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Re-platforming to drive international growth

Re-platforming is an essential component of scaling up a growing e-commerce business. As consumer behaviour and expectations continue to evolve, and new technologies emerge, re-platforming is vital for retailers that operate online and want to stay competitive, scale up and keep their customers happy. According to Forrester, almost one in five retail executives said re-platforming is a top priority for their business, and this will only increase in response to the rapidly growing customer demand for an even better, more seamless multichannel experience.  

Beyond overhauling the online customer experience, re-platforming offers an opportunity for retailers to harness new opportunities overseas and build their business. By 2020, the cross-border e-commerce market will account for some $1 trillion in sales globally, offering retailers a huge opportunity to drive international growth. However, converting international website traffic into cross-border sales is a complicated task. In order to increase conversion rates, online retailers must offer overseas shoppers the same localised and personalised experience as offered to domestic customers.  Many retailers assume that they will require a dedicated local market website, but this simply isn’t the case. 

Retailers can avoid the high costs and maintenance associated with developing and operating a standalone local website, yet retain the local market feel, by consolidating all markets into a single, fully localised global website. Re-platforming to a single global website, is a much more cost efficient solution than creating standalone sites, and has the added benefit of supporting brand identity and increasing conversion rates. 

There are key considerations that should be taken into account before launching a re-platforming project. 

Outline your business goals

As wider consumer and technology trends drive retailers toward re-platforming, there are also specific issues or goals tied to a re-platforming initiative, and these may vary across the business. Before setting out on a re-platforming project, the first and most important thing to do is to carefully consider and map out your business goals and needs over the next few years.  

If you lack confidence doing this alone, speaking to an independent consultant for advice will be hugely beneficial. Good counsel will help you to avoid making the costly mistake of picking a platform that is not a good fit for your business, and will help you to avoid picking a platform that is too complicated or difficult to manage, or one that is not robust enough and will likely need replacing in no time.

Get a better understanding of your target markets

Retailers looking to harness global growth opportunities when re-platforming must focus on a number of technical issues together with the need for market knowledge and marketing support. It is advisable to take time to better understand the markets you are targeting. 

Local knowhow around customer expectations of online retail is priceless and can save you from making pricey or embarrassing mistakes. If you don’t have a team on the ground in all markets, working with a partner who is able to provide this knowledge and local market expertise can be a great solution.

Think about re-platforming from your customer perspective

Retailers should avoid approaching a re-platforming project solely from the perspective of what can be improved technically, as it’s also important to think about the process from the perspective of your customers. Considering what works well for your customers, and what doesn’t, will help you to recognise key areas for improvement. Retailers must ensure they create an online experience that is visually appealing, easy-to-use, and consistent across multiple channels and devices.  

This is particularly important if you are looking to grow sales internationally. Cross-border shoppers will not and should not accept lower standards simply because they’re buying from a retailer in another country. It’s vital that all your customers receive the same, high quality experience, regardless of where they live.  

Beyond the look and feel, it is important to give thought to the sale and post-sale experience. Recent figures from SaleCycle suggest the average cart abandonment rate is at 74.3 per cent globally. Faced with the challenge of converting international website traffic into sales, retailers must work with platforms that can quickly adapt to the pace of change in consumer behaviour when it comes to online shopping preferences. 

Only accepting a limited amount of payment methods can be off-putting, especially if customers are unable to make their purchase after going through most of the checkout process because their preferred payment method isn’t available. Local currency is an additional significant driver for cross-border shopping. 

According to Global-e’s data, when given an option, 98 per cent of customers worldwide prefer to pay with their own currency than merchant’s default one.   

Be reactive to customer demand

With consumer expectations continuously evolving, it’s important to think how you can go above and beyond what consumers expect today so that you’re able to comfortably deliver what they will expect in the years ahead. For instance, shoppers now expect to be offered a variety of different delivery methods, from express delivery through to more cost effective shipping, with transparent pricing. Providing only one or two delivery options and surprising shoppers by adding a delivery charge at the last minute is off-putting to customers.  

Another significant barrier for cross-border shopping are hidden costs, such as customs duties and import taxes. According to PayPal’s global report 39 per cent of online shoppers mentioned it as the reason for not purchasing from a website in another country. 

Providing customers duty and tax calculations, including the option to prepay them at the time of the purchase, will increase your shoppers’ satisfaction and dramatically reduce the number of orders returned and cancelled. 

Are you ready for re-platforming?

To make the most of cross-border e-commerce opportunities, retailers must ensure they offer local pricing in local currencies, local payment methods, a wider choice of delivery options, local returns, and full delivery costs and tax calculation included. 

These things will not come intrinsically when upgrading or implementing a new platform, nor are they easy to manage on a day-to-day basis. In addition, when it comes to cross-border sales, risk levels are naturally higher and retailers may inadvertently expose themselves to increased levels of payment fraud, foreign currency fluctuation, and more.  

However, retailers don’t necessarily need to wait until their next re-platforming project to take advantage of the growing cross-border e-commerce market. By working with a specialist partner, retailers can enhance their existing web platform, through a simple integration and regardless of their website underlying technology or structure, to better cater to cross-border shoppers and capitalise on overseas traffic in a few weeks’ time.

Image source: Shutterstock/Pretty Vectors
Nir Debbi, co-founder and CMO at Global-e