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Riding the fourth wave of e-commerce

Do you hear the world calling your name? You should. With the global e-commerce market set to nearly double in size from 2017–2020 to reach more than $4 trillion, the time to expand is now.

E-commerce marketers have labelled this global flow of goods the ‘fourth wave’ of e-commerce. If you missed the first three, here’s the recap:

  • First wave: involved connecting businesses to a network to enable electronic transactions
  • Second wave: enabled by the advent of the internet, the second wave allowed users to access electronic networks to perform transactions (now known as ‘e-commerce’)
  • Third wave: enabled by the mobile era, the third wave connects users via mobile devices for real-time, on-demand transactions.

The fourth wave of e-commerce rises from the on-demand convenience of the mobile era and extends it to global e-commerce markets, enabling anyone in the world to buy anything they wish and get it delivered to their doorstep.

Breaking into international markets is incredibly valuable for business growth, opening up a vast untapped market and multiple seasons to capitalise on. However, expansion can also come with a host of obstacles, such as language barriers and shipping and fulfilment issues.

So how does a business avoid succumbing to these pitfalls?

First, you need to select the appropriate global markets for your business. Choose wisely. Complete a market analysis of the countries you are considering: what is the current competition base, expected demand for the product, population demographics, delivery networks, pricing? Once you have identified potential countries and understand the local landscape, consider specific operational factors such as:

  • Business registration requirements and legislation
  • Taxes and financial requirements
  • Shipping networks and rates
  • Language or cultural implications.

Once you decide on your target markets, the most important factor for your ultimate success is localisation, which is about more than just language (although that plays a big part). Successful localisation is also about culture, trust, and consumer behaviour. It is crucial to know what local customers really expect from your brand to ensure you create the right online experience.

Cycology, a boutique cycling clothing business based out of Sydney, recently undertook a successful global expansion strategy across four sites (Europe, Asia Pacific, United States and the United Kingdom) using the Shopify platform. Much of their success is down to their diligence in researching and understanding the local markets before launching. Follow their lead and get to know your new customer before trying to sell to them.

From an optimisation perspective, (along with localising all touchpoints for your customer) it is also vital to ensure all your technical content is translated and localised. When rolling out the Cycology expansion, we started with the obvious—local domain names—and moved through to keywords, meta-tags and titles. This optimisation not only helps increase search rankings, it also gives the user a better experience.

Lastly, remember that this fourth wave of e-commerce has sprung from the third wave benefits of a mobile era. Make sure you consider developing mobile applications within your localisation strategy—being available on a range of platforms and devices increases your chances of being adopted in your chosen market.

Is your business ready to ride the fourth wave?

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