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OPINION DHL Express: International ecommerce offers a route to recovery


Abi Brodie, VP of sales for ecommerce at DHL Express, discusses how selling cross-border can offer resilience for ecommerce businesses.
There is no doubt that the last few months have been an extremely challenging time for many small businesses, but those with an ecommerce presence have found it to be a much-needed lifeline.

With restrictions on non-essential retail now lifted, and most stores now reopening, we can’t expect an overnight return to normal. China and other countries have seen an incremental emergence from lockdown, and we will no doubt be following a similar path. What’s more, consumer confidence is likely to be low so it’s important that businesses look at their plans for the coming weeks and months as a long-term route to recovery.

To maximise the benefit of an ecommerce platform, businesses will benefit from opening themselves up to as many markets as possible. While no one knows exactly how damaging the economic impact of the crisis will be, we should assume that consumer spending will be impacted, so accessing the widest possible audience will be beneficial. E-tailers that trade internationally achieve 10-15% higher revenue than those only open to UK customers. This difference is even more meaningful for businesses which have been heavily impacted by the sudden high-street shut down.

For smaller brands or manufacturers, starting to trade internationally via a marketplace is one good option. It helps reduce risks as the marketplace protects and promotes businesses utilising the platform by offering upfront payments, logistics support and advertising in the target countries.

Businesses that were able to spring into action to create an emergency ecommerce website, no matter how rudimentary, have done incredibly well to do so and hopefully that has helped maintain some revenue during the initial upheaval. Going forward once the site is established and stable, those businesses will benefit from refining it and looking at whether it is set up for international sales.

Some simple changes can help. For instance, a clearly visible banner on the home page will tell visitors from other countries right away that your goods are accessible to them. Premium express shipping offers international customers reassurance, while transparency about delivery charges make a huge difference when it comes to conversion. It’s also worth considering the benefit of including customs and duty charges at checkout. Above all here it’s the transparency and clarity that potential customers value, and that will lead to greater conversions.

It’s important for e-tailers to know which audiences might be buying from them. The U.S., France and Germany are the biggest trade lanes for UK businesses and many others like South Korea are growing in importance. According to our research 75% of internet users don’t make important purchasing decisions unless the product description is in a language they can speak and 98% of online shoppers prefer to pay in their local currency, showing the clear benefits of localising a website. While this may seem like a daunting additional step, it may be simpler than initially thought, as there are platforms available that do the localisation work automatically.

Selling internationally might seem like an intimidating step for a business that has been unceremoniously thrust into the world of ecommerce but it’s never been more important to maximise every opportunity.

While the world is still adjusting to the impact of the pandemic, and is likely to feel its effects for some time, small businesses need to take practical measures. By accessing new markets and a wider audience, businesses have a greater chance of getting through this crisis and potentially coming out of it in a stronger position.

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