What is cross border ecommerce, and how can we attract international customers?

Cross border ecommerce sales continue to grow. Internationalizing an online store has become a useful strategy, as huge numbers of consumers seek our products beyond their borders.

An online business needs to target users in the right way to gain international customers. The first essential step is a quality translation that takes cultural aspects into account. There’s no point in launching an international operation if our customers don’t understand us! Let’s take a look.

What is cross border ecommerce?

It sounds simple, but it is exactly that: ecommerce across borders. In other words, getting international customers to buy from our online businesses. So, how is it going?

According to Statista, the revenue of the ecommerce industry in the United Kingdom is forecast to continuously increase by 85.7 billion U.S. dollars (+42.88%) within the next years. Not bad at all!



Given this rate of growth, we would be wise to look at different ways of internationalizing our business. In fact, even with current setbacks such as a weak UK economy and slow growth, Insider Intelligence suggests that the outlook isn’t too bleak, with ecommerce actually helping to bolster retail sales.

Ecommerce UK figures also show it is consistently ranked in the top 3 countries purchased from in most markets. Even post-Brexit, ecommerce across borders is as important as ever, with a recent survey showing 29% of French and 26% of German shoppers still purchasing from the UK.

Looking at these figures, we really must ask ourselves: How can we get our piece of the pie? Easy: get customers from other countries to feel at home in our ecommerce. This is something that can only be done with translation.

As users, we tend to give more credibility to pages written in our own language and that express aspects of our own culture. If we want to connect with someone, the best way is through familiarity. We can only achieve this with a quality translation.

Although there are no recent studies on the matter, the latest figures would suggest that 56% of European users wouldn’t buy a product whose description was only in a foreign language. Another study highlighted that 56.2% of users put language before price as a reason for purchase.

What is the potential of cross border ecommerce?

Cross border ecommerce has immense potential. In fact, a recent study by Juniper Research shows that this type of commerce will represent 38% of all global ecommerce transactions in 2023.

As consumers, we are often very demanding, meaning online stores need to adapt to the market.

Broadly speaking, this means:

  • Carrying out a market study to identify what our potential customers need, according to the country we are targeting.
  • Translating our website and tailoring it to our target culture.
  • Offering different payment methods, as well as the possibility to purchase in different currencies.
  • Having good logistics for international shipments, and an agile after-sales service with no language barriers.

So, clearly, it’s not a quick and easy task. Nevertheless, we can take advantage of other platforms that will help us with our internationalization strategy in 2023. Live shopping and the use of marketplaces are just a couple of examples.



That said, all this effort will be worth it. At least that’s according to the above-mentioned studies, which predict that cross border ecommerce will surpass $2.1 billion in 2023. In other words, 13% more than in 2022.

How can I adapt my online store to sell more in international markets?

As we have already mentioned, simply translating our website isn’t enough if we want to effectively internationalize our ecommerce. We need technical and cultural/linguistic advice. It’s one thing to translate our website into another language, it’s quite another to connect with the customer. Let’s ask ourselves the following questions when translating our ecommerce:

  • Are we paying for a service or using machine translation?The second option won’t get us anywhere. Take a look at this post to find out why.
  • Are we taking ecommerce SEO into account?SEO translation will help us rank highly on Google and other search engines, and this will undoubtedly lead to a positive ROI.
  • Are we expressing ourselves in our customer’s language? This is a trick question. We are obviously going to say yes, right? Well, no. Let’s ask ourselves if we are talking to our target audience as they would talk themselves, or are we talking more generally? Would your dad talk in the same way as your teenage cousin? Exactly. We have to apply the same theory to languages.
  • Does our message connect through user experience?It’s not all about the text, we also have to consider how we are going to present it to our audience. Finding out what works in each country (formality, colours, etc.) and applying it to our international UX strategy is really useful.

Only when we can answer “yes” to all the questions are we in the best position regarding cross border sales of our ecommerce. So, put them into practice and please keep in mind that translation agencies can be your ideal companion on your journey.

Are you going to let the opportunity to internationalize your online store slip away?

As professionals in ecommerce translation and cultural adaptation, we must say that work in this field is continuous, although its immense potential means that there is still a lot to do. Expansion of a virtual business relies on sensitive internationalization through a quality translation that considers digital marketing trends.

We would love to take a look at your cross border ecommerce project with you, so please get in touch. Cross borders at the click of a button!

About the author

Oscar Nogueras

Es el CEO de Ontranslation y dedica algunos ratos libres a escribir en este blog para compartir sus conocimientos sobre internacionalización, cross-border ecommerce y Traducción SEO. No es para menos, ya que entre su formación cuenta con una licenciatura en filología inglesa, un máster en tradumática, un posgrado en elearning y un MBA. En definitiva, una declaración de intenciones donde la cultura y los idiomas se sirven mezclados, no agitados.

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