Cross-border e-commerce: unlock global markets

January 18th, 2024 8 minute read
This is Laura Timberg.

Laura Timberg

Copywriter

January 18th, 2024 8 minute read

Many business owners dream of their products being used in every corner of the world and going viral, as the kids today call it.

Welcome to the world’s largest mall, where you can reach customers who would otherwise never find your business. Cross-border e-commerce opens the door to an incredible virtual shopping experience, where buyers can browse and purchase in the global marketplace. From fashion statements to high-tech gadgets to unique handmade jewelry — the options are as diverse as the cultures they represent.

Gone are the limitations of traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Cross-border e-commerce allows us to break free from geographical limitations and easily tap into new markets. It’s like having unlimited storefronts scattered across the globe, showcasing your products, and attracting potential buyers without the long queues or heavy shopping bags.

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What is cross-border e-commerce?

Laptop on a desk next to a tiny shopping cart with cash in it

Cross-border e-commerce refers to online trading activities where goods or services are bought and sold across national borders, with the seller and buyer being in separate countries.

In cross-border e-commerce, the entire transaction takes place online, including product browsing, payment, and selection of shipment. It enables businesses and consumers to overcome the limitations of traditional storefront retail by providing access to a broader range of products from around the world.

The growth of international business is driven by different factors, such as the following:

  • Rising popularity of online shopping
  • Technological advancements
  • Improved cross-border e-commerce logistics and shipping networks
  • Easing of trade regulations in many countries.

These elements allow consumers to explore and purchase products that may not be available or as affordable in their countries.

Cross-border e-commerce has transformed how businesses and consumers engage in global trade, opening up new opportunities and contributing to the worldwide economy.

Example

One cross-border e-commerce example is when a consumer in the United States purchases a product from an online retailer based in China.

Here’s how cross-border e-commerce logistics typically works:

  • Consumer’s online search — The buyer in the USA searches for a specific product and discovers an online store based in China that offers the desired item.
  • Product selection — They explore the store’s website, select the desired product, and add it to their shopping cart.
  • Payment — The consumer proceeds to the checkout process and makes the payment using one of the offered methods, such as credit cards, PayPal, or other online payment platforms.
  • International shipping — The retailer arranges for international shipping of the purchased product. They may collaborate with shipping carriers or logistics companies specializing in cross-border deliveries, often offering a choice between standard and express shipping.
  • Customs and duties — The product enters the United States through customs clearance. Customs officials assess any applicable duties, taxes, or import fees based on the product’s value and relevant regulations.
  • Domestic delivery — Once the product clears customs, it is handed over to a local delivery service in the United States. The delivery service ensures the product reaches the consumer’s address, typically following the regular local delivery process.
  • Product receipt — The consumer receives the product at their doorstep, completing the cross-border e-commerce transaction.

The average delivery time on the route China-USA depends on the transportation method. By flight, it tends to be 8-10 days, while by sea, it can take anywhere from 10-60 days.

What are the benefits of cross-border e-commerce?

Manufacturer e-commerce in action, as a manufacturer handles packaged goods while updating the status of orders on her laptop.

Cross-border e-commerce offers benefits for both sellers and consumers.

Businesses can expand their customer base beyond domestic markets, tap into new revenue streams, and gain global brand exposure. Consumers, on the other hand, have access to a broader selection of products, competitive prices, and the convenience of shopping from home, increasing sales volumes for businesses.

Here are some key advantages.

Expanded customer base

Cross-border e-commerce allows businesses to reach customers in every corner of the world. Companies can tap into a larger customer base by selling internationally, potentially increasing sales and revenue.

Cost-effective sourcing

Cross-border business provides cost-effective sourcing options to manufacturers and sellers. They can access suppliers from different countries, potentially obtaining products at lower costs and higher quality. This allows businesses to improve their supply chain efficiency and increase their competitiveness.

Global brand exposure

Expanding into international markets helps businesses put their brand out there and gain better exposure. A well-executed marketing strategy can increase brand visibility, awareness, and recognition in new markets, potentially leading to long-term growth opportunities.

Technological advancements

International trade has been enabled and enhanced by technological advancements. E-commerce platforms, secure payment systems, and logistics solutions have improved, making it easier for businesses and consumers to engage in global trade. This progress enables seamless transactions, efficient order management, and reliable delivery processes.

Economic growth

Cross-border e-commerce fuels economic growth by promoting trade and generating job prospects. It allows businesses to expand their operations, hire local talent, and contribute to developing the digital economy in different countries. It also encourages the growth of business essential industries such as logistics, payment services, and marketing agencies.

