Sunday 22 January 2017

Can Technology & Logistics firms help to realize sellers’ cross-border ecommerce dream?
Internet has managed to create a world without borders and ecommerce has made way for a sea of opportunities for sellers. As a result, cross-border ecommerce is a growing phenomenon across the world with buyers and sellers both ready to explore the international market. Vendors who are comfortable with international selling and aren’t afraid to take risks are benefiting the most from global ecommerce.

Online Marketplace or your own store?

Technology and Logistics are the backbones of a global ecommerce business. But how far can they take you and the level of expertise required in each depends on the kind of seller you are.
There are many online marketplaces and niche ecommerce sites that enable vendors to reach buyers across the world. Then of course there’s the option to sell through your own store. A great product, smart use of technology, and the right logistics partner are enough to sell globally through your own e-store. But tying up with an online marketplace is important, especially at the initial stage, if you are an inexperienced seller.
Online seller Jayanti Gupta, founder of Parinita has an online selling experience in USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Singapore and few other countries with NRI population. She shares with Indian Online Seller,
“All 3 (good product, technology, logistics) are essential to start selling globally. The key differentiator here is that running your own store puts the onus on you to understand latest advances in technology and market dynamics, evaluate and implement them on your store. Tying up with a marketplace frees you of this responsibility, but also limits you to what the platform will allow.”
So the dependence on technological tools and logistics service providers is high if you sell on your own as the pressure to deliver on time without any glitch is high. And it is low if you sell through online marketplaces because they handle the product listing, shipping and returns part.

Finding a reliable logistics partner

Jayanti who uses Aramex’s logistics service affirms,
“Tie up with reliable logistics providers who serve the destination countries or partner with reputed local agencies and can work seamlessly with them. Be aware of the customs duties, taxes, VAT, etc. that may be applicable in each country you serve and notify customers upfront about these. Obtain reasonable estimates of delivery times and commit accordingly. For certain consumable goods there may be country-specific labelling requirements that you will need to adhere to.”
She adds,
“Handling returns and exchanges can be tricky for overseas shipments, so it is important to understand what support your logistics partners can provide as well as typical consumer behaviours in each region.”
According to Jayanti, while selecting a courier partner, look for:
  1. Reliability: Look up their reputation & track record on consumer forums and customer testimonials
  2. Scalability: Do they serve your regions of interest and have good networks in those countries? Will they be able to scale their operations as you grow?
  3. Rates: Understand their rates structures including all surcharges and variables costs
  4. Timelines: Assess their flexibility in pickup & delivery times, delivery periods and how they handle returns
Seller eComBites feels that when it comes to courier partners for global ecommerce, the options are very limited. He thinks that the Indian government should support the retail export industry and work towards reducing the shipping costs.
“For third party logistic services currently for retailing we have limited choices. Indiapost services to other countries have high postage costs. Even a 200 grams weighing parcel is being charged at Rs 290. We need more logistics services so that an increase in competition will lower the costs. Then again Indian government does not recognize retail export sales and this has been an ongoing issue for past 8 years for which there seems to be no immediate resolution. Through the incorporation of few products in the foreign trade policy the government has come to sellers’ aid but it’s still not completely implemented,” says eComBites.

The role of technology

Without technology, there won’t be ecommerce to begin with. Therefore, it goes without saying that it is the backbone of an online business. Sure, you can visit other countries or partner with organizations such as Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) to sell directly across the globe. But in this day and age of Internet, ecommerce makes much more sense than visiting countries one by one.
In the absence of physical presence as it is the case with cross-border ecommerce for most sellers, technology will come to your aid. Jayanti Gupta and Indian Online Sellers’ advice to vendors to increase e-store’s visibility and sales are:
  1. Localize your website according to the country you wish to sell in by integrating website translator, country specific domains, address/date format, cultural references and high quality images
  2. Have a product listing ready with the right pricing according the country and the costs involved
  3. Support international payment methods including e-wallets, bank transfers and card payments. For example, Germans prefer bank transfers, whereas in Italy majority prefer to pay via Visa or MasterCard.
  4. Pay extra attention to data safety, privacy and security to protect your customers’ information
  5. Support international currencies and calculate shipping costs based on the destination address
  6. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a simple and effective tool to increase web traffic and search engine ranking organically. Use geographically-targeted landing pages with unique and relevant content
  7. Try drop shipping to connect with local suppliers
  8. Consider different ways in which you can handle customer service across various time zones. For example: Use a virtual assistant to answer customers’ queries and concerns
  9. Update your return, exchange, and refund policies clearly to explain how the process works for each region
  10. Use services of a global ecommerce solution provider
  11. Reach out to your audience in other countries on social media by creating custom ads based on their specific interests and behaviours. Ads targeted to these audiences will improve click-through rates and conversions

Crack the global ecommerce code – what sits above technology and logistics?

The ability to face fear.
Yes, the ability to face your fear and take risks determines the success of your international online business. The best of technology and logistics could be waiting at your doorstep, but unless you take the first step, you won’t be able to fulfill your dream.
“Indian sellers are too wary of exploring foreign marketplaces. The norm in India is that they see if the other is successful on the platform then they themselves onboard it. On the other hand Chinese sellers take risks and have been exploring farfetched e-commerce marketplaces without fear. Technology does play an important role but until the Indian seller is not ready to explore they will be stuck with only limited choices. Sellers should stop fearing and start exploring and guide others,” emphasizes online seller eComBites.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt rightly said ‘Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.’ So this is the best time to increase your product’s market presence with the help of internet, ecommerce, technology, and logistics. Because your business is more important than your fear.

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