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The 3 C’s of cross-border ecommerce success

Aaron Bezzant

May 16, 2018

The 3 C’s of cross-border ecommerce success

Cross-border ecommerce presents a massive opportunity

Cross-border ecommerce continues to grow at a rapid pace and presents a massive opportunity for retailers looking to grow their sales.

In 2016, worldwide ecommerce sales totaled $1.86 trillion, and that figure is expected to boom to $4.48 trillion by 2021*. Billions of global consumers are turning to the convenience of ecommerce, and that trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down as internet connectivity around the globe continues to grow. In fact, foreign ecommerce growth was rapidly outpacing ecommerce growth seen in the U.S. In 2015, the U.S. market accounted for 22.2% of the global ecommerce market, and that number is expected to shrink to 16.9% by 2020. With the U.S. piece of the ecommerce pie shrinking, it’s becoming imperative that online retailers look at cross-border to stay relevant.

Global ecommerce sales are growing quickly, and the U.S. share of cross-border is declining.

U.S. share of cross-border ecommerce

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Ecommerce sales worldwide

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"It is imperative that U.S. online retailers look at cross-border in order to stay relevant."

Leading online purchase drivers worldwide

Amazon found that shipping options are the leading driver for international conversion

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The potential and importance of going global cannot be overstated in the current online world, but with opportunity often comes challenges. In the global marketplace, consumers have more choices than ever before, which makes creating a positive shopping experience a key differentiator for retailers. Sounds simple, right? Except there are hundreds of international markets and each has its own language, currency, and cultural nuances that need to be navigated in order to give each consumer the best-in-class experience they are looking for. On top of this, managing international orders for the retailer can often feel overwhelming. We get it - cross-border ecommerce can be complicated, but don’t let that deter you from embracing the opportunity.

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Choice, Clarity, and Confidence 

At Zonos, our mission is to decode the complexities of international ecommerce without requiring you to give up control of your business. With all the complexities out there, we’ve found to create a successful cross-border experience for you and your customers, simply stick to the 3 C’s of cross-border success:

  • Choice
  • Clarity
  • Confidence


Choice for consumers

A major part of optimizing the experience for your customers is giving them the choice to create their desired experience. Not offering enough shipping and payment options can easily be a deal breaker on international orders. Unfortunately, many retailers take a one-size fits all approach to these areas, which ends up restricting their international sales potential.

Top barriers to shopping cross-border, among all online shoppers surveyed (% selecting each statement)

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Shipping options

Offering multiple shipping options at checkout can be one of the most powerful tools for customer satisfaction and conversion. Many times, retailers work so hard to get the buyer to the checkout page only to lose them, because the shipping options were extremely limited, often too expensive, and not the needed service level. Your customers are now left with a “take it or leave it” choice. Even if they do purchase, they may not be very happy about what was offered and will be less likely to return. Why not give your customers what they are looking for? For best results, customize the options given to customers at checkout. It’s important to offer multiple price points and service levels that allow the buyer to choose the best fit for them. Their choice now changes from “take it or leave it” to a more pleasant choice of “which one”. This will not only increase conversion, but your customers will be much more likely to return to your site in the future.

Payment options

The preferred form of payment can vary greatly from country to country, so allow the buyer to choose the payment method that is familiar and comfortable to them. Forcing a customer to choose from a limited list of payment options can be a deal breaker, that’s why it is important to give them a choice.

Choice for retailers

You’ve worked hard to build your business, and you deserve to have the ability to choose the solutions that work best for you and your international customers. The international market is growing and evolving rapidly, and it’s imperative that you have the flexibility to adapt to the changing landscape.

Shipping solutions

You not only need the buyer to have multiple shipping options at checkout, but you need them to be the best value possible. Shipping costs can make up a significant portion of the overall international transaction. The better value your shipping options are, the better your conversion will be. It is important for you to maintain the flexibility to choose the shipping solutions that create the best choice and value for your customers. This allows you to custom-tailor offerings to your customers and quickly change things on the fly if you find a better solution. This flexibility puts you in control and gives you the leverage to create the best value for your customers, which will create more sales for you.

Payment solutions

When evaluating payment solutions, be sure you have the ability to capture payments in the shopper’s local currency while still paying out to you in USD. This creates a positive buying experience for you and your customer.

Consumers want choice in how they pay

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Clarity for consumers

How willing would you be to give your payment information to a retailer thousands of miles away if you didn’t fully understand what was going to happen with your order? Customer confusion can quickly lead to lost sales so make sure your international shoppers can easily navigate your site.

Localized address

Trying to enter an international address into a U.S. address field can be confusing and difficult. It’s important that your address fields are localized to make it easy for the customer to understand how to enter their information. This also increases the accuracy of addresses, which makes for a better package delivery experience.

Language translation

International shoppers can use translation tools to navigate your site, but once they get to your secured checkout, those tools don’t typically work. This leaves them needing to fill out address and payment information in a language that’s foreign to them. Make sure you have a translated checkout to give a boost to orders by providing the customers the clarity they need to complete their purchase.

