Global B2B eCommerce is flourishing despite supply chain disruption, geopolitical upheaval, and economic hardships. According to a recent poll, cross-border transactions now account for at least 25% of American B2B operators’ sales. This trend is only expected to continue as new technologies make it easier for B2B sellers to grow their brands into new regions. Although selling globally has never been simpler, long-term success necessitates new approaches. New markets bring new complications, and B2B firms must adapt and make investments to flourish. This is true from marketing to payment, from sales to fulfillment.
Here are 7 key areas that B2B brands should focus on as they expand into cross-border digital commerce:
Refine your marketing strategy
With personalization and media-rich marketing and sales tools, B2B vendors are increasingly aiming to give business buyers experiences on par with those offered to consumers. It’s crucial to stick with that strategy when growing overseas. Although hiring local partners for this task can be successful, most brands undertake international marketing on their own to save money and time. Recognizing that some aspects of your marketing techniques will succeed in new areas while others won’t is the first step. You may require extra market research, new lead-generation tools, or advertising and marketing campaigns that are specifically targeted to a given location. Be prepared to dedicate more resources to this endeavor. Make sure to track sales and marketing KPIs market-by-market to support this process and pinpoint areas that require improvement.
Take localization seriously
Catering to customers in new foreign markets isn’t as simple as running your existing website through an automated translation tool. Machine translation can’t account for cultural nuances: English marketing materials tend to be more casual and concise than those in German, for instance, which often take a more descriptive approach and highlight specific product features. Differences abound between English-speaking markets, too: Canadian, American, Australian, and British buyers all have different sensibilities and different linguistic quirks. Content for the Middle East and South Asian markets might need to be further localized for Right-to-Left languages such as Arabic and Hebrew. Paying attention to details of this sort reflects your brand’s professionalism and credibility, so don’t neglect it!
Get pricing right
International expansion requires the ability to take orders in a range of currencies, but you’ll also need to pay attention to hidden costs such as shipping and customs fees. Business buyers hate these sorts of last-minute add-ons as much as regular consumers, so make sure you’re clear about exactly how much a cross-border transaction will cost you and your customer. Beyond these considerations, it’s important to be mindful of local pricing norms: in some areas, customers will expect to see price lists include local taxes, while in others taxes are displayed as a separate line item at the checkout stage. Make sure your eCommerce platform supports payments in local currencies and gives you the flexibility to customize the checkout experience for a range of different buyer expectations.
Take compliance seriously
Taking a brand across borders means having to deal with taxation requirements in different countries. For instance, selling in British or European markets may require the ability to handle VAT appropriately, and to remit VAT returns and additional tax forms correctly – a new layer of complexity for brands that are used to American sales tax laws. Tax compliance isn’t the only concern: start selling overseas, and you may find yourself subject to new data privacy rules that impact your ability to collect customer data or to use customer information for marketing purposes. Violations can lead to substantial fines, so be sure that you’re aware of any local requirements for the jurisdictions you’re selling into.
Review payment options
Processing payments is crucial to B2B eCommerce success, but customers’ preferred payment options vary from one market to the next. Payment methods such as Apple Pay and Paypal might be available globally, but adoption varies significantly from one market to the next. Other payment methods might carry fees for international transactions, or require extra time to process a cross-border payment. B2B merchants also need to consider the cross-border effectiveness of their credit card processors and payment service providers, as not all will work in the regions they’re targeting. Staying current on local regulations regarding chargebacks, refunds, and contract law is also a good idea.
Make ordering transparent
Expanding a B2B eCommerce brand into foreign markets necessarily complicates the fulfillment process, so it’s important to be as clear as possible with buyers about issues relating to product availability, shipping times, and potential delays or disruption. Given ongoing supply chain challenges, a brand’s ability to provide customers with robust and predictable shipping and delivery experience can go a long way. Digital commerce tools can help by allowing brands to collate real-time information from multiple suppliers and shippers, and communicate that information to buyers as part of the RFQ or purchase process.
Streamline international fulfillment
Shipping across borders can be complicated, but as international orders grow more routine, buyers are expecting orders to be fulfilled promptly and without hiccups. Building a global network of fully owned warehouses and distribution centers is challenging for even the biggest brands, so developing relationships with fulfillment partners in key markets is important. Connecting these partners to your online store is essential for smooth data sharing. Brands will also need to have a strategy for returns embedded in their shipping and fulfillment processes and to communicate clearly with buyers about how such issues will be handled.
Poised for growth
Marketing internationally presents a significant development potential for B2B brands, but it also presents certain difficulties that local players may find difficult at times. Building out a marketing, sales, and fulfillment infrastructure that can adapt to local needs and meet a variety of new challenges is necessary for brands to reach global consumers. At the same time, they must continue to provide the consistent excellence and individualized services that today’s business buyers demand. It won’t be simple to enter overseas marketplaces and satisfy demand from customers around the world. Brands can create a strong basis for international growth, though, by establishing a network of partners, utilizing reliable technology, and prioritizing the needs of the consumer.