its growth was almost derailed by the issues of having to handle cross border payments in a variety of currencies.

Thanks to working with Ingenico, the business has managed to get past this and is now on target to expand from Sweden, France, The UK, Switzerland and Belgium to Germany too this year. It is also looking at how to manage payments to its new cross-border, transactional app.

It makes for interesting reading, as payments often slip the net when looking at how to actually do the ‘on-the-ground’ expansion into new territories.

Similarly, in our other case study, specialist apparel maker Blauer – provider of police and other civic uniforms – faced a wider issue. It was looking to expand outside of its Italian and Czech markets, serviced by stores, and into the wider world. Of course, this meant the web. But how to pull together design, management, CRM and payments when running a multi-geography business was a massive challenge.

Working with ecommerce platformer Kooomo, it pulled it off and saw growth of some 205% following its launch.

What this shows us is that there are massive opportunities overseas – with out without Covid-19 – but making the most of them can be complex. For the smaller retailers, there is an agility that can be helpful, but they more than anyone needs to work with experienced partners to make it happen.

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