The 3 Pillars of Expanding E-Commerce Across Borders

Gone are the days of debating whether e-commerce will stick around for the long term. We know it will. So now, the big challenge for retailers is figuring out how to keep their businesses growing. Expanding across borders is one option. Every international market an e-commerce operator sells in represents more potential customers making more potential purchases.

Expanding e-commerce across borders requires quite a bit of work. It also requires establishing relationships with fulfillment, shipping, and customs partners. But it can be done, as so many global e-commerce operations have proven.

Successful international e-commerce expansion rests on three pillars:

1. Research and Knowledge

Research and knowledge are the first pillars. It is arguably the most important as well. Why? Because everything from international shipping to tax collections affects how a retailer does business across borders. Keeping up with the myriad complexities of international trade is no easy task. It requires a ton of research just to get started.

For example, the first thing an e-commerce operator should do is determine whether its products will sell in international markets. If you sell flip-flops, swimsuits, and other beach-related gear, do not expect robust sales in Scandinavia. That is not your market.

Research goes beyond viable markets to include tax regimes, duty collection, product classification, and customs compliance. But that’s not all. Just when you think you have learned everything you need to know, something changes. That is why research is an ongoing activity for successful cross-border sellers.

2. International Shipping

An e-commerce retailer’s most important partner in cross-border sales is its international shipping partner. Companies like Preferred Shipping offer small business shipping solutions custom-tailored to e-commerce needs. Many of them act as authorized resellers of international shipping solutions. For example, Preferred Shipping is a DHL-authorized reseller.

A retailer’s choice of shipping partners is critical to cross-border success. First and foremost, not every international shipper serves every market. Some have larger networks; others have small networks. Then there are differences in customs expertise. The goal is to find a shipping partner that can get your packages where they need to go while simultaneously ensuring that all your shipments are compliant.

3. Ongoing Planning

The third pillar of successful cross-border selling is planning. Like research, planning is an ongoing proposition. You need to plan thoroughly before entering a new market for the first time. You need to plan a contingency response in case something goes wrong with shipping. You need to make plans regarding everything from tax and duty collection to handling returns.

It is often said that failing to plan is planning to fail. In the international e-commerce game, solid plans are like gold. Failing to plan on an ongoing basis jeopardizes an organization’s ability to keep moving forward even when things go wrong.

One special area of planning concern is logistics. Logistics involves more than just shipping. It also involves:

  • getting packages to the shipper
  • ensuring shipments go off in a timely manner
  • tracking shipments from pickup to delivery
  • accounting for shipping and customs delays.

Logistics complexities are sufficient motivation to find a reliable shipping partner and develop a solid relationship with that organization. Oftentimes, logistics end up making or breaking an operator’s attempt to expand across borders.

Now you know the three pillars of expanding an e-commerce operation into international markets. If you have any plans to expand your operation, do not neglect any of them. Do your research, find a reliable shipping partner, and plan for every contingency you can think of. These three things will set you up for success.


Sudarsan Chakraborty is a professional writer. He contributes to many high-quality blogs. He loves to write on various topics.