Strategies for International Ecommerce Success

Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Reviewed by
Strategies for International Ecommerce Success

Expanding internationally offers a unique opportunity to connect with new customers, diversify your market presence, and significantly boost your sales. But navigating this path requires careful planning and strategic execution.

In this article, we'll explore the essential steps and strategies for successfully launching and growing your ecommerce brand in the global marketplace. From understanding cultural nuances to leveraging the latest technology, we'll provide you with the insights you need to make your global expansion a resounding success.

An Overview of International Ecommerce

So what is international ecommerce exactly? This is a term used to describe the process of selling products and services on a global level, compared to doing that only within your country, which is called local ecommerce.

There are different types of international ecommerce companies. For example, they can cover a specific continent or group of countries – many European countries ship within the EU, thanks to the fact that most goods can be shipped without going through customs control or paying duties and taxes. Other companies ship worldwide so that customers from every corner of the world can purchase their products.

So, if you’re interested in selling goods online, it’s a good idea to think about expanding beyond your own borders.

Online retail is profitable as it is, and ecommerce is one of the fastest-growing industries. According to Statista, as of 2024, it accounts for 19.4% of retail sales, and it is projected to reach 22.6% by 2027.  

ecommerce share of retail sales 2021 - 2027 Statista

However, when you combine ecommerce with a global audience, this is when real success comes. Going back to our example with the European Union, it’s worth noting that the cross-border market share in 2020 accounted for almost 23.55% of total online sales in Europe, which is an increase of 14.4% compared to the year before.

No matter how we look at it, people love shopping online and don’t like being confined to doing it only within their country. Given how global and interconnected the internet makes our world, that’s no surprise.  

But is global retail the right choice for your business?

Why Run an International Ecommerce Site?

So you’ve been relatively successful in your retail venture so far, and now you’re considering going global. However, that’s a very big step and something that has to be thought over very carefully.

Ask yourself, do you want to:

  • Access a broader customer base: Going international means tapping into new markets filled with potential customers. Some products are very niche, and depending on where you’re from, you might not have enough buying customers to make a difference. Expanding beyond your borders is one way of fixing that issue.
  • Diversify your market and lower risks: Relying on a single market for all your sales is literally putting all your eggs in one basket. By branching out internationally, you spread those eggs across several baskets (markets), mitigating the risk if one market experiences a downturn and stabilizing your revenue streams.
  • Capitalize on unique product demand in different regions: Different regions have distinct tastes and needs, which can lead to high demand for rare or unavailable products locally. For example, IKEA offers special deliveries for countries without one of its stores.
IKEA international shipping
  • Become part of the cross-border ecommerce growth: As you now know, cross-border ecommerce sales are becoming a larger slice of the total retail sales pie, signaling that consumers are increasingly looking beyond their borders to satisfy their shopping needs.
  • Increase your brand visibility and global recognition: International exposure improves your sales along with brand visibility and recognition. Being present in multiple markets can elevate your brand to a global status, attracting even more customers and opportunities for collaboration.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, keep on reading!

How to Prepare for International Ecommerce Expansion

Expanding your business internationally to serve customers around the world is an exciting step. Here are essential strategies to ensure you're fully prepared for this venture:

Streamlining Operations for Scalability and Efficiency

To serve a global customer base, your operations must run like a well-oiled machine. This means automating as many processes as possible, from order processing to customer service. Streamlining operations helps handle an increase in orders without a hitch, ensuring customers worldwide receive the same high-quality experience.

Consider using cloud-based inventory management software like Zoho to keep track of stock levels in real-time across different regions.

Understanding Demand Through Market Research

Before entering a new market, you must understand what potential customers want. This involves thorough international market research to identify product demand, preferences, and gaps you can fill. You should also look at local trends, competitors, globalization indexes, and consumer behavior to tailor your offerings accordingly.

For example, if you’re selling clothing, styles that are popular in one country might not be in another. Use surveys, social media listening, and local market analysis to gather insights.

