Whether you’re buying coffee beans from Costa Rica, mala beads from India, or designer shoes from Italy, global e-commerce marketplaces make it all possible. And it doesn’t just the benefit the consumer, who can shop around the world without leaving the comfort of his or her couch; it also benefits the entrepreneurial individual who has always thought about starting an online business.
Thanks to the technology now available, you can now more easily enter the global marketplace. The key to winning abroad, though, lies in having the right plan in place. Here are 10 strategies for selling internationally that you can implement in order to boost your odds of success.
1. Choose an internationally established online marketplace
Entering the global market in the 21st century doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. With the surge in popularity of online marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay, you can simply establish a seller account and begin creating listings for each of the products that you want to sell and ship internationally.
2. Identify and select the right markets for your business
Whether you create your own website or you use an online marketplace, identifying and selecting the right markets for your products will be a key component to your success. What sells like hotcakes at home may not be so popular abroad. So you need to consider not only language barriers, but also cultural differences, political and economic policies, and buying preferences before choosing the inventory that you will promote abroad. Research will save you time and frustration in the long run.
3. Adapt to each market’s needs
Once you’ve done your research and determined what markets you’d like to enter, it’s time to adapt to, and meet, their needs. Consider translating your product listings, hiring customer service reps who speak the language and researching the competition so you can set more attractive prices.
4. Research applicable laws and regulations
One of the biggest challenges that comes with doing business internationally is keeping up with the various laws and regulations in each country. There are import, export and customs laws that will affect your ability to distribute certain products abroad, and there are also taxes, duties, and other fees that you may need to consider. There could also be environmental regulations, privacy and security measures that need to be met, and packaging, safety, and labeling requirements. Once you know what laws and regulations you need to adhere to, you’ll have a better idea of what markets are right for your business and whether or not a particular market would be worth pursuing.
5. Remove the headache of international shipping
International shipping isn’t just costly, it can also be complicated. Thankfully, there are some options that will make your life easier. For example, if you’re using Amazon to sell your goods abroad, you can sign up for FBA and FBA Export, which will determine the export-eligible products in your inventory for you. FBA also lets you ship your inventory to the appropriate international fulfillment centers so orders can be shipped to customers locally. Plus, with FBA, Amazon’s staff takes care of everything from packing and shipping, to addressing customer service needs, all on your behalf.
6. Get—and stay—competitive
Staying competitive at home is hard enough, but staying competitive abroad is a whole new—and exciting—challenge. In addition to launching a digital marketing strategy that will cut through the noise, staying competitive also involves setting the right prices. A good place to start would be researching your competition and its pricing on comparable products. Then consider your costs, from production and labor, to marketing and distribution, to set the right rate that will ensure the highest profit margins. Don’t forget to also factor in currency exchange rates, which can be volatile and require that you regularly adjust your pricing accordingly to ensure profitability.
7. Focus on customer retention
Keeping customers happy is essential to the success of your international business, so focus on providing high quality products at great prices with fast shipping. Encourage customers to join your mailing list or follow you on social media, and reward them for shopping with you and referring their friends. Again, a service like Amazon FBA can help you get the job done without having to spend time, money, and resources on a customer service team.
8. Promote, promote, promote
There are many different promotional tactics that you can employ to keep your international e-commerce business in front of as many consumers as possible. These include purchasing sponsored posts on marketplaces like Amazon to ensure your products show up on search results pages and relevant product pages. You can also encourage customers to write product reviews, or you can work with influencers and purchase ads on social media. And you can even set up promotions, special deals, and contests to generate interest and interaction from customers. Get creative, even if you are focusing on selling via a large online marketplace.
9. Sign up with the right global payment provider
After putting in all of the time and effort required to research an international market and price your inventory accordingly, the last thing that you want is to be hit with high margins and fees when it’s time to convert currencies and transfer your profits into your local business account. But you can avoid this and save up to 75%* on margins and fees when you sign up for as an OFX Online Seller. OFX will give you a local currency account in USD, EUR, GBP, CAD, AUD, JPY or HKD to send your marketplace profits to so you can transfer them home at the best possible rate.
10. Start small, but aim big
International business can be tricky, so it’s recommended that you start small and aim high. Remember, slow and steady wins the race, and you don’t want to dive in if you don’t yet know how to swim. As an example, you may want to start in just one international market. So if you are based in the United States, you might start selling in the United Kingdom or Canada, which will eliminate the need for translation services. As you get the hang of selling in one international market and gain success there, you can then apply what you learned to expand into additional markets.
For even more guidance on how to succeed in the international marketplace, check out OFX’s Guide to Doing Business Overseas.