Cultural exchange and global connectivity

International e-commerce promotes the sharing of cultures and global networking. Consumers can explore products and brands from different countries, forming a better connection and understanding. It also supports cross-cultural business relationships by helping international collaborations and partnerships.

What are the challenges of cross-border e-commerce?

WooCommerce stock management can become tricky while you try to scale your business. That’s why we put together a list of the ten best tools you can use to get more control. But, as you search for a solution for your inventory woes, remember the two focus points: Does it integrate with WooCommerce and is it built to support manufacturers?

Selling globally can have its obstacles, especially when trying to reach everywhere at once and expecting success in each market. Companies involved in cross-border business must address these challenges to ensure smooth transactions and provide a positive customer experience.

Here are some common challenges associated with cross-border e-commerce.

Trade barriers and regulations

Each country has its own regulations, customs procedures, and trade barriers that can pose challenges for cross-border e-commerce. Businesses must follow import and export regulations, understand tax requirements, navigate customs clearance processes, and address legal or regulatory issues specific to the countries involved.

Language and cultural differences

Interacting with international customers can introduce language and cultural barriers. Businesses must address these differences by providing universally understandable product descriptions, customer support, and marketing to ensure effective communication and a positive customer experience. However, many have opted for the safest option, English, as it’s currently the most internationally spoken language.

Payment and currency issues

Cross-border transactions require dealing with different currencies, exchange rates, and payment systems. Customers may have concerns about currency conversion fees, security, and trust when making international payments. Businesses need to offer secure and convenient payment options that accommodate different currencies and reassure customers about the safety of their transactions.

Shipping and logistics

Shipping products across borders involves complex logistics. For delivery to run smoothly, businesses must tackle the following challenges:

  • Partnering with reliable international shipping providers
  • Mastering multilocation inventory management
  • Precise estimation of shipping costs
  • Accurate shipment tracking
  • Ensuring timely delivery

The distance and potential delays in customs clearance can introduce challenges such as longer shipping times and higher costs.

Customer trust and protection

Building trust is crucial in cross-border e-commerce. Consumers may have concerns about product authenticity, quality, warranties, and returns when purchasing from foreign online retailers. Companies need to establish trust by providing clear product information, implementing reliable customer support, offering transparent return policies, and protecting customer data.

Returns and customer service

Cross-border returns can be more complex and costly compared to domestic returns. Businesses must define clear return policies, communicate them articulately to customers, handle return shipping logistics, and ensure timely refunds or replacements. Doing all this across different time zones and languages can be challenging.

Market competition and localization

Businesses entering foreign markets face competition from local and international competitors. Adapting to local market preferences, consumer behavior, and competition requires market research, localization of pricing strategies, and marketing campaigns tailored to specific regions or countries.

How can Katana work for your cross-border e-commerce?

QuickBooks barcode software for Online users is available with Katana MRP. This manufacturing tool comes jam-packed with features such as barcode management software, floor-level management, and API for those who want to customize their own integrations.

Katana is a cloud inventory software designed to help businesses streamline their operations, including those engaged in cross-border e-commerce.

Here’s how Katana can work for your cross-border business:

Inventory management

Katana provides a centralized platform for inventory management across multiple sales channels and warehouses. It allows you to track stock levels, monitor product availability, and efficiently manage inventory across all your locations.

Order and sales management

Katana helps businesses with order management and sales processing so everything runs smoothly from start to finish. Import all your sales data into Katana and streamline operations from manufacturing to shipping. Complete orders and sales within the platform, and your stock levels will be adjusted automatically.

Production planning

Katana offers production scheduling and planning features for businesses engaged in manufacturing. It helps you manage the production process, track raw materials and finished goods, and optimize production planning to meet the demands of cross-border sales.

Pro tip: If you’re hesitant about committing to a manufacturing platform, try the free production schedule template and start out with manual planning.

Real-time visibility and insights

Katana provides live visibility into inventory levels, order statuses, and manufacturing processes. This is crucial for international sales, as cross-border e-commerce statistics allow you to make informed decisions, monitor product availability across different markets, and prevent stockouts or overstocking.

Integrations

Katana integrates with popular e-commerce platforms and marketplaces, such as Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce, allowing you to synchronize your inventory, orders, and sales data across different channels. This ensures accurate inventory management and helps you avoid overselling or discrepancies in stock levels. There are also other integrations to optimize various business-critical operations, such as accounting and shipping.

So, with all this knowledge about cross-border e-commerce, why not expand your sales horizon and start looking into a bigger market? Imagine your products flying across the world and being used by customers living in a country you haven’t even heard of before.

Get a demo and discover the power of real-time insights