Cross-border e-commerce: resources for exporting to the United States of America
Chapter 4: E-commerce fundamentals - planning your brand's cross-border journey
Chapter 4 provides e-commerce planning considerations and cross-border best practices. Use these insights to evaluate the opportunity and determine the customer experience you will strive to create. The chapter begins with foundational financial models -- for novice and more experienced e-commerce professionals -- followed by strategy/positioning and cross-border operations (checkout and payment types, fulfillment and customer care).
Foundational e-commerce financial models
The following illustrations provide an e-commerce financial equation, and the tasks and responsibilities required to bring the customer experience to life. Being able to efficiently execute on all steps in this process will often determine bottom line profitability. If you are already proficient in e-commerce, the steps will be familiar. If you are in the early stages of e-commerce, understanding the financial levers will be critical to determining your core strategies and channels to deploy. All of the elements in the equation should be metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs), to be tracked and measured regularly to manage the overall health of the business and identify areas for improvement. Developing the discipline to plan, execute, and measure according to these KPIs is critical to managing the business - on annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly and even daily bases.
Do-it-yourself or do-it-for-me? Managing an e-commerce business to your strengths
Getting the basics right: end-to-end view of an e-commerce business
- Acquisition marketing - attract customers through great marketing programs and get them to the site through:
- Search engine optimization
- Social media
- Public relations
- Print, direct mail
- Design, development, usability - create a well-designed website through:
- Editorial content
- Photo & video
- Visual design
- User-generated content
- AVB testing
- Merchandising - drive conversion and engagement by providing a great onsite experience with:
- Product assortment
- Reviews and ratings
- Personalization and recommendations
- Technology - robust e-commerce platform tightly integrated to back-office systems with the following core operating components:
- E-commerce platform
- Order management
- Content management analytics
- Customer management
- Service operations and logistics - best in class shopping experience that meet or exceed service expectations through:
- Customer care
- Phone, email, live chat
- Retention marketing – customers are satisfied, loyal to the brand and will return due to the following efforts:
- Loyalty programs
- Social networks
Strategy and positioning: why does your brand matter?
For companies of all sizes, standing out in a crowded US consumer market is a must. Being unique and differentiated in the eyes of your target consumer is necessary to compete against incumbents. Whether your differentiating factors are rational or emotional benefits, there needs to be compelling reasons why a consumer would choose your brand and products over many other options they have, especially since Canadian brands will likely be new to US consumers.
Focus first on optimizing cross-border operations
For many years, companies early in their cross-border e-commerce journey have prioritized "getting their operations right" before they focus on customer facing programs and driving demand and order volume. In this respect, cross-border e-commerce is like many other elements of digital transformation roadmaps -- ensure that you can "deliver on your customer promise" from an operational standpoint, before adding increased complexity to marketing, promotion or localizing the site experience.
Delivery/fulfillment are even more important in cross-border e-commerce
The delivery of any cross-border e-commerce order is critical to the overall customer experience. Therefore, decisions you make on how to fulfill orders to the US should be well thought through.
Customer care and customer service: cross-border considerations
This guide has attempted to provide a clear understanding of the complexity of selling across borders into the US market. For the end consumer, a cross-border e-commerce transaction can be similarly filled with uncertainty. Hence the importance of your customer service policies and operations -- to help guide the shopper through key steps in their journey. US shoppers, likely due to the plethora of choices domestically, are not as experienced with cross border e-commerce purchasing. Only 34% of US e-commerce shoppers have completed a cross-border transaction, so don't assume they understand or are comfortable with the process.
Chapter 4 checklists
Strategy and financial planning
- What are the most unique characteristics of your brand and products, relative to your direct competitors in the US market?
- What competitive intelligence programs can you use to monitor direct competitor? How can this competitive intelligence best position your company for targeted customers?
- What ongoing strategic consumer research programs can provide the insights required to strengthen your market positioning and brand perception for targeted consumers?
- How do you plan for and actively manage your e-commerce business today, and how will this differ, if at all, for your US cross-border strategy?
- What elements of your e-commerce business are most critical to a good cross-border experience for your US customers?
- Which of your financial and operating metrics are most important to manage your cross-border e-commerce business?
- How can managing these key metrics help hold you and/or your team members accountable for the different goals and tasks necessary to grow cross-border sales?
Cross-border e-commerce operations
- On what elements of your cross-border e-commerce business should you and your internal team focus? Which should be outsourced to trusted business partners?
- For what key metrics will you negotiate and hold third party business partners accountable within Service Level Agreements (SLAs)?
- How will you clearly show consumer prices in US dollars? Throughout the customer journey (e.g., product pages) or only during the checkout process?
- What's best for your business: shipping DDU (duties unpaid) or DDP (duties paid)? More importantly, how will you effectively communicate this to customers?
- Do you need to accept alternative payment types in your checkout process? If so, which payment options are best suited for your target consumers?
- What localization efforts, such as US-English in your copy and content, are most important for your business operations?
- How do your target customers want to interact with you, pre-order and/or post-order? In other words, do they prefer calling (call center), chat, email, social media, or all the above? What is right for your desired customer experience?
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