An ePublication from Ecommerce Partners

Beyond the Shopping Basket

By | April 24, 2017 6:20 pm

A technology and tax compliance guide for international ecommerce sellers

International ecommerce has taken off in recent years, culminating in $1.9 trillion in sales last year. More than one billion people made online purchases in 2016 – that’s more than half of all global internet users.1 Europe makes up 25 percent of this market, with cross-border sales estimated to top $450 billion in the next ve years.2 And it’s not only consumers who are buying online; B2B ecommerce sales are expected to outpace B2C sales and become a $6.7 trillion business by 2020.3

Sellers are buoyed by these predictions – and bullish about their own online futures. When surveyed, half of retailers say they expect their online revenues to grow by at least 20 percent in 2017 and a fth say they expect to see their online revenues grow by more than 50 percent.4

To be competitive in today’s global market, an online presence is a must. But just launching a website and mobile app won’t guarantee success. You need both a solid strategy and a technology platform in place that support your ecommerce goals and help you grow your business.


Customers are calling the shots

As ecommerce matures, online shoppers have become more savvy and more demanding. They expect a lot from merchants and brands. At the top of the list: a seamless, omnichannel experience. Nine in ten consumers access the internet from multiple devices5 and 85 percent of shoppers start a transaction on one device and complete it on another.6

Shopping online today is more than just dragging products into a virtual basket and pushing the “buy” button. Customers want a whole brand experience – online, in store, even via social media. They’ll spend money with merchants that let them buy on their terms. In the U.K. and France, ecommerce shoppers want to compare products online. In Spain and Germany, they want fast checkout.7

And it’s not just consumers; more than half of B2B buyers use social media to research products and vendors before making purchasing decisions.8 In the past, statistics overwhelming showed customers starting their research via search engine. That trend has visibly shifted to retail sites. For example, today 39 percent of consumers starting a search on Amazon compared to 11 percent on Google.9

Understanding these behaviors is important as it can help you prioritise what you want your ecommerce or shopping basket to do depending on how you want to engage with buyers or compete for their attention.

Determine your ecommerce goals

Whether you’re a small retailer just getting started with online sales or a multi- national corporation offering wholesale products to distributors, your web presence must be able to advance your business objectives.

Today, there is no shortage of solutions on the market to help you achieve your online sales goals, but choosing the right ecommerce or shopping basket technology can be overwhelming. Start with de ning exactly what you need your ecommerce site do. To be effective, your ecommerce system or shopping basket should:

  • Bring in new customers and more sales to your business
  • Showcase your products and services to their best advantage
  • Facilitate easy order processing and payments
  • Offer fast, easy, secure and accurate check out – including delivery and tax
  • Allow localisation for language, cultural behavior and currency
  • Facilitate easy order processing and payments
  • Offer fast, easy, secure and accurate check out – including delivery and tax
  • Allow localisation for language, cultural behavior and currency

Every day, ecommerce software gets more sophisticated. Many solutions now offer the ability to serve up unique content based on location, demographics, past purchases, and brand preferences. Some platforms even offer predictive analytics. So it’s possible, depending on how much is riding on the success of your online business, to get more features and bene ts should you want them or need them.

Choosing the right ecommerce solution

Choosing an ecommerce or shopping basket technology can be overwhelming. Asking a few key questions can make this process simpler and help narrow down choices:

  • Bring in new customers and more sales to your business
  • Is it a good t for your business and ecommerce goals?
  • How easy is it to set up and use?
  • What features does it offer?
  • What is the investment in time and costs to buy and maintain it?
  • Are there limitations such as the number of products or transactions it can handle?
  • Does it integrate with your physical store’s data and business systems?
  • How does it handle transactional tax, import/export costs, tariffs and duties
  • Can it handle multi-language, currency and cultural differences?

Looking at each of these areas in terms of how they align with your business goals can be invaluable in determining the best course of action to take in terms of selecting a solution.

Shopping basket vs. ecommerce platform

How much technology do you need? Shopping basket software will give you the basics – the ability to showcase your products and processpayments – and perhaps include a few other merchant tools as well. For small retailers who sell through marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy and eBay, that may be enough. For larger businesses, global brands or specialty and lifestyle retailers, an ecommerce solution that connects to your point-of-sale, CRM, inventory and order management, fulfillment, and email marketing software and accounting system may be a better option. With ecommerce solutions, it’s also easier to engage with customers via social selling, loyalty programs, seasonal promotions, in-app purchases and mobile payments.

Which products (and possibly services) you sell

A lot is riding on how your products appear online. If you have a large stock, you’ll likely need a more robust solution to set up and manage the product catalog on your website. Do you sell highly specialised or unique products or are you a volume seller? Do you sell services in addition to goods or digital goods in addition to tangible property? These are important considerations in choosing an ecommerce platform. For example, sellers of apparel and certain consumer goods may want to offer customer reviews, real-time inventory, multiple images, special promotions or other user experience tools to buyers. These would be beyond what a basic shopping basket could offer.

Logistics, ful llment, and delivery

Buyers want to get their purchases quickly. This has put the pressure on retailers – and especially ecommerce sellers – to offer faster or free delivery. Buyers also want options. A ComScore report on European internet shoppers revealed that 41 percent want to check out online and pick-up in- store; 52 percent want to buy online and return in store. Thinking about how you want to compete for these buyers’ business should be part of your ecommerce strategy – and can give you an edge over other sellers. For example, Czech-based clothing retailer Zoot delivers online purchases to a physical storefront within hours of delivery, giving customers the option to try on items and keep only the ones they want.

