In an increasingly global world where choice and convenience are king, the cross-border eCommerce market is booming. Selling internationally is a natural next step to take when expanding your online business – by entering the right market in the right way, you’ll be putting your products in front of hundreds of millions of customers.
With so many factors to consider, how do you know where to start when considering selling internationally? Whether you want to go global or sell to just one other country, we’ve rounded up top tips for successfully expanding overseas.
1. Identify which markets to expand into
It sounds obvious, but there’s no point in expanding your business overseas if the demand for your product doesn’t exist. If you don’t already have analytics tools for your website, it’s well worth getting Google Analytics or a similar tool so you can assess where your traffic comes from and plan your expansion accordingly.
What’s more, if you use a tool such as SimilarWeb that lets you check traffic sources for other websites, you may even be able to assess which markets your competition aren’t selling to yet and get there first!
2. Choose your courier(s)
One of the biggest hurdles in working out how to sell overseas is arguably actually getting your products overseas! You need a shipping solution that’s not only cost-effective but has established links into your chosen countries and can handle the import requirements. The last thing you want is your shipping container delayed because of improper labelling!
Working with a multi-carrier eCommerce shipping solution such as Parcelhub gives you flexibility and covers all bases in terms of countries. Parcelhub can connect your business with over 20 couriers, giving you full flexibility, ‘pooled volume’ discounted rates, and access to any country you’d like to sell to. Parcelhub has partnered with Yodel, for example, who offer an international service delivering to over 200 countries and territories. Cost-effective and convenient!
3. Get to grips with import taxes and duties
No matter what you sell or where you sell it, duties and taxes need to be at the forefront of your mind. The laws and rates vary from country to country and mistakes can be incredibly costly, so you need to be aware of each country’s regulations before you start to expand.
You’ll need to be familiar with import duty (the tax imposed by a government on the importation of goods from other countries), GST (a tax on goods and services), VAT (also known as Value Added Tax, which customers are charged when they buy any good or service) and commercial invoices (essential documents for international shipping that detail the items in each shipment and their value).
The good news is that duty and tax are exempt for shipments of a certain value, which varies from country to country – this is known as de minimis. For some online retailers, this may mean the majority of your shipments are exempt, however, it’s always recommended you carry out thorough research and document each shipment accordingly.
Similarly to transactional tax obligations, it’s wise to be aware of business taxation laws – you really can’t be too careful about tax when selling online internationally. International taxation laws vary from country to country, so it’s best to seek professional advice to ensure your business pays the appropriate tax.
4. Set up your payment methods
Did you know that PayPal is the most popular payment method for online shopping in the UK – and that credit cards top the list in the USA? It’s essential that you cater to the country you’re selling to or you risk missing a lot of opportunities. One of the main reasons that customers abandon their carts is a lack of payment options: if they don’t see their preferred payment option, they won’t complete their purchase.
As well as making sure you offer the payment method preferred by the customers in your target market, you’ll need to consider local currencies. Ideally, you would offer customers the option to pay in their local currency for a seamless experience, but if this isn’t possible, make sure you show the conversion so they’re clear about the final price they’ll pay.
5. Have a plan in place for returns
Just as international selling is a way to increase your profit, international returns can be a way to increase your costs – but only if they’re not handled properly.
The first thing to do is review your operational processes. If your pick and pack methods are inefficient, you could be inadvertently driving up your return rate through simple human error. If you’re spending a lot of time organising your picking lists, shipping labels and so on, it would be worth looking into inventory management systems to automate this and bulk print your paperwork so you can spend more time focusing on proper picking and packing.
You’ll also want to consider your existing returns process. Is your returns policy easy to understand and easy for customers to find? For the majority of online retailers, returns are an inevitability, but the clearer you can be about your policies from the get-go, the less likely it is that customers will need to return their items. Not to mention, if you assess why customers are returning their orders, you can identify trends and use this to improve your service and processes, ultimately driving down your return rate.
Depending on the type and size of your business, you may wish to offer pre-paid returns labels, ask customers to post their items back and refund the costs, or consider a returns management provider.
6. Start selling on a marketplace
Selling through a marketplace is an excellent way to expand the reach of your business in your current market, and the same rings true for international expansion. Selling products through marketplaces means you can often skirt around many of the hassles that come with international expansion.
There’s an array of marketplaces out there to choose from, so you won’t be lacking choice – but it’s worth noting that not all marketplaces are made equal. You could choose to start selling on a marketplace for each individual country, or you could join a marketplace that caters to them all, like OnBuy.
OnBuy is set to launch into over 140 new countries, which is ideal whether you want a global presence or to sell to a select few markets. We appreciate that each business and each market is different, so we’ll put the power in your hands by offering optional auto-currency conversion and auto-translation, ensuring your overseas expansion is done your way.
As you now know, expanding your business internationally is completely within your reach – it’s simply a matter of identifying your target markets and planning the best strategy for your business. Your future customers are waiting!