Do borders even matter? In 2022, this question is more is complex than ever before. Globalization is thriving and so is the worldwide online market, and the pandemic has accelerated things even further. If back in 2019 global processes mainly dealt with eCommerce trade, retail, and tourism, today selling online has added another dimension — trading across borders.
International eCommerce is the new frontier for even new entrants to the online space. That’s why we're focusing on the subject of online selling to international markets, the pros and cons of it all, as well as 5 specific strategies that will help you get your product on the worldwide market, fast.
Let’s jump in.
What is international eCommerce?
The outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020 has undoubtedly been a driving force behind the rise of international eCommerce. Almost one-third of online shoppers now say they have made purchases from online retailers located in a country other than their own. But what does the term “international eCommerce” actually mean?
You could probably guess that it closely relates to the process of businesses favoring selling internationally instead of sticking to their local markets. This way they tend to tap into the pool of new opportunities, such as product diversification, new loyal audience acquisition, extended brand recognition, etc.
Before selling cross-border
Before you jump in to try and steal a piece of this growing cross-border opportunity, there are some things that you need to get in order first. Before you commit to opening your eCommerce to the global market in order to sell overseas, make sure you go through this checklist.
You are ready to run an international eCommerce operation, when:
- You have an established position in your local market
- You have carefully researched and evaluated the risks associated with international online retail
- You have set up clear tangible goals for your global expansion
- You have selected specific countries you want to expand to
- You are familiar with the cultural specifics of the markets you want to target
- Your product is appropriate for those markets
- You have researched some of the potential international partners
- You have a specified budget for this venture
- You will be able to recover if selling internationally doesn't work out for your product
- You have gone through each point on this checklist twice and understood its meaning
Done! Now let's move to our proven selling tips for launching a global eCommerce store!
How to sell internationally online
Apart from the obvious, there aren’t that many fundamental differences between an international eCommerce and a local one. Of course, there are certain country-specific regulations and some complications caused by the global scheme of your operation, yet, in the long run, it’s not as hard as it may seem at first.
In this post, we want to take a look at the most crucial steps you need to take to successfully make your online business international, but you will be sure to find more information on the specifics of global eCommerce on your own.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get started!
1. Decide if you want to partner up with an international eCommerce marketplace
Chances are that you already have a robust website for your eCommerce store. And that’s great for selling your product in a local market. When joining the big league of running a global eCommerce business, you might want to consider joining the big players as well.
For example, you could have your products listed on one of the major international marketplaces, such as Amazon, Alibaba, or eBay, for your brand to have greater visibility in foreign markets. Of course, not every product will be suitable for these global vendors and there are certain policies you will need to comply with in order to become their selling partner. Yet, in the long run, joining one or several of the recognized online marketplaces is the easiest way up to the worldwide online market.
If you choose to continue your journey into international eCommerce on your own you will definitely have more freedom, but also more responsibilities. As such, you will be the one responsible for customer service, marketing, and all the logistics connected with running your global operations.
This practical aspect of serving new markets is key to success and the source of many problems for those who overlook its importance.
2. Invest in transaction and localization services for online selling and marketing
The main trick to running a successful international eCommerce is to sell globally while remaining in touch with local realities. The easiest way to do that is, of course, to hire dedicated local teams to take care of the correct translations, product presentations, marketing, etc. However, this can be pricey and time-consuming, so many online business owners choose to keep everything under their own control.
There are several things you could do here. First and foremost, you need to make sure that your product doesn’t fall into any sensitive categories, is, indeed, allowed to be sold and distributed in the country you are targeting and will have the necessary demand to support it.
Then, invest in a good translator who will make your product offer attractive to the local market. It’s been documented that 75% of customers prefer to shop in their native language. And, no, Google Translate won’t cut it.
Furthermore, make sure you support payment methods that are suitable for a global audience. PayPal is not available in every country, yet it might have a valid alternative!
Finally, consider investing in local influencer marketing as a part of your content management plan to have opinion leaders your target audience already trusts promote your offer.
