The Optimal International Expansion Process

With the limited information available and the multitude of things you “could” do, you probably already have in your mind that cross border eCommerce can feel somewhat overwhelming. There are a lot of factors to take into account, a lot of countries to consider, a lot of ways in which you could approach the problem.  So where do you start and how do you align what you’ve already done or are already doing with the right approach for you as an organisation? 

In this section I hope to help you answer that question using the optimal International Expansion Process I have developed over years of working with retailers and in cross border in general. It is intended that the framework acts as a reference guide for you through the process of growing your digital business internationally

Development of the Framework

I thought it would be useful to give some history to how and why I came up with this framework.  As mentioned before, the Optimal International Expansion Framework has been developed over 14 years while working in the international eCommerce sector.  I’ve worked both directly with retailers, with marketplaces, payment providers and cross border trade technology companies. I’ve helped and watched literally thousands of retailers start or move forward on their cross border journey.

The largest retailers I worked with, which were primarily within fashion and cosmetics categories, concentrated on localising their eCommerce websites and on the operations of shipping abroad, from the legalities to the packaging. They would make large investments to build solutions without putting in place either proper initial research or a longer term plan to analyse, adapt and take full advantage. The process seemed a lot more around believing there would be an increase in sales rather than a structured, planned approach of testing, analyzing and optimizing.

Over the last five or six years as more organisations have started to get involved in cross border and many CBT technology companies have started up the industry has evolved.  Those larger retailers who were quick to market have learnt that there is more to building a successful French business than having a website in French that takes Euros. The smaller tech companies have been focusing on solving and highlighting the biggest pains and the larger research companies have carried out numerous studies. 

This all means there’s a lot more experience and information out there than there was but that has further led to an increase in uncertainty about the right way forward. There are a lot of options.

I developed the Optimal International Expansion Framework for eCommerce both to put some help structure plans and also as a useful and usable, step by step guide to the most effective cross border plans using data to decide the next stage. 

While the theory behind and the structure of the framework is based on an iterative approach to enable learning and appropriate timings for the next steps, it also enables retailers, brands and marketplaces to adapt to their own current position, build backwards where needed and build forward where appropriate.  

Framework Overview

How do you know your approach to international expansion will be successful? Indeed, how do you even measure the process to learn what was good and what was bad? 

If you invest in translation for another language and spend all that time, money and effort optimizing for, say, France, how do you know you won’t waste your money?  As usual, you can’t be 100% sure, but there are ways to get quite sure, maybe even 95% sure! It’s all to do with using the right approach.  

This is what the Optimal International Expansion Framework aims to provide. A guide for setting your retail business up for success internationally through strong foundations and using data to decide how, and where, to grow.

The following is the framework overview pictured as a simplified process, it’s made up of 5 main parts :

  • Setting the foundations
  • Accepting Customers
  • Generic Optimisation
  • Research and Analysis
  • Full Localisation

A little counter intuitively perhaps but the framework starts from the bottom. Foundations, customer acceptance and generic optimization form the basis of a good CBT strategy. From here you use performance analysis and research to determine where, if anywhere, to take the next steps. The next step being the full localisation, over time, of those countries that perform well.

This expert guide as a description of the framework and how to utilise it to your companies advantage.

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