Online shoppers around the world are happier than ever to shop around and try out unfamiliar brands if the customer experience feels right, even when shopping with retailers from other countries. Peak sales days are a particularly good opportunity for smaller and midsized retailers to win new sales from international consumers.

Sangeetha Narasimhan, marketing director, SMB Online, Europe, Ingenico ePayments

Given their name recognition and considerable financial resources, ecommerce giants often have the edge on their smaller rivals when it comes to expanding into new overseas markets. It’s no surprise, then, that small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) are often wary of expanding outside of their home market.

However, there’s never been a better time for smaller merchants to start reaching out to new customers in Europe and further afield. As newly released data insights from global payments company Ingenico ePayments has revealed, businesses have a huge opportunity to grow into new overseas regions—by harnessing both ecommerce and the growing power of global Peak Sales.

Consumers around the world are happier than ever to shop around and try out unfamiliar brands if the customer experience feels right—even when shopping with retailers from other countries.

On Cyber Monday cross-border transactions in Europe grew 71% in 2018 compared to the year before.

SMBs willing to put in the effort to offer unique product and services offerings, create frictionless checkouts, and make sure their ecommerce business is compliant with new regulations and local payment preferences are well placed to take on the ecommerce giants. Optimizing personalization, localization and security in this way is crucial if SMBs want to continue to grow and increase their market share.

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Understanding Peak Sales

In order to take advantage of Peak Sales events, it’s crucial to understand what they are. The term describes the busiest shopping days in the global retail calendar, when the majority of consumers make purchases either in-store or online.

Peak Sales can include international sales events, like Black Friday or Singles’ Day, major holidays, like Christmas or Easter, and international festivities, like Valentine’s Day. It also encompasses local celebrations, like Bastille Day in France, or Bank Holiday weekends in the UK.

Multinational ecommerce merchants such as Amazon are now creating their own Peak Sales moments. Other retailers, meanwhile, are opting for their own calendar of key dates to drive specific products, such as “Barbecue Day” to promote the sale of summer items.

We’re also now seeing social media influencers spark Peak Sales. Popular online influencers are now having a significant positive impact on sales, with purchases of products spiking following glowing reviews.

As a result, we’re seeing the shape of sales charts transforming before our eyes, with more—and larger—sales spikes than ever before.

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The Peak Sales opportunity

Researchers from Ingenico analysed Black Friday trends in Europe over the last three years, and found that sales across the continent are on the increase, driven in part by the rapid growth of cross-border transactions. From 2016 to 2017, cross-border sales rose by 16%.

Last year this figure surged by 70% when compared with sales in 2017. Nearly half (44%) of total European sales were cross-border in 2018—a healthy growth from 2016, which saw 23% of all transactions coming from consumers overseas.

The rise of cross-border sales is seen in other Peak Sales days throughout the year. On Cyber Monday, for instance, cross-border transactions in Europe grew 71% in 2018 compared to the year before.

Several factors help account for these large increases in cross-border sales. More consumers are looking overseas for the best bargains, and are getting more confident in doing so. More brands are working on their global approach—both the giants with their larger reach and smaller businesses Other contributors are likely the increased ease of logistics, cross-border shipments and returns, and ease of international expansion in ecommerce.

This research revealed that smaller merchants in particular can benefit from Peak Sales events. Some 12% of UK consumers opted to shop with small businesses or niche retailers instead of going to the online giants like Amazon, a phenomenon that is on the rise across the region.

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Clearly, these Peak Sales moments—when traffic is high and consumers are on the lookout for new, unique offers—are an opportunity for smaller merchants, wherever they are based, to attract the growing numbers of international shoppers.

Harnessing Peak Sales potential

So, how can smaller merchants take advantage of the Peak Sales bonanza? Here are some top tips from Ingenico:

  • Ecommerce channels can offer small merchants a key advantage by enabling them to reach multiple overseas markets simultaneously, without the expense and complexity of opening new bricks-and-mortar branches.
  • Offering value-adds, like unique products and generous returns policies, can go a long way towards retaining discount hunters in the long term.
  • Exclusive ‘Peak Sales-only’ items and perks such as a personalised one-on-one experience, rather than short-lived discounts from a faceless store, can enhance customer engagement, and create a point of difference with larger rivals.
  • Making sure your website offers local languages, currencies and payment methods will also ensure you appeal to customers overseas.
  • Tune fraud rules in the run-up to Peak Sales events to maximise conversion and minimize lost sales.
  • Bolstering customer service availability and delivery processes, as well as stepping up capacity, can also help optimise the experience for customers and prevent chargebacks.
  • Finally, merchants should choose a payment provider who is not only able to operate in all of their target markets, but also offer a stable platform capable of handling the extra surge of visitors—and work closely with its customer care team for maximum support.

Sowing the seeds for cross-border success

It’s no longer the case that consumers will only shop locally. Shoppers are no longer tied to their physical location—as long as the shopping, checkout and delivery process feels local to them, they are more than happy to try out newly discovered merchant brands. This presents an exciting opportunity for small merchants looking to grow their customer base and market share. Harnessing the power of online Peak Sales events, combined with the support of payment experts, even the smallest merchants can deliver an incredible customer experience in every new region they wish to target, empowering them to thrive on the international stage.

Ingenico Group, based in France, is a major provider of payment terminals, technology and services.

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