Fast, secure, checkout

There’s no shortage of studies that show shoppers will abandon a site if it does not provide fast, easy, secure checkout – 7 in 10 in fact.10 Unexpected costs at checkout are the number one reason for basket abandonment, followed by long check out processes and issues with the website performance.11 You want your basket or ecommerce system to alleviate these issues, providing customers the best possible user experience. That means no slowdowns or surprises at checkout. Payment options, discounts and promotions should be clear and consistent. Be up front about stock availability, delivery times, and nal costs – including delivery fees and tax.

Integrates with financial and business systems

Your ecommerce solution should support your business, not slow it down. Choose software that will integrate well with your core business systems so that you have a more complete view of your operations – on and offline. Make sure any ecommerce solution you choose can scale with your business as you grow. A shopping basket solution that integrates inventory and order management, customer service, tax compliance, brand strategy, and predictive analytics will ultimately make the online sales process (and the burden on your IT department) far less onerous.

Seamlessly handles transactional tax and duty

It’s becoming increasingly rare for ecommerce purchases to be tax free. And taxing authorities are getting stricter and more stringent in enforcing compliance on companies that sell online.  So how you manage tax in your shopping basket or ecommerce system is critical to protect both customer relationships and your business. Tax software that integrated with your system that can automate this process is a smart bet. Select a provider with a global tax solution so that can handle multi-country transactional tax – value added tax (VAT) in Europe, Goods and services tax (GST) in Canada, and sales tax is the U.S. – as well as international delivery charges, duty and landed cost.

The role of tax automation in international ecommerce

Getting transactional tax right is an essential part of successful ecommerce. Yet tax compliance is not typically top of mind for retailers when choosing an ecommerce solution. Rather, they are focused on deployment, ease of use, affordability, and features that will create stickiness with customers coming to their websites.

Tax is often overlooked during this process. In reality, venturing into ecommerce or expanding your online sales are the best times to look at how you manage transactional tax and whether tax collection and reporting obligations could change as a result. Mishandling tax on international sales can be risky and costly to your business if you’re found out of compliance. Given how differently countries apply “standard” tax rules with listed exceptions in each territory combined with the different languages, it’s easy to make an error or miscalculation. US sales tax is a consumer tax, charged at the nal point of sale on the full retail value of the product while VAT is charged at each stage of distribution on the value added between each transaction. GST is calculated similarly to VAT.

Complying with these different taxing systems can be daunting, especially if you’re not certain of your obligations or familiar with foreign tax laws. Determining place of supply (which country’s VAT is charged and paid) isn’t always easy, especially if services are part of the transaction. Get it wrong and you could be looking at customs delays, increased scrutiny from taxing authorities and auditors, even costly nes and penalties.

And with 70,000+ unique taxing jurisdictions worldwide — each with its own set of tax rates, rules and regulations – it’s not something most retailers are equipped to manage on their own with internal resources or basic nancial applications. Readying your business for international tax compliance can be achieved with tax automation software like Avalara integrated into your ecommerce solution.

Grow globally with Avalara

Avalara is a smart choice for growing ecommerce companies who need a tax solution that can scale with their business and handle the complexities of international tax structures and regulatory compliance. With  the largest tax engine in the world – millions of real-time tax and product codes, rates and rules – Avalara’s tax compliance solutions are used by tens of thousands of businesses in billions of global transactions every day.

For international sellers, having Landed Cost automatically calculated as part of the transaction is a bonus. Avalara tax automation alleviates the need to use intermediaries or export agents to facilitate the transaction and handle the paperwork, which can add to the cost of international sales and reduces pro t margins. Avalara also helps ecommerce sellers manage exempt sales and file returns.

Existing partnerships and pre-built connectors to 500+ ERP, ecommerce and accounting systems make Avalara an easy add-on to any ecommerce system you’re considering or a simple integration to your existing business systems. And all solutions come with Avalara’s 100 percent accuracy and audit protection guarantee.

For more information about Avalara’s suite of compliance solutions, visit or +44 (0) 203 126 4996

Source Resources

1 USCensusBureau

2 ViacomMediaNetworks

3 Frost&Sullivan

4 Magento

5 comScore

6 Google

7 eMarketer

8OnlineB2BInteractions:HowBusinessisGoing Digital, 2016, Business 2 Community

9 ForresterResearch

10 InternetRetailer

11 Statista


About Avalara

Avalara, Inc., is a leading provider of cloud-based tax compliance automation for businesses of all sizes. We help businesses achieve compliance with transactional taxes, including VAT, sales and use, excise, communications, and other tax types. Avalara delivers comprehensive, automated, cloud-based solutions that are fast, accurate, and easy to use. Our Compliance CloudTM platform helps customers manage complicated and burdensome tax compliance obligations imposed by state, local, and other taxing authorities throughout the world. Avalara offers more than 500 hundred pre-built connectors into leading accounting, ERP, ecommerce and other business applications. Each year, the company processes billions of indirect tax transactions for customers and users, files hundreds of thousands of tax compliance documents and tax returns, and manages millions of exemption certificates and other compliance related documents.



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About Ecommerce Partners:
Founded in 1998, ECommerce Partners is a full-service, ecommerce and interactive agency headquartered in New York City. Best known for our unique process methodology, we combine Internet expertise, creative talent, and business know-how to help clients across a variety of industries achieve rapid, measurable online marketing results.

True to our motto, "We build businesses, not just websites," we provide large and mid-sized companies with a full range of Internet marketing, website design and ecommerce solutions geared to maximize online revenues.



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