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How cross-border ecommerce can help retailers navigate growing market uncertainty

By Tony Preedy, Managing Director of Fruugo

Less than three months into 2022, retail performance across the globe has already been somewhat of a rollercoaster ride. In January, retail sales in GermanyAustraliaSingapore and the UK were all on the up, with surges in the three latter regions, while Germany significantly beat expectations. Given rising inflation pressures, the world waited for February’s results with bated breath – unfortunately retail sales did fall in the UK. The good news is, Germany and Australia’s are still on the rise two months in a row, after some drops at the end of last year.

Clearly, the unpredictability of global economies is making it difficult for retailers to predict performance this year. However, thanks to the internet, sellers in one country are no longer constrained to only reaching local consumers. So how can retailers ensure they are making the most of cross-border opportunities?

Changing habits

The huge shift in how consumers buy, driven by pandemic-lockdowns, are here to stay. Traditionally, shopping followed seasonal trends. Today, consumers are increasingly searching online for specific solutions to a problem or a need they want to fulfil – as quickly as they can. This is shopping at the ‘atomic’ level, where shoppers can drill down to item level shopping, orchestrated by Search Engines. Buyers are also increasingly agnostic about who sells it to them, or where the retailer is located – as long as they can get the product they want, where they want, at a price that suits them. Today’s post-pandemic buyers are certainly less brand-loyal, but far savvier. If they can’t find a product from one retailer, online searches will quickly reveal an alternative supplier that has stock.

With supply chains remaining disrupted by the pandemic – and new challenges quickly arising –the retailer with available goods can often be in a different country to the shopper. Shopping across national borders has become normal in today’s digital age with instant gratification the name of the game.

As such, agility and availability are now key to winning the sale – regardless of where the consumer or the seller is located.  Cross-border eCommerce can provide retailers growth in turnover and profits if they go beyond a focus on domestic shoppers and tap into global demand for their products. Localisation of sales and marketing and rapid synchronisation of inventory with search engines are then key success factors for a successful cross-border ecommerce strategy.

Jumping on trends

While shopping around seasonal trends has declined, shopping around cultural media phenomena has boomed with trends that occur in one country spread virally around the world very quickly. Merchants who can instantly take advantage of rising trends can very quickly expand their audience at a global scale. For example, in 2021 the sales of white slip-on Vans shoes spiked by a whopping 7,800% thanks to the item being worn by main characters of Korean Netflix phenomenon Squid Game, meanwhile on the Fruugo global marketplace, Squid Game-themed outfits became the best-selling item.

Sellers can also anticipate certain trends. The 2021 Olympics saw the arrival of several new sports like skateboarding to the competition. In the weeks that followed, Fruugo saw a 250% increase in the sales of skateboards, and a 102% increase in sports products in general from different countries.  There are also key retail dates that have different timings across the globe – such as Father and Mother’s Days – or ones which most countries celebrate – like Valentine’s Day. This year for example, consumers in Sweden purchased the most Valentine’s gifts and items – taking up over one-quarter (28%) of all its related sales – yet the top-performing sellers to Sweden were in China and Singapore, showing trends-driven how cross-border selling in practice.

Beyond borders

To see whether sellers in post-Brexit Britain are already making the most of cross border commerce, we took deep dive into the Fruugo platform and found that on average only 26% of British merchants’ sales on Fruugo are to shoppers in Britain – meaning 74% are exported – with demand across many different types of goods.

For example, a British health and beauty retailer on Fruugo has sold 97% of its goods to customers overseas in 42 countries, with Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, and the United States its best performing markets, driven by strong demand for its range of probiotic food. Another retailer uses Fruugo to sell books and calendars with 94% of its sales exported with the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, and Germany being the most popular destinations, while a British electronics retailer which only launched on Fruugo in mid-February 2022, is already exporting 97% of its sales to customers in 19 countries. All three case studies demonstrate today’s new “facts of life” for effective e-Commerce – consumers will purchase goods from retailers wherever they are in the world, at a price that suits them.

Following digital footfall

The easiest way for sellers to capture consumers that have ‘atomised’ their shopping – but at no risk – is to list on cross-border digital marketplaces, which provide retailers with almost limitless reach.

Traditionally, retail has often been about location, location, location – seeking to be where footfall is highest. Now, it’s marketplaces that offer the highest “footfall” opportunity in digital selling. Research firm Forrester estimates that sales on marketplaces are growing by 16.5 percent each year compared to sales on retailer’s own websites that are only expected to rise by ten percent annually. They forecast that by 2026, more than two thirds of global online shopping revenue will be generated through marketplaces.

This strategy has helped many retailers maintain sales throughout crises, like the pandemic, while benefiting smaller businesses for who expanding internationally might have seemed risky. Many marketplaces provide services that minimise the effort required for handling cross-border eCommerce sales, making it possible for retailers – no matter how small – to sell most types of consumer goods beyond their own country.

With the right platforms and tools in place, there’s no reason why today’s sellers can’t connect with customers all over the world at zero risk to themselves. Market unpredictability will continue to impact retailers’ performance into the foreseeable future – and the retailers who are effectively capitalising on cross-border ecommerce will have more opportunities to thrive.


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