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How to get in on the cross-border e-commerce trend

As technology continues to grow in power and popularity, it's becoming increasingly easier for e-commerce vendors to break past international borders to build truly global businesses.
How to get in on the cross-border e-commerce trend

One recent study from PayPal demonstrates the extent to which cross-border online shopping is gaining traction. In South Africa alone, some 58% of adult internet users shopped online over the past year, spending a total of R37.1 billion, with 43% of surveyed indicating that they’d used international websites in order to buy products not available domestically.

Where to sell next

PayPal estimates that South Africa’s e-commerce spending will exceed R53 billion this year, but there are other territories where international e-commerce is likewise booming. Shoppers in markets such as Australia, Singapore and China view cross-border shopping as a part of their everyday lives, so those are the markets that merchants may want to consider entering first.

Opting for these markets effectively lowers barriers to entry, so unless data specific to your niche says to avoid these markets, expand here before moving to other territories. Look at your Google Analytics to see who is visiting your website from other countries, and make note of what those countries are. If you’re seeing traffic from the major markets above, that puts you one step ahead of the rest of the competition.

Tackling international e-commerce expansion doesn’t come without challenges, however. There’s the technical infrastructure to ensure everyone gets a stellar experience, regardless of where they are located. There are the logistics of international shipping, offering relevant payment methods, and providing localised, human-driven customer support.

As you enter new markets, you’ll get more comfortable with the process, until you’re comfortably serving every market available where your niche is in demand.

How your global audience shops

You can’t go into any new market with the strategy you used to build traction in your home country. You must talk to the shoppers you’re trying to target and find out what makes them tick. Learn what they expect from companies to build trust, customer service, shipping, language preferences, payment method preferences and so on.

The best way you can do this is by visiting the target area and getting an idea of what daily life is like for them. Immerse yourself in their world and culture. Visit with an open mind, and be ready to learn. If you’re unable to plan a visit for any reason, you can also reach out to local marketing firms to get information, and rely on surveys to help you gather your information.

You’ll want to get this information for each new market you plan to enter, since they’re all different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that works.

The quickest and easiest way to handle international sales is to look at the currency options on your e-commerce platform’s back-end. Better platforms can use a browser’s IP address to show your prices in site visitors’ own currencies. BigCommerce, for example, can automatically refresh exchange rates for you every day, so you never have to worry about it. You can also also create either a country- or region-specific shipping zone, and then assign carriers to each zone.

It’s always best to create dedicated region-specific websites to handle localisation. This takes a bit more time and effort, but often improves your marketing strategy since there are cultural differences, as well as differences in consumer behaviours from one region to the next. Update your copy and imagery to engage each regional audience, rather than using ideas that could get lost in translation abroad.

Slow and steady wins the race

While you want to stay ahead of your competition, you are far better served in the long run by entering new global markets incrementally. Once you branch outside of the markets where cross-border e-commerce is especially popular, the challenges will get tougher, as you’ll need to educate and build trust with a whole new audience.

Make sure you’ve got the cash flow you need before you diversify. Adjust your marketing strategy for each region, test, and adjust again, and you’ll be well on your way to success.

30 Jan 2018 11:30


About Boris Dzhingarov

Boris Dzhingarov graduated UNWE with a major in marketing. He is the CEO of ESBO ltd brand mentioning agency. He writes for several online sites such as,,, Boris is the founder of and