Internationalisation in E-Business: 7 Steps to Success Beyond Borders

Internationalisation in E-Business: 7 Steps to Success
Source: Unsplash/Ben White

Driving the internationalisation of your business is more attractive today than ever before. There are plenty of reasons for this. First and foremost, the constant advances in information technology and increasing mobility make it easier to operate on the international stage.

But is it really as uncomplicated as it seems? Probably not, since even the largest corporations sometimes plan their entry into a new market years in advance. If you want to drive the internationalisation of your business, this article will provide you with tips, tricks and the most important aspects to consider in your expansion plans.

Internationalisation in E-Business – An Overview

        1. Transformation and Adaptation as Top Skills
        2. A Step-by-Step Guide to Internationalisation
            1. Planning, Planning, Planning
            2. Strategy Development
            3. Legal and Regulatory Issues
            4. Design
            5. Technological Standards
            6. Payment Methods
            7. Sustainability
          1. Checklist for Successful Internationalisation
          2. Which Region Is the Right One for You?
            1. USA
            2. China
            3. Africa

    Internationalisation in E-Business: Transformation and Adaptation as Top Skills

    Whether you are a young start-up or an established large company: the 21st century belongs to the global players.
    There are many ways to expand internationally in a globalised world, but which way will bring you the most success? How should you enter a new market? Which strategies will effectively help you achieve your goals? What challenges will you have to face – and what knowledge will facilitate your market entry? This article has all the answers.
    In order to be successful in the market, you absolutely need to be where your target group is. This is not just limited to being active on the right channels. Think bigger: in our globalised world, you can also reach new customers outside your home and core markets.
    It is in your hands! Because you have to provide your customers with digital offers that excite them. Therefore, it is important that you adapt your range of products and services to the wishes of your target group and get to know potential customers in other markets.
    On example is through social monitoring: keep track of current topics and trends on social media and find out what moves your customers – or collect feedback directly from your customers and create offers tailored to your new target group.
    Be prepared to continuously transform your business and adapt your processes to your target markets. These are not just top skills for e-business within your country’s borders, but also beyond them.
    For an international business, you should always adapt your mindset and be willing to evolve. So be open to changes in your processes and ready to adapt your range of products and services to your new target region.
    This applies to all your business processes – from the implementation of your system landscape and the launch of an online shop to order processing, logistics and payment methods as well as other product and service offerings. Your processes need to be coordinated and linked in a way that makes sense for your new market.

    Internationalisation in E-Business: A Step-by-Step Guide to Internationalisation

    1) Planning, Planning, Planning

    The expansion into foreign markets poses a variety of challenges. These include cultural differences, political conditions and technological limitations – or sometimes even completely different customer requirements in terms of products and processes. The next steps include concrete examples of how to deal with these challenges.
    What is most important for successful internationalisation is that you take enough time for the planning phase. Consult experts, gather the input of all parties involved and get your employees on board before you really get going.

    2) Strategy Development

    Think carefully about how you want to market your products in your target country. In some regions, it makes sense to work with a local partner. In other regions, a pure export strategy may be more suitable. Elsewhere, setting up your own subsidiary may be the most successful strategy. Besides exporting, iworking together and setting up a new company, there are also other strategies that can be found in this overview of the stages of internationalisation.
    These questions will help you develop a market entry strategy:

    • How developed is your target market and industry?
    • What are the relationships between existing suppliers, manufacturers and customers?
    • How strong is the competition and how can I stand out?

    Different countries, different laws. Legal framework is often the largest hurdle in the internationalisation process.
    Product declarations on ingredients, nutritional values, allergens, labelling of hazardous substances or instructions for use differ widely from country to country. Regulations on required quality and ingredient labels as well as traffic light labelling can also vary greatly.
    For this reason, you should implement product declarations as comprehensively as possible from the beginning. This way, you can avoid potential infringements of national law further down the line. A flexible PIM system can help you structure relevant product data.
    Pro tip: adapt product descriptions within the EU to the country with the strictest declaration requirements – this creates a kind of operational standard in this region, as the regulations of many countries overlap.

    4) Design

    The simplest solution would be a 1:1 deployment of your already developed online shop onto a new market, only translated into the respective national language.
    However, that is not enough. Every culture and every person is different – and it is important to take these different characteristics into account. But what is important to consider when designing an online shop?
    First of all: show your colours! Colours take on different meanings in different cultures. An inappropriate colour choice could lead to your message not being received correctly. Try to avoid colours with religious connotations in your design.
    Characteristics of an appealing layout also vary from culture to culture. On Asian markets, designs loaded with colours and animations often perform well, while Germans tend to prefer a simple and serious design.

    5) Technological Standards

    What applies to the design of your online shop and your products also applies to the technology.
    First, think about the operation and hosting of your website. Where are the servers located, where the back-end systems? Are there any additional technological constraints?
    Consider different formats, units, currencies and tax rates in your systems. Also take into account different time zones, process configurations and the connection of different back-end systems and external services.
    For example: thanks to a Salesforce tool, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG was able to model and manage its 36 online shops in 22 different languages – with a wide variety of currencies and characters – using a single commerce solution.
    When expanding internationally, also consider the following: aspects that influence your visibility in search engines, such as a domain strategy or duplicate content, should be specifically adapted to the respective target country.
    Furthermore, the increasing use of mobile devices means that responsive design is a must – optimised for smaller screens and smaller user interfaces.

