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Is it Time to Tap Cross-Border eCommerce?

by simon
One day, the dust will settle. Big retail will emerge from its current “apocalypse”, scaled-back and optimized to accommodate online channels. The distinction between “physical” and “online” stores will all but disappear.

Where will businesses go then to find growth opportunities? In ten years, they’ll likely find it more in cross-border eCommerce than in domestic internet sales.

eCommerce has opened the doors for businesses to sell to new customers overseas, and the potential market keeps growing. According to one estimate, the number of cross-border online buyers will reach 943 million consumers, three times the number in 2020.

Meanwhile, according to Practical eCommerce, growth in online sales in the US, UK, and Europe will flatten out over the next ten years. At the same time, more people will use smartphones to make purchases, and more people in some markets (particularly China) will take to eCommerce to find products not immediately available locally.

Brands have more opportunity to reach overseas customers than they did even ten years ago. That opportunity will only grow in the next ten.

Marketplaces Lead in Cross-Border eCommerce

Marketplaces established themselves as the most expedient way to reach overseas customers.

According to research from Forrester cited in Practical eCommerce and other media, 66% of cross-border eCommerce goes through online marketplaces.

By 2022, cross-border purchases will account for 20% of global eCommerce, representing $627 billion in sales. China will most likely emerge as the leading market for online, cross-border selling and buying.

According to Accenture, 200 million Chinese will make cross-border purchases by 2020, predicting $245 billion in yearly eCommerce sales. Alibaba is, by far, the most important marketplace in China. It currently accounts for 75% of all eCommerce transactions in China.

An Online Marketplace for Every Market

Marketplaces have proven effective in bringing together customers and sellers. Consequently, many new online marketplaces arose over the last few years to provide the same channel for particular industries, such as B2B fashion and apparel. These days, it seems, there are marketplaces for everyone and everywhere.

Of course, looking to trade overseas requires a bit of research. You have to understand what customers in that market want. You have to be able to communicate in the dominant language your customers read. And you have to be ready to deal with returns.

While marketplaces charge fees for listings or sales, they provide a low-cost and low-risk point of entry to new markets. Amazon and eBay both have a presence in most major markets, attracting millions of users a month. Meanwhile, B2B marketplaces like NuOrder and Joor connect brands to thousands of fashion retailers around the world.