75% of shoppers prefer to buy products in their native language. Source: Shopify

Landed cost

Customers want and expect a better shopping experience without the surprise of additional costs when your product arrives at their doorstep. Showing a total landed cost removes the unknown for your international customers, giving them a superior customer experience.

Delivery expectations

Get rid of those broad and vague delivery windows that we so often see with international orders. Since you are in control of your shipping solutions, you can give a more definitive delivery expectation for your customers. If a customer clearly understands when they should receive their order, they will more likely make the purchase.

Clarity for retailers

If you don’t know it’s broken, then how will you know to fix it? Information is king when it comes to understanding your international customers and how you can increase sales and customer satisfaction.

Business intelligence

It’s important for you to have an information portal into your international business. With reports, dashboards, and analytics, you’ll be able to see what’s working and what isn’t. This information is powerful in guiding your business decisions.

Variant (A/B) testing

Got an idea to improve conversion, but you’re not sure if it will work? Don’t hesitate to do some A/B testing to optimize your conversion and have a clear understanding of what your customers want.

Localized re-targeting

Have you had an item that your customer added to their cart, but was never purchased? Don’t let them forget about it! Sending an email with a link back to your checkout can be a powerful tool in recapturing lost business and boosting your international sales. Make sure your emails are clearly understood by having them translated into the native language of your shopper. A good abandoned cart strategy can boost international sales by up to 10%.

$4 trillion (yes, trillion) of revenue is lost each year through cart abandonment, but 65% of carts can be recaptured within 24 hours; emails sent within 60 minutes of abandonment have a 40% open rate.

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Consumer confidence

The items discussed in the previous two C’s of Choice and Clarity tie directly into the third C of Confidence. Take a moment to think about your favorite websites that you like to buy from. What are the reasons you buy from them? How willing would you be to give your money to a retailer if you weren’t confident that they could take care of you? Make sure your international customers know that you “get it”. Here are just a couple more ways you can build your customer’s confidence in you:

Guided shopping

It’s important to build confidence when shoppers first hit your site and throughout their shopping experience. With the right technology, you can recognize where your customer is shopping from and identify their native language. This information can be used to customize the buying experience by providing country profile information, assisting with restricted item information, calculating duty and tax estimates, and translating any other pertinent information throughout the shopping experience. This information creates a transparent experience for the international shopper and eliminates surprises at checkout. Add extra power to the experience by communicating this information in your customer’s language and currency. Guided shopping is a great way to let your customers know you are a global ecommerce expert instead of a domestic company that’s going to stumble its way through an international order.

33% of shoppers are likely to abandon their cart if it’s in USD only. Source: Shopify

Localized currency

According to PayPal’s Cross-Border Consumer Research, when international customers were asked, “Which, if any, of the following would make you more likely to buy from a website in another country?” In their answers, currency was a major factor. Localizing the currency for your customers throughout the shopping experience and during checkout can be a powerful tool in boosting conversion and customer satisfaction.

Retailer confidence

When many ecommerce companies think about expanding globally, they worry about things like fraud, compliance, and all the paperwork that comes along with processing international orders. Many times, these worries have a paralyzing effect to the point where the retailer does not go global at all or puts so many safeguards in place, that they make it near impossible for legitimate international customers to purchase from them. Here are a few of the tools you can incorporate to sell confidently to your international customers:

The 10 largest ecommerce markets (by billion USD)

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Fraud screening

The fear of fraud can often act as an artificial barrier that keeps many retailers from going global, which can severely limit their earning potential. With the right fraud partner, you can screen out the fraudsters while still allowing legitimate customers to have a positive purchase experience.


Managing denied parties and restricted items can feel overwhelming, but with the right partner and technology, you can turn that mountain back into a molehill. This allows you to sell confidently, knowing that you are compliant in a global marketplace.

Order fulfillment

While fulfilling an international order requires a little more paperwork than a domestic order, there’s no reason this should hold you back from selling cross-border. There are many software options through carriers and third parties that allow you to fulfill your international orders as easily as you fulfill your domestic orders.


With a good global strategy, there’s a very good chance your international sales will grow rapidly. It’s important that your partners are flexible and scalable enough to keep up with your growing business.

Overseas purchases were in the majority on all but one continent

57% of online shoppers made an online purchase in the past six months from an overseas retailer

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The ecommerce landscape continues to change and evolve toward a more global marketplace. Optimizing your global strategy is key to growing your business, but it is also an increasingly vital part of survival for many ecommerce companies. Tackling all your international objectives can often feel intimidating and overwhelming, but don’t let that deter you from seizing the enormous opportunity that’s out there. With the right partner, you can create the choice, clarity, and confidence needed to maximize conversion, retain customers, and improve your bottom line in a borderless world. Let Zonos decode the cross-border experience for you and your customers.

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