3. Think through the global logistics and international shipping
This is one of the hardest parts of international expansion. Not only do you need to have your product offer to be optimized for local retail, but also you need to make sure that all the global logistics work smoothly.
Ideally, you would need to have several warehouses in strategic points around the globe to speed up shipping. Instead of investing in building your own supply chain, you can simply partner up with experienced specialists.
Furthermore, you need to think of all the shipping costs and potential returns that will affect your final prices and margins. Is it worth the hassle? Could not delivering to a certain country be more beneficial to your international eCommerce store in the long run? Crunch the numbers, audit your expenses, and make the final decision.
4. Study country-specific legal regulations for the destination markets
There is not much more to add here, really. When you decide to start selling internationally you must prepare for a difficult battle with legal technicalities. Honestly, the best advice we can give you here is to hire a global legal team with a couple of dedicated specialists to help you with localization.
Remember, as a global e-business, you now have to follow the legislation of the international market as well as the specific rules and regulations for online trade in a certain region. Lawyer up!
5. Make sure your customer support is available everywhere
Finally, this one is a no-brainer, yet it is often not given in the priority it deserves, especially when you are just getting started with international eCommerce. As you probably know, customer support is of paramount importance for any business and becomes a critical factor for the customers deciding whether or not to trust this company again.
For the e-businesses selling internationally, localization is key once again. And here it’s not just a matter of the language alone. You need for your customer support team to be available at least during the working hours of the country you are targeting, and those hours may completely fall out of the schedule you’re used to.
Also, you need to look into the use of platforms that are convenient for your potential buyers, even if you're not familiar with them. Go local when you can.
You need to be where your customers are, and you need to speak their language. Otherwise, your entire international eCommerce operation is doomed to fail.
Global eCommerce - facts and figures
At this point, you might be wondering if the possible benefits are really worth all the trouble. There is no one answer for everyone and there are challenges along the way. However, here are some of the latest stats regarding the state of international online retail that may help you make up your mind:
- 70% of online shoppers buy products from foreign vendors (Webinterpret)
- There’s been a 27% increase in eCommerce sales globally (Cumulative Data)
- The global eCommerce market's worth should reach $5.424 trillion by the end of 2022 (eMarketer)
- On average, 96% of small businesses from eBay export to at least 17 countries (Webinterpret)
- South and North America have seen the largest sales growth, accumulating 36.7% and 31.8% of the market respectively over 2020 alone (eMarketer)
As you can see, international eCommerce is the ideal way to scale your online store. Of course, it comes with its own share of risks and restrictions and you are the one to judge whether the ends justify the means here. No one knows your business like you do but it's clear that the benefits of international expansion can be very much worth the effort if you put in the work.
Betting on localization could be the safest option for you at the moment, yet it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to turn into a global player in a few years’ time. Trust your gut and your market research. Want to reach new sales goals? Reach out to new markets across international borders!
How to start international e-commerce business?
There are many ways to start as well as many things to consider. In the context of logistics and shipping, you need to decide if you’re better off working with a third party specialist to store your inventory and process orders. Typically, this isn’t ideal for operations that are very small (not enough volume to justify it) or very large (your scale makes it worthwhile to handle on your own). But for most eCommerce businesses in between, it’s usually better to let a logistics partner take care of this part of your business.
What are the e-commerce solutions for selling globally?
Online retailers can cooperate with logistics parters to access global delivery networks that make selling to anyone, anywhere easier than ever. This means starting an online business from anywhere and selling to anyone is as simple as connecting with a logistics service that can streamline your operations while connecting you to global markets.
What are the advantages of international e-commerce?
Selling across borders gives you access to new markets and makes it easier to scale and grow. The online world is borderless and geographic location is no longer a barrier to growth thanks to easy shipping and logistics.
How does international online sales work?
All international sales involve crossing borders but modern eCommerce has made the process as easy as possible. More customers than ever are buying from online retailers based on other countries and the process of processing and delivering those orders has been refined and optimized to an amazing degree. There are of course tax and customs issues involved with international sales but these are matters that a good logistics partner will be able to help with.