Cross-border e-commerce sounds easy. Just sell your goods and services to another country. The advantages are obvious: A larger market, more potential customers, and more reach. However, in practice, going international isn’t that easy. And first and foremost, it needs a well-rounded digital strategy.
How to reach new customers?
A digital strategy is important for many reasons. The key consideration of an international expansion plan is how to reach new customers. Are you going to launch physical stores or sell entirely online? And even if you launch a physical presence, you will still need to leverage digital channels to get people to visit your store.
So whether you’re selling t-shirts or are in the car exporting business: The starting question is how you will acquire new customers. What channels are you going to use? What kind of content do you need? What are your marketing messages? What budget can you assign to each channel?
Import and export regulations
Part of a digital strategy are legal considerations. Data protection and privacy laws differ significantly from country to country. It’s different if you launch e-commerce in Cameroon or the European Union with strict GDPR rules. If your business is in North America, trade agreements like USMCA might have pros and cons for Mexico or the US. So check that out as well.
Shipping, clearing, and forwarding
Then there is shipping, clearing and forwarding, and supply chain management. Technologies can make digital cargo transactions a lot easier. You can use digital trade platforms like Export Portal to facilitate the exchange of documents. Also, inform yourself on what documents you need for exporting or importing and where to get them. The good news is that most of that is available digitally nowadays.
Export risk management
Export risks need to be managed. You can use digital technologies for that, too. For example, a risk might be quality assurance if you’re shipping food products. You can use sensors to monitor cooling temperatures during shipping. Apps will allow you to track your shipments, reducing the risk that something might get lost.
Cross border payments
Managing payment flows is also part of a digital strategy. You don’t want to carry physical cash around, do you? Fortunately, there are many options. You can work with a bank specializing in foreign trade. But that’s often expensive and not always the best option for small businesses. If you’re a small business, it might be better to use a digital cross-border payments service like Wise to shift money around. You could also use blockchain-based stablecoins.
All of these factors need to be considered when you’re putting together a digital strategy. Thinking your entire business through, and identifying where digital technologies can make your internationalization efforts easier, should be the starting point of your cross-border commerce.
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