What you need to consider when taking your eCommerce operation global – Part 1

Date: 9th June 2015
Author: Louise Arnold

This week heralds the Global e-commerce Summit in Barcelona on June 9 & 10. Its theme this year will be strategies in a competitive global e-commerce landscape, which got me thinking, what should companies be thinking about when considering globalising?

Firstly, it is a great opportunity. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) recent report, nearly half of the global population will be using the internet by the end of this year. It predicts that there will be more than 7 billion mobile device subscriptions and 78% of people in Europe and United States already use mobile broadband.

global-ecommerceMoreover, the global marketplace represents a huge opportunity for any retailer to expand by offering multi-channel (often-dubbed Omni-channel), multi-region e-commerce operations. Already, the UK is a vanguard of multi-channel shopping with Britain’s 228,000 online retailers already exporting more than the rest of Europe’s e-retailers put together.

Therefore, for any successful single market e-commerce operation there is huge potential in going global. Once you’ve completed the business case due diligence to make sure there is a tangible market for your products you are ready to go. However, what should you be thinking about in terms of your eCommerce site and customer experience to make your next move successful?

In Part 1 of our global e-commerce blog we discuss infrastructure expansion and in Part 2 tips we discuss considerations for localising your storefront and mitigating the risks before going live.

Infrastructure expansion

If you get this wrong, your new visitors will be disappointed as they may experience slowdowns and errors, which will waste your marketing effort and potentially damage your brand.   It is even harder to launch for a second time in a new country if your first attempt is full of errors!

There are very few one-size-fits-all solutions, so you will have to choose which works best for your organisation and the speed of your expansion – it may not be your job to deliver this, but it’s worth having an overview of the choices your team will face:

  • Start small: Carry on using exactly what you have but drop in some more of your existing standard web-farm kit.
  • Start with a push: If your organisation is spending significantly on the marketing push overseas there is too much at stake to not have injected some extra capacity for the new users.   It does not take up a lot of your tech teams’ time to add things like additional overseas CDN. (see below) It is wise to invest in a third-party performance audit of your core pages, which can help you ensure there are no obvious speed-ups you’re missing
  • Start with a bang: The business is relying on big traffic volumes overseas very quickly:   to achieve this is a bigger challenge, and will be a combination of all the above plus duplicating your build in different time zones, with complex extra code to join it up.

A lot has been made of auto-scaling provision for website expansion. While this sounds like a good option, it responds to traffic volume and therefore lags behind demand, which has the potential to impact customer journeys as response times slow down.

Look out for Part 2 of this blog for more information on taking your e-commerce operation global.