Growth Without Borders: A Guide to Cross-Border eCommerce


E-commerce has proved an unexpected hero for many of us over the past two years. Yes, online shopping had been rising before 2020, but with physical stores suddenly closed, the pandemic caused a global surge.

Encouraged to stay at home, around two billion people shopped online during 2020, spending $4.3 trillion on everything from groceries and wine to shoes and gardening equipment – that's a trillion more than was spent in 2019. The trend is here to stay, though: by 2022, e-commerce sales will have jumped again to $5.4 trillion.

The growth in cross-border e-commerce

Not only are more people enjoying the convenience of online shopping – 51% of the world's population will be shopping online by 2025– but they're more frequently buying products from international retailers. Over the past year, 55% of online shoppers have purchased from another country, with reasons cited including greater choice, lower prices and lack of local availability. In fact, cross-border e-commerce is growing at twice the rate of domestic e-commerce, and by 2022 international online sales will have surpassed $1 trillion to make up 20% of global e-commerce spend.

This is, of course, excellent news for UK and EU businesses looking to expand: with more people buying products from foreign retailers, it's never been a better time to find new customers in distant climes.

Many SMEs are feeling this optimism and acting on it. According to FedEx customer sentiment report, 84% of its customers are optimistic about the future of their business, and 77% are already selling to foreign markets.

Delivering success for your cross-border e-commerce business

Forward-thinking global logistics brands, like FedEx, are also making it easier than ever before to reach customers around the globe, offering a portfolio of cutting-edge e-commerce services and products specifically designed to help businesses meet the needs of today's online consumers.

When it comes to current needs, delivery is naturally a huge factor. If you're going to stand out and thrive on the busy international e-commerce stage, you need to be fast and competitively priced. In recent research, 35% of consumers cited cost as the factor they valued most in delivery from online retailers, and 33% said it was speed.

Choosing a logistics carrier like FedEx, with multiple international express and economy options and decades of customs experience to help you cross borders seamlessly, is pivotal to your success.

Research and planning will fuel your growth

Besides joining forces with a powerful logistics provider, a well-thought-out
e-commerce plan – created on the back of extensive research – is essential.

Read up on everything, from what today's consumers value and which market best suits your product to country-specific customs, duties, and regulations.

Important questions to consider include:

Which are the fastest growing e-commerce markets?
Argentina, Singapore and Spain are currently leading the way.

What categories are selling well?
Fashion and toys are the biggest global e-commerce sellers in 2021.

What are the preferred online payment options in your chosen market
80% in Europe favour payment providers such as PayPal, and 82% of online shoppers in North and South America prefer to pay with credit and debit cards.

How can I localise my site to appeal to local consumers?
98% of consumers prefer to browse and pay in their own currency.

Should I use my own site or sell through a marketplace?
Using a trusted marketplace could expedite your success, but having your own site reduces competition and allows you to build brand affinity with customers.

You'll find extensive resources and articles online, from our recently published guide on the Best Tools for Your E-commerce Business to The Ultimate Guide to Cross-Border Shipping from FedEx.

On top of online research, your local government will have resources – and potentially even funding – for any businesses looking to take their e-commerce business to new and exciting international heights.

In the UK, for example, the government website offers ongoing support to aspiring e-commerce businesses, helping them connect to global marketplaces. And the European Commission boasts a wealth of resources for European SMEs looking for guidance as well as financial help.

Insights and inspiration: Europe's top 10 cross-border retailers

Another valuable resource for European businesses looking to expand is Cross-Border Commerce Europe. This up-to-the-minute knowledge platform regularly publishes in-depth insights into cross-border e-commerce.

Another recent report, Top 500 Cross-Border EU Analysis, reveals the growing strength of global e-commerce and ranks the top 500 players operating in Europe. Of those, the top 10 European cross-border retailers are:

1.     Ikea - Sweden: Home, Garden, DIY

2.     H&M - Sweden: Fashion, Jewellery, Baby

3.     Pandora - Denmark: Fashion, Jewellery, Baby

4.     Smyths Toys - Ireland: Toys and Games

5.     Lego - Denmark: Toys and Games

6.     Nespresso - Switzerland: Food and drinks

7.     Expert - Switzerland: Consumer electronics

8.     COS - Sweden: Fashion, Jewellery, Baby

9.     Swarovski - Austria: Fashion, Jewellery, Baby

10.   & Other Stories - Sweden: Fashion, Jewellery, Baby

The majority of these retailers are multichannel – and that's key. Today's consumers are looking for seamless, omnichannel experiences, often starting their shopping journey on one device and ending it on another.

As can be seen from this list, fashion is a leading segment – in fact, 51% of the top 500 retailers the platform ranked are in the fashion/jewellery/baby sector. This is followed by: home and garden, sports and leisure and consumer electronics.

Automation can increase your cross-border revenue faster

Automation is a powerful tool when it comes to cross-border shipping, with the latest technology allowing you to streamline everything from marketing and customer support to inventory management and fulfilment. And, of course, where you create greater efficiencies, you realise faster revenue growth.

Shiptheory imports orders automatically from all your sales channels, and our intelligent shipping rules engine allows you to automate every step of your shipping process based on a combination of shipping destination, order weight, value, product SKU's, and more. Shipping labels are automatically generated, and tracking information is sent to your customers, moments after a sale is complete.

We also have you covered when it comes to cross-border shipping by automatically generating, auto-filling, and printing customs documentation required to export shipments around the world at the same time as generating your shipment's shipping labels. This includes CN22A, CN22B, CN23, Commercial Invoices and Electronic Paperless Trade Documents (where the respective carrier and country supports it).

Last but not least, our integration with FedEx is another prime example of the power of automation in this sphere, giving you easy and swift access to the world's largest air express network and unparalleled European road network.

Why use Shiptheory together with FedEx

Shiptheory's integration with FedEx allows you to manage and automate all your shipments and returns for your e-commerce store from a single, easy-to-use platform that offers multiple-user support, advanced reporting features, and an excellent customer support team.

The combination of Shiptheory's intelligent shipping automation and the wide range of international delivery services offered by FedEx will allow you to grow your e-commerce business cross-border, save your business money and time, and provide you with the peace of mind that your products will reach your customers safely and on time, wherever they may be in the world.

Find out more about how Shiptheory Works with FedEx, and if you have any queries regarding our FedEx integration, please do not hesitate to reach out for support.

Otherwise, create a free Shiptheory and FedEx account and start shipping smarter and faster today!