Adapting Pricing Strategies

Your global pricing strategy needs careful consideration; what works in one country might not work in another due to differences in buying power and customer expectations. Adjust your pricing strategies to reflect local economic conditions and competitor pricing.

In some regions, customers might be more price-sensitive, requiring you to offer competitive pricing or payment plans. Currency conversion and international shipping costs also play a crucial role in pricing strategies.

Defining Clear Budgets

Going international with your ecommerce business involves various expenses, from marketing to shipping logistics. Setting clear budgets for each aspect of your expansion is crucial. Allocate funds for market research, launching marketing campaigns in new languages and regions, and enhancing your logistics network. Don't forget to include a buffer for unexpected costs that might arise when entering a new market.

Navigating Legal and Compliance Issues

Each country has its own set of laws, taxes, and regulations related to ecommerce. Understanding these legal requirements is essential to avoid costly mistakes. This includes customs duties, import taxes, data protection laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, and consumer rights. Consulting with legal experts in target markets can save you from legal headaches later.

Leveraging Technology for Global Growth

A strong online platform is the backbone of any successful ecommerce business. When expanding internationally, ensure your ecommerce platform can handle multiple languages, currencies, and payment methods. It should also offer a seamless, localized shopping experience for customers from different countries.

Additionally, utilize analytical tools to track performance across markets, helping you make data-driven decisions to optimize your international strategy.

Key Strategies for Launching Your Ecommerce Brand Internationally

1. Adapt to Local Markets: Understanding Cultural Nuances

Successfully launching your ecommerce brand internationally requires a deep understanding of cultural nuances. This means going beyond basic language translation to grasp the local customs, values, and buying behaviors that influence shopping decisions.

These include:

Language and Communication Styles

  • Idiomatic Expressions: Phrases and slang that carry a specific meaning within a culture may not translate directly or may be misunderstood by those outside the culture. For example, a marketing slogan meant to be motivational in one language could inadvertently convey a negative message in another.
  • Communication Styles: Some cultures prefer direct communication, where messages are clear and to the point, while others may use indirect communication, valuing politeness and context over blunt delivery. For instance, in many Asian cultures, maintaining harmony and face is crucial, so communication may be more nuanced and less direct than in Western cultures.

Social Customs and Etiquette

  • Greetings and Interactions: The way people greet each other and conduct interpersonal interactions can vary widely. In some cultures, a firm handshake is a sign of trust and respect, while in others, bowing or a different form of greeting is preferred.
  • Gift-giving: In Japan, gift-giving is an intricate part of business and social interactions, with specific rules around wrapping, presentation, and type of gift. Conversely, in other cultures, the emphasis might be more on the gesture rather than the protocol.

Symbols and Imagery

  • Animals: An animal that is considered a symbol of luck or prosperity in one culture might have negative connotations in another. For example, owls symbolize wisdom in many Western cultures but are often associated with bad luck in some Eastern cultures.
  • Numbers: The number 8 is associated with luck and prosperity in Chinese culture, making it highly sought after in business dealings, phone numbers, and addresses. On the other hand, the number 4 is avoided because it sounds like the word for "death" in Chinese.
  • Colors: Color symbolism can vary greatly between cultures, so tailoring your approach to respect these cultural differences can significantly enhance your brand's appeal and customer satisfaction in new markets.

Holidays and Celebrations

Recognizing and respecting local holidays and celebrations can show your commitment to a market. For instance, offering special promotions or themed products for local festivals like Diwali in India, Lunar New Year in several Asian countries, or Carnival in Brazil can endear your brand to local consumers.

Consumer Habits and Preferences

  • Shopping Behavior: The preferred shopping days and times can vary, influenced by local customs, religious practices, and work schedules. For example, in many Middle Eastern countries, the weekend falls on Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday.
  • Payment Preferences: While credit cards are widely used in many Western countries, other regions may prefer different payment methods, such as bank transfers, mobile payments, or cash on delivery.

Take France and the Netherlands – these countries aren’t structured around the same major payment methods. In the Netherlands, a national system called iDeal is one of the most popular payment methods, whereas France’s online economy relies almost exclusively on credit/debit card payments.

