On 15 June, we discussed developments in e-commerce, logistics and supply chain with Fortnum & Mason’s Logistics Manager Dave Woodroof and Asos’ Director of Delivery Solutions and Inbound Supply Chain Matt Rogers in a forum with other e-commerce businesses looking to grow their international online sales.
In last week’s article, we shared their insights on what to expect for Black Friday 2015, tips for managing currency fluctuations and how to develop a strong returns strategy. Here are the panel’s tips on choosing target markets and innovating your e-commerce proposition to better meet – and ideally anticipate – customers’ needs.
Choose your target markets carefully and watch trends – close to home and further away
The benefits of taking your e-commerce global are clear. In Dave Woodroof’s words, “The UK is great – but for more growth, look internationally.” But which are the best markets?
Though it always depends on your business model, product and existing connections, the panel did give insightful general advice on choosing target markets.
Phil Couchman commented that despite their immense growth potential, it can be challenging to enter emerging economies such as the BRICs through e-commerce channels. Fortunately, advanced economies France and Germany have a strong consumer e-commerce mindset – which makes them ideal target markets. In Asia, Japan and South Korea are high growth e-commerce markets, and can be easier to access than China (though if you plan carefully, China can offer significant opportunities for e-commerce growth). South Korea generally has low return rates, which makes it an especially appealing market.
Especially when exporting to the US, consider the regulations carefully when deciding which of your products to make available to this market – for example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict rules for importing perishables. The good news for businesses exporting to the US is that the US Customs low value threshold (de minimis) is set to be increased from US$ 200 to US$ 800.
Also don’t forget about using local URLs for your online website and store – though French and German customers don’t seem too concerned if they’re shopping on a website ending in .com, .co.uk, .de or .fr, Russia is one market where having a local (.ru) domain has had a highly positive impact for several businesses’ e-commerce sales.
Think about how you can innovate your e-commerce proposition to better meet customers’ needs
Throughout the event, the panelists and participants emphasised that the best way to successfully grow your e-commerce business is to focus on your target customers’ needs. Your delivery provider can be a key partner in helping you broaden your proposition to reflect what your customers are looking for.
For example, many customers like to physically be present when receiving their deliveries, so after hours delivery is increasingly in demand. Choose a courier who can provide a wide service offering, such as increasingly popular weekend deliveries, and decide whether you want to charge additional fees for Saturday and Sunday deliveries on a market-by-market basis. For presents, give customers the option to inform the recipient that they will be receiving a delivery – some may want to leave it as a surprise.
Delivery preferences can vary from country to country. In Germany, lockers accessible by the courier and customer are very popular for deliveries, as customers can access them at their own convenience. Customers in the UK are known to be concerned about when their delivery will arrive, so SMS notifications are essential. There are many more ways to innovate: some Volvo models, for example, give customers the option to let couriers deposit deliveries in their cars.
Finally, don’t forget to reward loyal customers, for example by giving them early notice of upcoming sales and the option to browse the sales before they go public.