Identifying and Integrating Global eCommerce Systems
by Ray Grady
If you’re a retailer considering globalization, or a global retailer looking to streamline your global operations, then you probably already understand the difficulties that lie ahead. Globalizing your commerce systems and overall strategy is no small feat, but it can be done. With the right commerce foundation in place, and a strategy to execute on, you’re ready to start identifying and integrating the appropriate market-specific systems. Here’s what you’ll need to consider:
Pick the Right System for the Right Market
This might sound crazy, but if one commerce system doesn’t make sense for entering a particular market, explore another. Puma makes a great example of this. They run the majority of their online commerce operations through an enterprise SaaS solution, but when entering the Australian market, they opted to implement a nimble and flexible open source backend. Why? Because extending their enterprise platform to operate in this new Australian market would have been time consuming and unnecessarily expensive. The open source solution offered a more expeditious approach, and together with their chosen partner First Scribe, they were able to build a backend that mimicked the behavior of their enterprise platform, allowing the Puma team to manage their Australian ecommerce efforts through their existing business processes. We already know that there isn’t one commerce platform that can deliver on all of your business needs, never mind one that can do so across country borders, so what Puma is doing makes a lot of sense. This approach may not work for your business, but it is worth noting that in certain instances, a new - additional - commerce platform can be a major differentiating factor.
Shipping and Payment Processing
Shipping logistics, payment types, and processing systems differ widely across markets. According to SaleCycle, global cart abandonment was at nearly 74 percent in 2013, for a variety of reasons including hidden charges and payment security. Not only are methods of payment different, but currencies are different, and shipping carriers are different, all of which lead to a rather convoluted and complicated payments and shipping system in markets around the globe. Russian ecommerce marketplace Ozon.ru, for example, has 16 different payment methods for their site alone -- and that’s just one marketplace in one country market.
There are a couple of different ways to approach this issue. In the Forrester report “Identifying Partners to Help Streamline Global Expansion,” they mention that “International shipping is becoming a core way to reach global shoppers.” This is because international shipping offers a way for brands to identify global markets where their products will likely resonate. It also allows brands to reach customers in other country markets where they don’t yet have localized websites or local fulfillment options. International shipping works well as a stepping stone to educate and inform your long-term global strategy.
Some brands may choose to work with existing fulfillment partners in the US like FedEx and UPS to expand internationally. Other providers like Borderfree, Borderlinx, Pitney Bowes, Bongo, and International Checkout offer global order fulfillment and return services. They can help retailers handle payments, determine local currency pricing, and duties and taxes across the international landscape. The same approach that applies to commerce systems also applies here -- assess each market on a case-by-case basis, and determine the optimal payment processing and shipping situation for your business.
How To Make It All Work Together
The goal for any brand seeking to go global is to be able to deliver a consistent message and shopping experience across every market, and to be able to maintain operational efficiencies -- all while contributing to the bottom line: getting your customers to convert. Creating a unified customer experience isn’t possible without a cohesive, unified team behind the scenes. As discussed, this requires the build of a complex ecosystem, with many stakeholders, moving parts, and different systems that need to work together. This is perhaps the most complex step of the process -- creating a seamless operation from country to country, channel to channel, with systems that aren’t purpose-built to work with each other.
That’s where a custom layer like the Acquia Platform comes in. If you take a look at the graphic above, you’ll see how the Acquia Experience Management layer is nestled in between a variety of market-specific sites (what the customer sees) and the backend commerce platforms (what your team manages). The Experience Management layer brings all of these pieces together, allowing for integration between all of your preferred systems, but with one central vein. Here, you can manage all of your technical, transactional, solution-based systems where they directly impact what the customer sees. Like we discussed in this post, it’s much easier to unify a multidimensional ecosystem with a custom layer that allows for integration and flexibility. Being able to integrate new systems, custom modules, APIs, and more on top of your existing commerce platform provides the freedom to expand and unite, wherever the market might take you.