Many fashion retailers have received a very welcome boost during the COVID-19 crisis in the form of a rise in online orders from international markets. However, they need to prepare and adapt in order to continue capitalising on this opportunity before Brexit potentially undoes all the good work.
Research carried out by Coresight Research, in partnership with eShopWorld, suggests fashion brands and retailers that want to convert consumer demand into sales, build shopper loyalty and drive repeat sales need to provide a “domestic-equivalent” e-commerce experience for their cross–border shoppers.
One thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us about cross-border online shopping is the importance of adaptability and localisation. In a world where the direct to consumer channel has become the primary channel for shopping, customers have come to expect a frictionless shopping experience, regardless of where they live.
Consumers will be unforgiving to brands who fail to meet their online shopping expectations – already we have seen the early-adopters race ahead in terms of growth, due to their ability to meet customer demand with great experiences. Retailers who want to compete, need to follow in these footsteps.
With cross-border online shopping predicted to account for 17% of total ecommerce sales in 2023 and eShopWorld’s Market & Innovation Review in 2019 predicting total cross-border sales to rise to $994 billion in 2020 (with further growth likely given the accelerator impact of COVID), addressing this customer demand has become a business necessity.
And yet, in the same research, 31% of online retailers say that a lack of experience in multiple markets is holding them back. And Brexit is hardly likely to make them optimistic; for those who want to effectively operate in international markets through cross-border trade post-Brexit, a new regulatory environment is a certainty, with tariffs and taxes on exports looking more and more likely.
Retailers and brands need to ensure international customers are presented with locally optimised experiences, not least local pricing that includes all additional costs such as imports duties and taxes – an ever increasing possibility as we draw closer to the end of the transition phase of Brexit. This is time-intensive for brands who carry out the activity in-house as they need to build an understanding of the ever-changing complexities of global trade, local regulations and local import tariffs and taxes. A failure to do so, will drive away potential sales and lower customer satisfaction.
That potential to grow sales, reach and brand loyalty is immense. Selling internationally not only means greater and more diverse audiences, but also additional opportunities to optimise marketing efforts to capitalise on multiple shopping events during the year, match seasonal inventory to local seasons, and meet market conditions on the ground, in an ever-evolving global market. But capitalising on this great opportunity means delivering in-country ecommerce experiences that are difficult and complex to build, not to mention costly.
While brands could in theory enter over 200 markets at once, each region will have its own needs. Cross-border service providers allow retailers and brands to roll out to new markets faster than building operations in-house. For the retailers and brands who move quickly, they will capture the opportunities both pre- and post-Brexit. It is the brands who offer a seamless customer journey that will see customer retention, sales increase and a higher net promoter score – others risk being left behind.
Tommy Kelly is the founder of eShopWorld.