Tech solutions are beginning to smooth the bumpy road to selling retail across borders

Cross Border Retail

Cross-border retail is designed to give consumers the opportunity to purchase compelling and inexpensive products that cannot be found in their own countries. However, challenges like unclear exchange rates, hidden costs and declined credit cards drive many shoppers to abandon their carts and buy locally, instead. Until merchants cab smooth this rough cross-border retail road, both offline and online consumers will continue to pay the price, or simply avoid paying the price by purchasing only locally.

Read more about the technical solutions enabling cross-border retail on Entrepreneur.com.

[Photo credit: Tinou Bao]

Omnichannel strategies: the solution to the “showrooming” dilemma

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Many brick and mortar stores have seen revenues suffer over the past decade due to customers who walk in, try out their merchandise, and then return home to make their purchases from a less expensive online site (or even pull out their smartphones and buy from an online competitor while still in the store!).  However, over the years, retailers have come up with several ways of combatting this ‘showrooming’ practice.  Some lower their own prices, others offer items that are available only ‘in-store,’ and some fashion outlets even charge a ‘fitting fee’ that is only refunded if the customer buys something.

The most effective way to counteract and benefit from showrooming is by giving customers the best in-store experience possible — in other words, make them want to buy from you.  This isn’t as difficult as it may sound, and is certainly less risky than alienating your customers with a browsing fee or making your prices so competitive that it’s impossible to earn a profit.  The key word is “omni-channel.”  Your customers are online; show them that you are too.  And help them to understand that brick-and-mortar stores have many advantages over their online-only counterparts. [more…]

Here are a few ideas you may want to try out:

  • Give each salesperson a tablet – If your customers are looking for better deals online, then your sales staff should be too. Let your showrooming customers know they’re not putting one over on you, and be prepared to win the sale by explaining both tangible (online shipping fees, in-store discounts, better return/refund policy) and intangible (“You know you want this today!”) benefits.
  • Offer personalized recommendations and discounts – If you have beacon technology in place, you can collect invaluable information about your customers’ shopping habits. Combine this with each individual’s purchase history (data which you can have at your fingertips – with the right technology, of course), and you can provide your customers with customized in-store experiences geared directly towards them.  Provide recommendations, demonstrate insight into their tastes and, if at all possible, offer surprise ‘loyal customer’ discounts on their desired merchandise.  No website can make a consumer feel as important and appreciated as a good salesperson with the right information on hand.
  • Showcase your virtual inventory – Not all customers turn to the web for lower prices; some prefer online shopping due to the wider variety of products available. As such, it’s important that you have the ability to show customers not only the product options you have in-store, but also those available in your warehouse and other store locations.  If they like the way you have treated them, they might be willing to wait a day or two for the item to be shipped to your store.  After all, it would take just as long to receive it from an online retailer.
  • Expedite the checkout process by allowing in-store payment-by-phone – Nobody wants to wait in a long line when they could just as easily click a few buttons to purchase an item on their phone. So let them do just that!  Even retailers that don’t accept Apple Pay can certainly offer their own payment app or allow customers to pay through their online store accounts.

If you’ve had success with these strategies or any others, please share a comment with us!

[Image Credit: WarmSleepy]

For ecommerce retailers it’s still a rough ride across international borders

Cross Border Retail

Movement across borders is as simple as getting in a car or on a plane. It’s a seamless, simple experience to which most people devote little thought. For both merchants and consumers, however, the path to online and offline purchasing across borders is still a bumpy one.

For online and offline consumers, cross-border retail holds the promise of easy access to a wide selection of attractively-priced merchandise not available in their locality. For example, the largest IPO in US history, by Chinese retail portal Alibaba, was part of the company’s cross-border strategy to reach the estimated 50 million people of Chinese descent living outside the country. And cross-border retail is taking place, with 23 percent of German e-shoppers having bought from other EU countries, 25 percent from North America, and 15 percent of French internet users having made a cross-border purchase.

However, cross-border purchases can take buyers out of their comfort zone, forcing them to pay in a foreign currency at unclear exchange rates, unable to use their preferred payment methods and unclear on questions of duties, taxes, customs, shipping, and other hidden costs. Many simply abandon the process, and look for locally-sold options.

Read more exclusively on Entrepreneur.com

[Photo by Colin Logan]