The world has never been more connected than it is today. We have real-time access to global news. We text with friends thousands of miles away. And we can shop in international markets from the comfort of our homes.
The internet has blurred borders, making international e-commerce an easier and more lucrative opportunity than ever. Is your program ready to explore new markets?
Let’s take a look at the considerations and strategies successful global brands use to sell internationally.
The Benefits of Selling Internationally
Until now, you may have avoided international expansion in favor of focusing on a single market. But if domestic sales are feeling stagnant or you’re ready for a new challenge, selling abroad can provide a number of benefits, including:
- Increased revenue. Cross-border selling opens your brand to new buyers, increasing sales beyond your domestic pool. In a survey of 1,000 U.S. small business leaders, three in four respondents viewed expanding trade to other countries positively, and nearly half felt expanded trade would be beneficial to their business or company. In the same survey, 78% indicated they believe increasing trade can lead to further opportunities and job creation.
- Greater brand exposure. International e-commerce allows you to create brand fans all over the world. International exposure means more opportunities for sales, engagement with new markets and potential new partners.
- “Always-on” selling. Whether shoppers are at your brick-and-mortar store or halfway across the world in pajamas, selling online means you never miss a sale. When they’re ready to buy, they can.
- Broader competition. Competition is fierce in a saturated domestic market. But expanding internationally means diluting the pool, potentially lessening your competition.
- Expanded distribution of excess inventory. Need to move surplus inventory? International selling opens these products to new markets for purchase. In categories like fashion or home decor, international markets may be eager for out-of-season stock even as styles and consumer shopping trends change in your home country. Plus, as hemispheres change seasons, products like winter coats or bathing suits receive extended life from markets with increasing demand.
How to Sell Internationally
Selling online makes international trade possible and efficient in ways “old-fashioned” commerce can’t. There are two primary ways to sell online across borders:
- Brand website — Make your brand accessible to any worldwide audience. With an e-commerce website, you control every aspect of your program — the exposure, listing, fulfillment, etc.
- Marketplace(s) — Don’t have a website? No problem. Benefit from the vast audiences of global marketplaces such as Amazon, Zalando, Rakuten or AliExpress. Most marketplaces now have their own fulfillment options and advertising networks
You can also pair these tactics for even greater reach. Listing on marketplaces gives you the advantage of larger international audiences, while selling through your own website helps generate sales at lower cost.
Considerations for Selling Internationally
While international trade has many benefits, it doesn’t come without risk or extra legwork. Be sure to account for these factors of selling internationally via your own brand website:
- Language barriers. For US brands, selling into neighboring countries like Canada is an easier first step than expanding to a new continent. Just remember: Despite many commonalities in some areas, regional differences still exist, such as, in Canada, the Quebecois. While selling into countries with cultural and lingual differences is certainly not impossible, it does require extra consideration and marketing to generate content and present products in a way consumers will understand and resonate with.
- Payment options. Your brand may already accept multiple forms of payment, including Visa or Mastercard. But selling internationally requires simplifying the path to purchase for customers. Be sure to offer methods like PayPal, international ACH or wire transfer that are available to multiple markets.
- Banned products. Products like alcohol, firearms, CBD oil and tobacco all come with strict regulations for selling abroad. But did you know baby walkers are banned in Canada? Or that video games must follow strict rules to sell in China? Check each of your SKUs against local regulations before entering the market.
- Tax. Tax law is complicated and specific to every region you sell in. When you sell in international markets, you agree to its tax collection and reporting requirements. Consider consulting an international tax professional or service to avoid legal challenges later.
- International shipping. International shipping requires a lot more than delivery trucks or even a quick flight across states. You must consider whether or not to offer shipping discounts, where products will be warehoused and how to efficiently accomplish last-mile delivery — all in a country you may be unfamiliar with.
- Returns. Will you process returns the same way you do domestically? Who will cover the cost of return shipping? While most international brands’ return policies are the same across all locations, it’s important to put a policy in place before selling.
Tips for Selling Internationally
As you wade into unknown (international) waters, try these tips for an extra leg up:
Choose new markets carefully.
Proximity and potential lucrativeness don’t necessarily make a new market the best choice. Conduct a thorough analysis of the countries you’re considering, making sure to account for the potential roadblocks above. You can also start small by only selling into one country at first or curating a smaller portfolio of products for the region. Then, use the knowledge you gain to expand into other areas.
Track products with GTINs.
While SKUs are customized to fit each retailer’s needs, global trade item numbers (GTINs) are used by every seller around the world. GTINs make it easier for marketplaces and merchants alike to manage their listings and products. They also give marketplaces a way to pair the same product sold by different merchants, improving the customer experience.
Use creative, accurate, detailed copy.
Make sure you’ve included all the information a potential customer needs to know. Consider the shopping habits of consumers in other regions. How will they search? Do they call your product something else? Remember to translate and even account for local dialect and slang to ensure the highest visibility.
Offer local customer service.
Localizing your customer service will ensure customers can get help when they need it — not just when your headquarters are open. You can do this by:
- Contracting or hiring in-market personnel
- Extending domestic customer service hours to account for international consumers (possibly even 24/7)
- Implementing chatbots for off hours
Reduce team burden with automation.
Most importantly, you can use technology to centralize your operations, sell more and reduce costs. Keeping track of prices, stock and customer orders is easy if you’re handling a few orders a day, but as the business grows and you start to get hundreds or thousands of orders every day, it can become overwhelming. To avoid this, you need a strong data management and synchronization system to keep your product information and inventory data accurate.
Expand Internationally with Rithum
It helps to have a guide when you’re entering new territory. Rithum, a Rithum company, has 20+ years of experience helping brands and retailers all over the world expand, optimize and grow their e-commerce programs across channels and markets.
Take it from New Jersey-based Bling Jewelry, who expanded to 44 domestic and international marketplaces from a single platform. Now, tasks like updating prices across currencies are easy and automated. “We change the pricing in one place and it changes in every currency within a matter of minutes. It’s almost magical,” said Elena Casteneda, CEO.
Plus, Bling Jewelry can consistently manage and monitor its performance, optimize data feeds, reduce errors and drive sales from a single, streamlined interface to maintain its competitive advantage. “Rithum makes it so easy because everything is centralized,” said Castaneda. “Every time Amazon opens up in a new country, Rithum is right there to help us.”
Our network of more than 370 global channels gives you options for expanding into new markets in a seamless, integrated way. Plus, our teams in the US, UK, Ireland, Germany, France and Australia allow us to provide localized, market-specific expertise to help you expand and grow with confidence.