How to Launch an International E-Commerce Campaign

Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever for merchants to reach international customers. The international e-commerce market was already worth $233 billion in 2014. Alibaba anticipates the value reaching $994 billion by 2020.

As of now, the most active channels for cross-border sales and purchases are the US, the UK, Germany, and China. The following relevant statistics further explain both consumer and merchant trends in this market:

  • Among UK-based online merchants, 71% deliver to other countries. In terms of both imports and exports, the US is the UK’s largest trading partner.
  • In Germany, the most popular destination for online shoppers making cross-border purchases is the UK (43%), followed by the US (33%) and China (24%). Online German merchants targeting cross-border customers primarily sell to France, Austria, Italy, Spain, and the Scandinavian nations.
  • Chinese online shoppers spent less than $2 billion on cross-border online purchases in 2010. As early as 2014, they had spent $20 billion. China’s middle class is growing rapidly, contributing to the trend.

Although it’s clear that the international online shopping market offers merchants a lucrative opportunity, many have remained hesitant to reach out to cross-border customers. Selling goods and services to international customers can be challenging. Differences in taxes, tariffs, and other regulating factors represent a major barrier to entry.

That said, according to a recent study from Payvision, there’s an even stronger deterrent keeping merchants from joining the cross-border e-commerce market: language and localization. 31% of businesses surveyed reported that these factors play a major role in discouraging them from targeting international customers.

If merchants are to effectively reach cross-border customers, they must translate their marketing content accurately. Accuracy is not referring to just literally; it also includes applying local language nuances to make it a fluid localization effort.

The language barrier is only one component of the problem. The other is is culture. Customers from other nations often have dramatically different values from those of customers in a merchant’s home country. No matter how accurate a translation is, the design, layout, and iconography of the content must still resonate with a customer’s values for a product or service to appeal to them.

Cross-border e-commerce market trends clearly indicate that merchants who do attempt to reach international customers stand to earn substantial revenue increases. Those who hire professional translation specialists with experience in localization tend to be the most successful. By addressing subtle cultural nuances and accurately translating their content, it’s far easier to attract cross-border customers.

Sirena Rubinoff is the Content Manager at Morningside Translations. She earned her B.A. and Master’s Degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern. After completing her graduate degree, Sirena won an international fellowship as a Rotary Cultural Ambassador to Jerusalem. Sirena covers topics related to software and website translation, global business solutions, and the translation industry as a whole.

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