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Is your company ready for global e-commerce?

UPS driver picking up a box from a man inside a store that sells brightly colored woven rugs.

If you're an online retailer, you're looking to reach as many shoppers as possible. But when you think of potential customers, what do you see? Are you only picturing consumers in your own country, or a diverse array of people from Toronto to Munich to Shanghai?

In a recently released special report, "E-commerce without borders: How top merchants are successfully selling to consumers worldwide," UPS i-parcel™ partnered with Internet Retailer to examine how global e-commerce is expanding, the opportunities and challenges it brings, and how merchants can thrive in this new international environment.

A world of opportunities

With the spread of web-connected mobile technology to every corner of the globe, online retailers can now reach more shoppers than ever.

"Every day online shopping is bringing retailers to the doorsteps of millions of consumers worldwide," explains Randy Strang, UPS Vice President of Global B2C Operations. "Global e-commerce grew 23% in 2015, presenting e-tailers with unprecedented avenues to open new markets in every region."

And as the report found, online shoppers worldwide aren't intimidated about buying across borders. They want the best product selection at the lowest price, no matter where the retailer is located.

According to research firm eMarketer.com, about 67% of Canada's web shoppers have made at least one cross-border purchase in the past year, while 76 million European Union residents have, says trade association Ecommerce Europe.

Even in China, where e-commerce is relatively new, 26.2 million online shoppers have purchased from a retailer outside their country, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

And the future of global e-commerce only continues to look brighter. As a 2014 report from Accenture and AliResearch states, "Almost half of global online consumers will purchase from overseas websites by 2020."

Understanding cross-border challenges

With all of this international opportunity available, what's holding merchants back?

"Selling to customers globally has its own unique set of complications and challenges that makes many retailers hesitant," acknowledges Strang. "[It] requires a localized approach to logistics, marketing, social media, delivery, payment, returns and customer service."

To truly take your business global, you should speak to customers in their own language, display product prices in their local currency and offer international payment options. This could mean building and maintaining separate websites or versions of pages for each market, which can be cost prohibitive.

Once the sale is made, shipping internationally offers its own set of challenges. Consumers want to know exactly what they will be paying for the transaction. However, each country has its own rules for the duties, taxes and fees collected on international shipments—and these rules can keep changing.

As you'll see in several of the case studies featured in the "E-commerce without borders" white paper, knowing these exact costs is important not only for keeping your customers happy, but also for keeping your company compliant with each country's tax rules and customs regulations.

You don't have to go it alone

To overcome the difficulties and reap the benefits of selling in the global marketplace, 27% of the Top 500 web merchants in North America use a third-party global e-commerce solution, according to 2015 figures from Top500Guide.com.

These cross-border solutions are designed to eliminate the cost and complexity of enabling an end-to-end localized shopping experience. The UPS i-parcel service, for example, has been key to helping several of the businesses featured in the special report handle the demands of global e-commerce, allowing their existing retail websites to greet customers in their native language, convert prices to local currency and display international payment options.

Download your copy of the full report today to see how a variety of retailers have successfully handled the challenges of cross-border e-commerce. You'll also learn more about the growing opportunities in international sales for North American retailers, including the top target countries, regions and product categories.

Download the white paper

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