What is International E-commerce?

11 November, 2019


A few decades ago, most start-ups had a solely domestic focus. Although the internet had been making significant changes to the commercial landscape, many businesses were tentative to expand into international markets. Too much red tape. What about the language barrier? How can we guarantee that our goods will get there, unscathed?

These are just some of the concerns that may have made international e-commerce seem unfathomable.

Since the 90s, however, digital e-commerce platforms, improved cross-border trading regulations, and increased consumer confidence in online payment portals have made international e-commerce the next logical step for almost any brand with global appeal.

The answer:

International e-commerce is the act of mobilising your products and services towards a global market. If you have a fantastic brand that is selling tremendously well in your local market, why not share it with the world? Or, if you're in a particularly competitive industry yet are able to discover other untapped markets globally, you can direct your efforts towards developing those opportunities in new foreign locations.

Once you've done the research (and there must always be research), you can start formulating a cost-effective strategy to help you get your products sold and delivered to international clients.


How has international e-commerce grown?

In 2018, there were 3.9 billion internet users worldwide – China having the highest number due to its population size. 1.8 billion of these individuals have made online purchases. That's 1.8 billion potential opportunities to sell your goods and services. By 2021, global e-retail sales are set to hit $4.8 trillion. Would you like to see some of that revenue heading your way?

International e-commerce is evolving and steadily growing; digital buyer penetration stood at 58.3% in 2016 and is expected to exceed 65% in 2021. These positive indicators show that, with careful planning, your business could be amongst the many successful companies that are niching out new pathways on an international scale.


The key elements to a successful international e-commerce

If you're starting to see the potential of expanding your business abroad, you may feel a little bit like a pioneering explorer. Excited, inspired, cautious, and maybe a little overwhelmed.

There's no denying that you'll have to conduct some thorough research before you set up your international e-retailer, and you'll have to put the infrastructure in place to serve the needs of your new target audience. It's essential to have all your bases covered to ensure that you've given your business the best possible chance to thrive internationally.

Here's what you'll need to consider:

  1. Language - Although English permeates a large portion of the globe, you should always take the approach of placing the customer's needs first. Your international audience will most likely be far more responsive to your marketing campaigns if they are specifically created in their own language. This means translating your website, your product labelling and instructions, and shifting your marketing and advertising content in a whole new direction if it doesn't directly translate. You'll have to observe cultural etiquette and make sure that your content is always appropriate and relevant to that particular part of the world.
  2. Payment and pricing – If you're selling goods worldwide, you'll need the facility to process payments in different currencies, you may also have to adapt your pricing strategy to stay competitive in your new market. It's also essential to identify the acceptable payment portals that locals are accustomed to using in the country you're selling in. Building trust is a critical component of your international e-commerce strategy, and displaying familiar payment options is the first step to assuring your new customers that you're a legitimate vendor.
  3. Delivery – This is where many businesses fall short. Packaging, labelling, and shipping your products to their destination needs to be a streamlined process with consistently positive results. If you decide to use a third-party order fulfilment partner, make sure that they are experienced in shipping to that country. Can they navigate through customs? Do they use a reliable courier network within the country you are shipping to? Can they integrate with your e-commerce platform and feedback the stock data you require? Can they handle your returns? Will they be able to offer tracking and enhanced customer support if necessary? Your international order fulfilment partner should be able to give you satisfactory answers to all of these questions and demonstrate how they have achieved this for other clients in the past. Your international customers will have the same expectation of you to deliver on time as they do of their local retailers, so don't skimp on this particular detail.


There are countless benefits to trading internationally. By reaching out to new customers, you are increasing your profit margins and expanding the lifecycle of your product. If your goods are subject to seasonal demand, you can ensure that you're always selling on the right side of the globe to avoid disruptions to your sales volumes.

If you're ready to explore new horizons and find out how your business could make its debut on the international scene, get in touch with Asendia. We offer comprehensive international shipping services that cater to businesses of all sizes. Our experts can provide you with guidance and share their knowledge of the market you are thinking of venturing into. Give us a call today to start the conversation and begin your international e-commerce journey.


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