What does my eCommerce need to sell online internationally?

Maybe you feel like you’ve reached a plateau in your home market. Or maybe you feel that your product and service offer are ideal for expanding into new markets, especially considering growth in eCommerce worldwide. In either case, if you are going to start selling in foreign markets online, there are a couple of things to consider before launching internationally.

  • Establish if sales overseas are a good fit for your business. Selling in a market that is not your native local market presents certain challenges. The first thing you’ll need to evaluate is if it really is a viable option for your business. It’s possible you’ve already had some sales or visits from outside of your home country. An easy way to determine where you might want to begin with a possible expansion is to look at your web traffic in Google Analytics.
  • Do you have web traffic coming from other countries? Is there are a pattern here? For example, if you are running an eCommerce site out of Spain, maybe you’ve noticed that you have quite a lot of traffic from Mexico and Portugal, and within that traffic, the Portuguese visitors occasionally purchase items in your online store, despite the fact that your website is not available in a Portuguese language version.
  • What sort of extra logistical burden do these foreign purchases constitute and are you able to logically face them? Probably the most economical and simplest way forward is to sell products shipping from Spain to Portugal; it’s probably easier than say shipping to Mexico. However, if you suspect that the volume of sales in Mexico may be very significant, it may very well be worth finding a logistical solution that is well-suited to the Mexican market. You can also find a local Mexican partner to serve orders if there is a significant volume of clients and orders.
  • Do you have the necessary infrastructure to successfully serve these new markets? If say with our Spanish business we decide we want to sell in Portugal and Brazil, we should be sure that our daily operations will not be overwhelmed by translation and localisation, currency fluctuation, customs or shipping logistics. Otherwise, we run the rist of frustrating our own company employees as well as the clients in these new markets.
  • Be very clear on the extra costs that international sales will create. We know that shipping overseas is more costly, it takes longer and can result in shipments that don’t arrive to their destination or will require a return or refund. Not to mention the internal costs associated with multilingual websites, etc. Any expansion will negatively impact your margin unless you have a plan in place to deal with these additional costs.
  • We know that many shoppers abandon their basket when they discover that shipping is not free. You will want to take into account the cost of your product, shipping and taxes and clearly detail this information in the shopping cart and checkout process. This way users will have a solid understanding of your offer, and you are less likely to have customer service issues. The same goes for shipping times: it’s best to be honest and upfront with your shipping and delivery dates.
  • Invest in localisation. Many retailers with an online store use Google Translate for automatic translation of their website. Generally, the result is a terrible user experience and a loss of consumer confidence that means users abandon the website before purchasing anything. If you do the numbers and decide that it’s not worth localizing your website to several different languages, consider creating an “international” version of your site in English in which users can still choose currency.
  • It is also important to understand payment preferences in local markets. In some countries, people prefer paying with direct debit, while in others they like PayPal or credit cards. Be sure you’ve activated local preferred payment methods on your site.
  • Learn about the legal and regulatory context of your new market. Many countries have strong consumer rights protections, including return policies or other aspects of eCommerce. It’s important to be familiarized with these rules so you don’t run astray of the law and consumer expectations.

Finally, remember you don’t have to go from serving one market to 193 new ones. Start where it makes the most sense or where consumers already are familiar with you, those are the countries where your business is most likely to prosper.

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