Arno Ham, Chief Product Officer at Sana Commerce, discusses the impact that e-commerce can have in supporting international growth.
It's been well publicised that the pound's post Brexit weakness over the past year has led to favourable export conditions for UK businesses. Many domestic manufacturers have been looking increasingly towards exporting as a way of boosting their economic performance.
For manufacturers like these the challenge is how do you sell in a region or territory where you are not present and have no feet on the ground? The answer is that e-commerce can overcome many of the physical export barriers and make it easy to open up new markets.
While e-commerce is already a primary market channel for many manufacturers, how it can facilitate export markets may well be unexplored. From reducing the complexities of adapting to different currencies, managing local and global payments as well as languages, e-commerce solutions support many individual markets.
However, it's not until you start exporting and dealing with other countries that the complexities of market variations come to light. The data which your business relies on to serve customers can often vary in terms of pricing, stock locations and different assortments to display. Operating an integrated e-commerce system is essential in ensuring data is accurately reflected for each country.
Apart from the international variations of currencies, languages, payment and data, businesses need to be aware of a number of internal factors that they must identify and examine before they can start exporting.
The first thing to consider is how much pricing will differ from country to country. This doesn't just depend on currency fluctuations but also the different prices for different markets based on competition and demand. And then there's the way a business sells to multiple countries. Usually when businesses start exporting they often have to change or adapt their sales strategy to fit, which is something we see a lot of with our customers. For example a business may sell direct but within different countries it may choose to sell through a distributor or create a franchise model. This demonstrates that businesses need to be aware of how varying sales models and revenue streams will differ across a variety of markets.
Businesses also need to consider local marketing nuances. SEO has now become very localised, so they must think about mapping their digital marketing with their target geographical locations. Ensuring a business's products are high on a local search engine is vital, even within B2B.
After a business has looked internally, they must consider the wider political, economic and regulatory conditions within each country that they're choosing to operate in. For example there may be restrictions in place that won't allow certain brands or products to be sold. However the biggest obstacle will come from regulations, mostly in more complex sales and fulfilment scenarios. A business who is operating out of the UK and fulfils orders from a warehouse in Germany and ships produce into France, needs to be aware of potential tax issues as well as a number of regulations that cover trading within a business's chosen locations.
All the logic and data that businesses need to be able to manage exporting is held within a business's ERP system, therefore ensuring that a business uses an e-commerce solution that can integrate with its ERP is essential. But while an e-commerce solution can provide businesses with the support it needs to begin exporting, it's important to understand that it's not simply a case of building a webshop and expecting it to work. Integration and customisation are vital to ensuring e-commerce has the ability to manage sales within a business's target locations.