In countries outside of the EU, payment methods vary even more: in China, for example, WeChat Pay and AliPay have overtaken classic credit cards in terms of market share for payment methods.

2. Localize your Ecommerce Platform for Global Consumers

Creating a welcoming online environment for shoppers from various cultures involves more than just translating your content into another language. Your ecommerce platform should be localized to reflect local preferences in terms of currency, payment methods, and product units (like sizes or weights).

This also includes adjusting your user interface to match local navigation patterns and expectations. Tools like Weglot can automate much of the translation process, ensuring your site communicates effectively with a global audience while maintaining the nuances of each language.

3. Build a Solid Logistical Framework for Global Shipping

A reliable logistical framework is essential for meeting the expectations of international customers. This framework should not only ensure timely deliveries but also manage the complexities of international shipping, including customs clearances and local delivery networks.

Here is what you need to do:

  • Understand international shipping regulations: Familiarize yourself with the shipping regulations of countries you plan to ship to. This includes customs duties, import taxes, and restricted items. Tools like the World Customs Organization website provide valuable resources for understanding these regulations.
  • Choose reliable shipping partners: Select shipping partners known for their international logistics capabilities. Companies like DHL, FedEx, and UPS offer comprehensive international shipping services that can navigate the complexities of cross-border logistics. Compare their services, delivery times, and prices to find the best fit for your needs.
  • Calculate landing costs: Accurately calculating landing costs is crucial to prevent surprise fees for your customers. Use online calculators provided by shipping companies or third-party tools like Easyship or Shipmonk to estimate these costs. Include these calculations in your product pricing or checkout process to maintain transparency with your customers.
  • Offer multiple shipping options: Customers appreciate choices. Offer various shipping options, balancing speed and cost. For example, provide an express shipping option for customers willing to pay more for faster delivery and a standard option for those who prioritize savings over speed.
  • Utilize technology for efficiency: Implement logistics software that integrates with your ecommerce platform. Tools like ShipStation or Shippo can automate the creation of shipping labels, track shipments in real time, and update customers on their order status, making the shipping process more efficient and transparent.
  • Communicate clearly with your customers: Clear communication is key to customer satisfaction. On your website, include detailed information on shipping policies, costs, estimated delivery times, and return procedures. When an order is shipped, send the customer a tracking link and regular updates until the package is delivered.
  • Prepare for customs clearance: To smooth the customs clearance process, ensure all international shipments include the necessary documentation, such as commercial invoices and customs declaration forms. Your shipping partner can guide you on the specific documents required for each destination.
  • Evaluate and adjust your strategy regularly: Finally, regularly review your shipping strategy to identify areas for improvement. Customer feedback, shipping analytics, and changes in shipping regulations can provide insights into how to optimize your logistics framework for better efficiency and customer satisfaction.

4. Leverage Technology for Effective Cross-Border Expansion

Technology plays a crucial role in smoothing out the complexities of international expansion. For seamless cross-border operations, use ecommerce platforms that support multi-language content, currency conversion, and international payment processing.

A translation solution like Weglot can dramatically simplify the process of making your site accessible to non-English speakers, ensuring your brand message is accurately conveyed in every market you enter, boosting your global presence.

Even if the country has a large number of English speakers, it’s always a good idea to tailor the content to every spoken language in the specific country. According to research, 75% of consumers are more likely to buy a product if it has a description in their native language, so if you’re smart, you’ll make sure to accommodate that.

For example, if you’re expanding from the US to Canada, make sure to create a bilingual website with English and French options. And don’t restrict yourself to only the official languages. Research which are the most spoken ones and expand your website to cover those as well. In Canada, there are more than 70 Aboriginal languages, and Mandarin is the third most spoken mother tongue!

Map of spoken languages in Canada besides French and English

Weglot is an automatic translation tool that supports over 110 languages and can easily work with almost any Content Management System (CMS), including WordPress, Wix, Shopify, Squarespace, Webflow, and many other integrations.

