By Jaye Taylor, Marketing Executive, Retail Assist

Cross border online trade is growing fast, currently estimated to be worth over $100bn annually, and this figure is set to triple by 2018. Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) predicts that by 2020 cross border sales will soar to a third of all online trade worldwide and, despite the current economic situation, the European online market continues to go from strength to strength.

International retail allows retailers to open themselves up to new territories and further profit. But what are the challenges faced when thinking about expanding internationally and how can you combat them?

Understanding local shopping culture is a massive factor in planning an international move as it is crucial to get a gauge on how the market is developing and how to accurately target it. Understanding new market culture allows not only smoother transition between channels but also contributes to the delivery of a more personalised shopping experience, as this is something which is expected world-wide. However this adds additional complexity to international retailing, with differing time zones, currencies, weather and changing seasons to take in to account.

The internet plays an important role in branching out overseas, offering a diverse cross channel experience. Brands need to be able to mould themselves and adapt to ever changing and increasing customer demands; making collection and delivery more convenient, offering multiple language options and providing the digital experience in bricks and mortar stores, just to name a few. Retailers who have the ability to support customers who shop anytime, anywhere and on any device internationally are in a good position to take a share of the international rewards on offer.

UK retailers have been quick to embrace the international opportunity with online exports projected to increase by 26% year-on-year, whilst retail exports are presently growing at 9%. Research from Google and OC&C Strategy Consultants suggests that Britain is the world’s most successful cross-border internet trader. The most successful UK companies that trade internationally often establish themselves in the UK, expand to English speaking countries and then move outwards to European and world-wide markets, where they have to tackle differing currencies, languages and times-zones.

Omnichannel retailing helps retailers pursue new and untapped opportunities in foreign markets, growing their business and capturing new sales. With the growth in technology and number of devices that allow consumers access to the internet, geographical barriers are reduced, opening up new markets to both retailers and consumers. Cross border shoppers form part of a very attractive demographic as they are well-educated and experienced online shoppers with a high disposable income who tend to outspend domestic shoppers across a number of categories, as found by Forrester. Retailers need to embrace omnichannel to join up their international sales channels providing a seamless experience for increasingly nimble cross-channel consumers.