How SMEs can win at cross-border commerce in 2024

By Kevin Carson, Senior Vice President, FreedomPay

While COVID impacted global businesses differently, the entire world witnessed an ecommerce boom during the pandemic’s peak. According to Statista, cross-border purchases accounted for 17% of business-to-consumer commerce revenue just two years ago. And although many thought this trend would continue, what we’ve seen is quite the opposite. Recent research also shows we are in fact shifting away from the purely digital shopper towards the physical shopper, as social distancing rules lessened over time and consumers returned to the high street.

Global cross-border ecommerce sales are forecast to grow by 26 percent by 2030. This is clearly an area of business brands need to pay close attention to, as newer, wide-reaching digital marketing strategies can engage shoppers from across the globe.

For larger companies, digital infrastructure is already in place to offer a seamless cross-border commerce strategy. However, for smaller brands, this jump can seem daunting and hard to achieve – putting them at risk to be left behind. As small businesses continue to seek new growth opportunities, cross-border sales will become a crucial solution for profitability.

But how do SMEs open themselves up to the world of global retail? The biggest investment they must make is in the latest – and emerging – technology. This applies to every part of the customer journey, from personalised offers to frictionless checkout. In a world where brands are constantly battling to cut through to consumers, ensuring a smooth user experience via new solutions is what will make businesses stand out amongst the competition.

With the most up-to-date tools at their fingertips, smaller companies have the opportunity to scale internationally and provide customers with the quick, seamless experience they seek.

Here are three key steps SMEs should take in order to maximise their cross-border ecommerce strategy:

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024
  1. Personalise and localise

Merchants must deliver an engaging and personalised experience both in-store and online. Basic customer details are no longer enough; today, understanding customers’ likes, dislikes and buying behaviour, and being on top of the full end-to-end journey, is a must. From a cross-border perspective, personalisation could be as simple as enabling shoppers to view prices, and pay, in their local currency, accepting payments via local and alternative payment methods, providing them with taxes and duties calculations and prepayment options, and offering a wide range of attractively priced shipping and return options.

Localisation is a strategy brands must also adopt if they want to be successful in cross-border ecommerce. Arguably, this is part of a wider ‘personalisation’ conversation. For example, 55% of people continue to value personalised offers and discounts when shopping. This research also finds that just over 30% of all retail purchases made by millennials can be attributed to personalised marketing.

  1. Utilise data

Understanding customer data is vital to success. However, pinpointing where to start in terms of data collection and interpretation may feel overwhelming for SMEs. Fortunately, partnering with the right platform can assist businesses in not only gathering customer information but can lay it out in a way that is easy to analyse and so that it can be utilised for tailored offers or discounts. For example, some platforms can deliver information on customers’ past purchases when taking a payment, giving brands a 360° view of shoppers. With this, SMEs can adopt different marketing strategies and messaging according to shopper preferences.

Despite these advanced platforms being available, many continue to utilise legacy systems which are outdated and inefficient when it comes to data delivery and functionality. An “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” mentality has long hindered the evolution and progression of retailers’ payment solutions. In reality, their tech stacks need an overhaul to newer technology which gives them greater visibility into their customer and provides a full view of consumer and cardholder behaviours. To successfully create a cross-border ecommerce strategy, businesses must understand the importance of these demands.

  1. Build trust

Building trust as an SME can be challenging, with shopper reviews playing a pivotal role in attracting new customers in the early stages of a business. People buy more from brands they trust – building a reputation of being a trustworthy retailer can take time and perseverance but starts with nailing the basics.

A fundamental way of showing existing and new customers that a brand is trustworthy is by keeping their payment information and personal data safe. With cases of fraud, identity hacking and scams on the rise, shoppers value payment privacy now more than ever. Platforms that offer next-level security can give reassurance to both merchant and customer when it comes to data safety.

In addition to personalisation and understanding data, data protection is a great way SMEs can steadily begin to build a rapport with customers. With a strong foundation to build upon, a brand’s reputation can go from strength to strength. Devising the right strategy and mastering the basics are an essential part of building SMEs’ cross-border approach. Once personalisation, data and protection are understood, brands can go – and grow – beyond borders and achieve global success.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024