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Cross-Border E-Commerce

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Cross-border e-commerce challenges

There are some key customer service considerations when you’re working internationally.


The first one is the linguistic challenges. So it’s very important that you speak the local language, so you can effectively deal with the customer service inquiries as they come in. Again, this can be another benefit of the template system that we spoke about earlier. That if you don’t have in-house international language expertise you can gather the most common customer service inquiries, lay out what your classic responses are to those, and get them translated ahead of time, so that you can efficiently deal with international customer service inquiries.


It’s also really important to understand all the fulfillment challenges associated with different markets. So there can be local couriers and local carriers. They all have different terms and conditions to some of the more local couriers that you’re used to. And, again, you need to fully understand those processes and what service they’re going to provide to your customers, so that you can plan accordingly.

Market insight

And you also need to understand the market that you’re going into. The key to loss of business and success is about understanding your consumer and how they value your proposition and also how you market to them. And that can be much more challenging if you don’t know the local market.

So, again, these things can be addressed either by doing some market research or potentially partnering with people in these local markets to help address these challenges for you.


Now let’s look at some of the other key customer service considerations.

Data protection

Data protection is an absolutely key one. Customers want to know that their data is safely looked after when they’re dealing with you. And there’s been a couple of high-profile examples recently where businesses like TalkTalk in the UK have been hacked. Customer data has been lost. And, as a result, that business has been fined a huge amount of money and also lost customer trust that does incredible damage to the overall brand perception.


Again, there are different taxation rules and regulations in the different industries that you operate both in terms of retail tax and corporation tax. And there are also different considerations about where you should have your business based because there are different corporation taxes associated with that. So, for example, a lot of gaming businesses that can be based anywhere and serve international markets are based in countries like Gibraltar where the corporation tax is incredibly low.

You also need to understand how, as your business grows internationally, what are the tax considerations for that? Because it might be that you hire someone in a different country it means you effectively have an ongoing entity in that market, and as a result, you’re liable to pay taxes in that jurisdiction.


Another consideration is copyright, again on sites where you’re using images or videos. Many source these from a variety of different places, sometimes through partners, and you need to be clear on where you can and can’t use those images, so that you’re not putting yourself at risk of potential fines and cost.


Another issue is privacy. Again, this really comes down to how you use the data that you gather about your customers. It’s fine if you use that to enhance their service in a way that they’ve given you permission to do, but it’s not okay if you use that data in a way that they are unhappy with both from a legal point of view but again from a customer trust point of view. And also note that trust takes a long time to build up and [not] an awful lot of time to lose. So it’s really important from a business point of view that you keep that front in mind.

Accessibility issues

This is effectively about making it possible for people to get onto your site to buy the goods and services that you’re looking to sell. So part of this might be that certain sites are harder to get onto in different countries. For example, Facebook is not available in China at this stage and also for us to kind of access to the internet more generally, so thinking about browsers and download speeds. So, again, you’ve got particularly a data-heavy site. You might need to consider how you tailor that to areas where accessibility to high download speed isn’t as good as you might be used to.

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Graeme Smeaton

Graeme Smeaton is the founder of Royal & Awesome. Along with a proven track record in defining and delivering marketing strategies that drive significant growth and create real shareholder value, Graeme is highly commercial. He has extensive experience managing PLs and other key financial statements, while being an operational board director of AFG Media Ltd, and has experience negotiating with suppliers, distributors and licensing partners.

By the end of this topic, you should be able to:

  • Identify the impact of logistics, packaging, purchasing, distribution, and payment options for an e-commerce solution
  • Evaluate e-commerce revenue models and the advantages associated with different e-commerce solutions 
  • Critically appraise the requirements for managing e-commerce customers in accordance with current laws and legal guidelines

    Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

    DMI Short Course: GDPR

    The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

    You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library

    You will not be assessed on this content.


      E-Commerce Strategy
      Graeme Smeaton
      Skills Expert

      The E-Commerce Strategy module will introduce the characteristics of the e-commerce business model and will help you understand the corresponding business requirements and decisions that flow from their value proposition. You will learn to recognize the strengths and limitations of different e-commerce solutions and common payment methods. Finally, you will respond to a range of different illustrations showing how the level of customer service affects an e-commerce business in an industry where trust is key to the purchasing decision.