    6) Payment Methods

    Preferences vary. This is also true when it comes to payment methods in other countries.
    Although credit cards such as Mastercard and Visa as well as direct debit and purchase on account are common payment methods in many countries, there are some country-specific characteristics.
    Online payment systems such as PayPal and increasingly Apple Pay are already part of the standard repertoire in many countries.
    However, you should also take local payment providers into account in several countries. For example, iDEAL is an important player in the Netherlands, while the majority of transactions in China are made via Alipay.
    In B2B, established methods such as purchase on account remain relevant. In order to open up new markets and make payment processes even more flexible, you should consider introducing other popular payment methods.

    7) Sustainability

    The internationalisation of your business model brings another megatrend into focus: sustainability. The term is equated with environmental responsibility, economic performance and social justice.
    As a result, sustainability goals pursuing economic, social and environmental aspects can be identified. They are anchored in the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (in short: SDGs).
    For you, this means weighing up the various matters relating to the SDGs and putting them into context. This way, your entrepreneurial decisions can create sustainable, positive effects.
    For example, you can strengthen local labour markets with your international business – especially in developing and emerging countries.

    Internationalisation in E-Business: Checklist

    If you want to be active internationally with your digital business, there is quite a lot to consider. This checklist gives you a concise overview of which questions to ask when it comes to internationalisation.

    • Market Maturity
      • How deeply is e-commerce anchored in customers’ awareness and in your target country’s economy?
      • How much is purchased online there?
    • Potential
      • What long-term potential does the new market offer?
      • Is the country experiencing growth or is the market saturated?
      • How many potential customers exist in the new market?
      • What is the compitition like?
    • E-Commerce-Infrastructure
      • How is Internet access in your target country?
      • Can the Internet be accessed via mobile devices?
      • How often do people use the Internet?
    • Investment Requirements
      • How much will it cost to develop an international online shop?
      • How large of a budget will you need for translation, design, product images, etc.?
      • What costs are associated with setting up a new company?
    • Risks
      • What risks are involved in entering the market? (e.g. fluctuating exchange rates, procurement risks, security risks)
    • Infrastructure and Logistics
      • How developed is the local road and rail network?
      • What about air transportation?
      • What is the general infrastructure of the region like?
    • Legal Aspects
      • What is the legal situation like?
      • Are there specific regulations regarding trade and e-commerce?
      • How does the national law there differ from German law?
      • What potential pitfalls are there?

    Internationalisation in E-Commerce: Which Region Is the Right One for You?

    There are many potential countries for market entry. Here is an overview of three of the largest economic regions.


    With an Internet usage rate of about 95 per cent and over 330 million inhabitants, the USA is a lucrative market for many industries. The country dominates international trade and is one of the driving forces in the global economy.
    The USA also often sets the pace in e-commerce: many digital trends originate there and reach Europe and other regions of the world later. Since English is a global language, the USA has another advantage.
    If you want to enter the American market, be sure to strategically prepare. Pay close attention to the wording of your terms and conditions and to customs regulations, as the US has specific laws in this regard.


    China is booming. The country currently boasts the world’s largest e-commerce market with over one billion Internet users – and the majority of them make most of their purchases online.
    Your main challenge when it comes to doing business in China is the legal situation – laws are often phrased very vaguely. This means that the country can actively influence your actions, for example by deciding which local partners you can work with.
    Many trends and technological developments work in a fundamentally different way in China. Social media channels such as Instagram, YouTube and the like are not used at all. You will be working with local platforms: Baidu as a search engine, Weibo as a social network, Alipay as a payment service provider and Alibaba as the largest online marketplace.
    You can get inspiration from commercetools: in 2022, the software provider specialising in composable commerce announced that it would be entering the Chinese market.
    The reasons for this were obvious: China is the world’s largest e-commerce market and therefore an excellent fit for the company’s software products. In this article, you can find out what else makes the Chinese market special and what commercetools has learned.


    More than an astonishing 900 million people in Africa use a mobile phone. That is more smartphone users than in Europe or the USA.
    However, access to the Internet is still relatively restricted – a below-average 43 per cent of the total population are Internet users.
    In more developed countries such as South Africa, Morocco and Egypt, Internet penetration is higher, offering better opportunities to enter the market. However, in total, there are few urban centres in Africa that are suitable for the internationalisation of your e-commerce strategy.

    Internationalisation in E-Business: Download the White Paper for Free Now!

    Digital Transformation in E-CommerceUnderstanding your customers is essential in all markets.
    Make use of digital trends and international strategies to ensure that you are remembered by your target group. Abroad, this requires an in-depth understanding of culture, mentality, values and other specifics.
    These aspects make your internationalisation a complex task, but will be instrumental in determining your success. Internationalisation also offers great potential for synergies, for example within your system landscape, in logistics and in administration.
    In our »Digital Transformation« white paper, you can find even more input on digital topics to solidify your expansion plans. Get inspired and learn how to turn challenges into opportunities.
    Fill out the form now and receive a free copy in your inbox!

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