Weglot translation software homepage

With Weglot, you can create and launch a multilingual ecommerce website in under 10 minutes with no coding or developer skills required. Once your online store is live, the software will automatically detect any new content and translate it immediately. This includes checkout and product pages, email notifications, and any other content, even content from third-party apps and plugins.

You can get started for free with one language and then upgrade as your needs develop!

5. Optimize Your Product for International Appeal

To resonate with international customers, it's essential to tailor your product line to their preferences and needs. This could mean offering different product variations or entirely unique items that cater to local tastes and demands.

If you’ve done your market research right, you should have no problems tailoring your products and services to fit local tastes. In any case, it’s always a good idea to test with a selected group that represents your target audience before you officially launch anything.

Besides the product, you have to pay attention to product page elements.

For example, offering a currency switcher for your international site visitors will help them understand the price of your products in their own currency.

Weglot currency switcher on the pricing page

When you’re selling internationally, it’s a must to offer the same level of service for both your local audience and your new markets.

Whether you’re using WooCommerce, Shopify, or another ecommerce platform, currency converters are quick and simple to install on your site.

6. Creating Culturally Resonant Marketing Campaigns

Effective marketing campaigns speak to the hearts of their audience, resonating with their cultural values and experiences. When crafting marketing materials for different regions, it's crucial to create content that reflects local cultures, traditions, and holidays.

Engage local influencers and brand ambassadors to give your campaigns an authentic voice that can effectively communicate your brand's value proposition.

For example, Airbnb often partners up with local and macro influencers to showcase unique features of their countries or a specific region, like this article about interesting local meals.  

A culturally nuanced marketing strategy can significantly increase your brand's relevance and connection with international customers, driving engagement and sales.

Case Studies: Successful Businesses in the international Ecommerce Space

Exploring the ecommerce space reveals numerous success stories of companies that have flourished by extending their reach internationally. These examples offer valuable insights into effective strategies and best practices for global expansion.

Let's look at three such companies and the approaches they employed to conquer international markets:

1. Amazon

Amazon Global homepage

Amazon's journey from an online bookstore to a global giant in ecommerce is a testament to strategic global expansion. Key strategies include:

  • Localized websites: Amazon created country-specific websites to cater to local tastes, languages, and shopping habits.
  • Vast selection and competitive pricing: They offer an extensive range of products at competitive prices, catering to a wide array of consumer needs and preferences.
  • Customer-centric approach: Amazon focuses on the customer experience, offering fast shipping, easy returns, and excellent customer service.

2. Alibaba

Alibaba homepage

Alibaba has become a powerhouse in the ecommerce market by connecting Chinese manufacturers with international buyers. Their expansion strategies include:

  • Platform diversity: Alibaba operates through multiple platforms, including Taobao for consumer-to-consumer transactions and Tmall for business-to-consumer relationships, to cater to different market needs.
  • Cross-border trade facilitation: They simplify the process for international buyers to purchase from Chinese suppliers, handling logistics and payment processes.
  • Global trade shows: Alibaba hosts online and offline trade shows to connect suppliers with buyers worldwide, showcasing the vast potential of ecommerce to bridge global trade gaps.


ASOS homepage

This UK-based fashion retailer has successfully captured the attention of young shoppers worldwide. Their global expansion strategies include:

  • International shipping: ASOS offers free international shipping, making their products accessible to a global audience without added costs.
  • Localized content and marketing: They tailor their website content, product range, and marketing campaigns to reflect local fashion trends and consumer preferences.
ASOS region change options
ASOS influencer lineup

If you’re curious and want to see more, check out our article on 5 impressive examples of localization!

Your Next Step to International Ecommerce Success

As you now know, expanding to an international online store demands a deep understanding of new markets, a commitment to adapting your approach, and the agility to overcome logistical hurdles. However, the rewards of reaching customers around the globe and creating a brand that resonates across cultures are immense.

By following the strategies and lessons from successful companies, you're well on your way to making your mark on the international stage. Remember, the key to success lies in understanding your global audience, offering them a great shopping experience, and continuously adapting to their evolving needs.

And if you need reliable translation software to create your multilingual ecommerce site, check out Weglot today and make your life much easier!

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