Key Considerations for Launching Successful Multi-Country eCommerce Channels

International brands may have started the digital commerce channel in a country, and they always try to expand the business across countries to leverage the opportunities across geography. E.g., if a brand is having a channel in the USA currently, and the business desires to expand its business to Canada and Mexico. This kind of business goal needs to consider and address important business complexities like handling different languages, cultures, product groups, legal and business conditions.

This business transformation should have clear business objectives and a plan to execute it. The business, IT, legal, and marketing team needs to discover all important components via discovery sessions. This article articulates some of the important business elements which need to consider for multi-country digital platform implementation.

Customer

Customer is unique across the geo-locations. The way they search for products, their choices of buying, decision-making factors, payment options, and the way they want to engage with the brand may vary across countries.

Business needs to consider the diversified culture and the buying behaviors before they start engaging customers.

  • Customer preferred mode of shopping (Instore, web, mobile, or social)
  • County’s eCommerce maturity level and the ratio of online buyers
  • Customer’s preference for collecting and processing their data
  • Social and economic conditions
  • Internet penetration and bandwidth availability of the country
  • Customer service channel predominantly used (Live chat, voice call, or mail)
  • Social media influence on buying decisions
  • Customer’s most preferred payment option

Language and Locale

In a multi-country commerce implementation, brands need to consider the language(s) which need to be used for each country’s platform. The following need to be decided for the multi-language site,

  • Need to decide the countries getting on board and the languages for each country (Switzerland may use German and French).
  • Decide strategy on the web content management. Page templates used for the commerce channel may be common templates across countries, or each country may have its own set of templates or a hybrid.
  • Plan down the content management process, it may be a centralized or country-based content manager
  • The language-specific content should be prepared using a professional translation team and it is always preferable to have a legal review of critical contents
  • E-commerce channel can default to the predominantly used language of the country and customers should have a selection option to select another language

Catalog management

Product catalog and search play a key role in the eCommerce buying journey. The catalog will serve rich, relevant, and consistent product information across all channels of digital commerce. In a multi-country implementation, brands may need to consider the following,

  • Plan for a solution that is capable of managing multiple catalogs and supports multiple languages in product content management
  • Plan for the catalog management based on the products sold in countries, we can have a master catalog and can derive the country-specific catalog from the master. Alternatively, each country may have its catalog that serves the respective website
  • We need to decide on the content manager or merchandiser’s responsibilities like feed management, product enrichment, stock, and pricing. Normally this will be managed per country basis due to product restrictions and regulatory guidelines
  • Product search is driven by the search engine, and it should be capable of handling multilingual search

Product Pricing

Each country’s business unit may follow different pricing strategies based on customers’ choices. It may be based on cost-based pricing, market-based pricing, dynamic pricing, etc., Business needs to analyze the flexibility and options offered by the Digital commerce platform

  • Pricing may differ from country to country, some countries will include tax in the price and call that the maximum retail price. However, shipping charges will be added to the order’s total
  • Some countries will have a base price and the detailed additional prices like shipping, sales tax, and handling charges which are called a net price
  • Promotions may be added to the suggested selling price (list price) and the result is called sales price
  • The commerce platform needs to accommodate all those complex requirements

Tax

E-commerce companies face a major challenge in managing tax administration since it involves multiple jurisdictions, clauses, and complex tax layer structures. The government often reviews and changes the policy for tax collection based on various external factors. These changes require a reassessment of the company’s tax setup too. E-commerce is a maturing business in most counties and the tax policies are constantly revisited to help the business to perform better. Ecommerce platform should be capable of handling the tax dynamics

  • Some country uses the selling price including tax and the tax will be notified in an invoice
  • Countries may use their local tax database for calculating tax and it should be renewed every time there is a change in tax policies
  • India uses goods and services tax which is a fixed rate for each commodity and it is further denominated as central GST and state GST. Maximum retail price is shown while buying, however, an invoice will have details of the tax paid
  • European Union countries use a value-added tax structure and VAT is added in the selling price (VAT added)
  • USA is having complex tax structure (federal tax +state tax + county tax+ city tax) and tax will be added to the order total after selection of shipping address as part of the checkout process

Shipping

In the checkout shipping option process, multiple strategies are followed in e-commerce all over the world. Businesses need to analyze customers’ preferences on cost, speed, and pickup options. The business also needs to evaluate the platform offering to cover the different shipping options like flat rate, complex matrix shipping, free shipping promotions, and real-time integration options to third-party providers.

Payment Method

Online channels should be cautious when choosing the payment method and gateways for geography. Every country or region has preferred options of payment in e-commerce. The online channel should focus on the payment methods preferred by every country and the payment gateway.

When choosing a gateway the e-commerce companies should consider the following,

  1. Using the Integrated or hosted payment gateway which covers all options
  2. Flexibility to integrate with eCommerce platforms
  3. Following the country’s security and payment industry guideline

Legal Requirements

Each country or region has its cyber laws and policies, apart from that they clearly defined data privacy laws that all online channels should follow. The online retail channel should be compliant with the terms and regulations of the country. Normally the regulations include the following,

  • Terms and conditions of buying online
  • The contact information of the company (all channels)
  • Return and refund policy
  • Security policy
  • Data Privacy and protection policy

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union is protecting residents’ data privacy and transfers the power to individuals when it comes to approaching and handling data privacy. It covers the following,

  • Manage Consents
  • Select Communication preference
  • Request -Right to be forgotten (close customer account)
  • Request
  • Cookie usage policy
  • Personal information report

Social Channels

Social media has become an integral part of a customer’s buying decision and eCommerce companies use social media as one of their selling channels. Online stores use social media e-commerce strategies to target their audience on social networks before customers visit their online stores. Multi-country implementation should consider the popular channels of the country to engage with. Businesses also need to evaluate the eCommerce platform’s options to integrate with popular social channels

Social media is used by online stores for the following,

  • Channel for selling
  • Channel for selling
  • Promotions and offers campaign
  • Rating and reviews
  • Customer service

Customer Support

Traditionally, the customer support channel is via telephone to inquire about products, services, inquiries, and order statuses, customer expects the support via all other channels too.  Leading eCommerce solutions should manage the following,

  • Live chat support in the digital channel
  • Social channels of the online stores are used by the customer to raise their queries and complaints and get resolutions and it should be integrated into the customer service module
  • The customer support agent does co-browsing with the customer and helps them to get the desired product and order the same on behalf of the customer

Analytics

 The web analytics tool should be capable of handling the following,

  • Capability for setting up cross-domain tracking 
  • The analytics tool needs to handle each site in a separate layer and needs to have the flexibility to create unique views per site
  • In case, the business wants to have a separate analytics account for each country domain and how it is supported? 

 SEO

  • Business needs to analyze and have the clear SEO approach for each country and here is some checklist to follow.
  • Capability for setting up cross-domain tracking
  • Search engines are different across geo locations and needs consider the leading engines specific approach
  • Local languages make an important impact on SEO
  • Optimize the page for the content and URL
  • Follow the general SEO best practices and international best practices as suggested

Conclusion

This article covers key features needs to be considered for multi-country implementation. It may be a checklist for the implementation and start working on the approach .

Interestingly, SAP commerce cloud platform supports almost all features mentioned here. It may be out of the box feature or flexible to easily configure or integrate .

Thank you for reading this and please share your thoughts in comments section.

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