An overview of the different kinds of websites and the advantages of using your own company website.
Last Published: 10/20/2016
A good website is an important part of your eCommerce strategy, and it doesn’t need to be expensive to create. International buyers actively search online across borders for products to buy. According to a recent study by Forrester, 58 percent of buyers who make online purchases from outside their own country find the vendors through online searches. Another large proportion of buyers learn about products and vendors by word of mouth, presumably from acquaintances who find them through online searches. Another source for finding cross-border eCommerce customers is online ads that refer potential buyers to a website.

Types of Websites

Websites take two forms: marketing and transactional. A marketing site promotes the product and brand and provides information on how the product can be purchased. A transactional site allows the buyer to select the product, pay for it, and have it delivered. Both forms allow opportunities for interacting with the buyer and contribute to the all-important “customer experience.” As you’ll learn when you read the country profile of South Africa, a local company there sells kitchen goods on its website and still manages to put a handwritten thank-you note in each  box.
You may have the means to receive payment and the willingness to ship goods. Even then, some international buyers may be reluctant to buy directly from your site. This reluctance may end once consumers widen their choices and gain more experience shopping internationally. Meanwhile, consumers still may look at your site and even contact you for information. Look at the metrics available from Google to see the home countries of the shoppers who visit your site. Then you can experiment with Google ads targeted at consumers in those countries and drive more of them to your   site or to your virtual store in one of the global marketplaces that has tools to collect payment, arrange shipping, and handle returns.
It’s your call whether to have your website precede your store on a big marketplace or  to represent your exclusive foray into eCommerce. Some experts advocate doing and having both. Others advise getting your feet wet with a store in a marketplace, then creating your company website and applying lessons learned. No answer is best for everyone. Whatever option you choose, you can build your own site, have one built for you, or create a store online by using services such as PrestaShop, Shopify, Magento, and Volusion.

How do you discover online merchants outside your own  country

  • Search engines: 58 percent
  • Online ads: 39 percent
  • Word of mouth: 33  percent
  • Social media: 31 percent
  • eMail promotion: 27 percent


Source: Forrester for FedEx, 2015

Advantages of using your company  website:

  • Buyers worldwide can find your company and view your  products.
  • You can choose to use the site to generate offline inquiries or to sell   direct.
  • You can build a fully transactional site yourself or outsource the building of it.
  • You can use readily available apps to create an online store and start selling the same day.
  • You can acquire apps for processing payment and arranging  delivery.
  • You can acquire apps that make your site wireless device friendly and improve search engine optimization.
  • You can acquire apps that enable you to manage selling across numerous platforms, including your site, third-party marketplaces, and    social media  stores.
  • You control the entire customer experience. Disadvantages of using your company  website:
  • It takes work and planning to create a good  one.
  • Too many businesses merely create the site and forget about it.
  • Too many businesses create a site for U.S. buyers and ignore the international   buyers.
  • A fully transactional site that appeals to an international buyer requires an investment (but prices have fallen to the point that most businesses can afford to have an effective site).
  • Accepting credit card payments means putting in place procedures to detect fraud.
  • You control the entire customer  experience.

Regardless of whether you sell directly to online buyers, use one or more of the large marketplaces or their country-specific affiliates, or do a combination of both, you should take several steps to ready your company website for global commerce. You can do this work yourself, or outsource most or all of it. For the do-it-yourself reader, or for individuals who want a little more detail, we will discuss the importance of domain names in the next section.

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