7 Tips For Selling on Foreign E-Commerce Platforms
Expansion is a good thing. When your business is growing it means you’re meeting the needs of consumers and reaching more people. Everyone you connect with has a network of their own, so each connection may multiply exponentially. While business growth and expansion are signs of success, you must know how to handle them or things could get messy.
It’s particularly easy to expand your business when it exists entirely or primarily online. You might not have to set up an office or any sort of headquarters overseas, and yet you’ll still benefit from a previously untapped market. If you know how to make the most of your resources, you might find a demand for your products all over the world. You can test the waters by trying out different platforms.
If the homefront has proven the need for your products and you want to make them available to people in other countries, you need to be prepared. Don’t do it if you’re not ready, and talk to all the right people before you make the leap. There’s a lot to know about this kind of expansion, so keep reading for some tips on selling on foreign e-commerce platforms.
Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. The two companies recently partnered to make a push into online grocery delivery.
Image via Rakuten.today
Time Your Branch-out
As excited as you might be about reaching new markets, try to look at the overall picture with a clear mind. Putting yourself out there internationally could go awry if you’re not ready for the transition. You don’t have to rush, so take your time and make sure all the necessary pieces are in place before you make your move.
The trick is to ensure that the demand from your consumers is there. Selling internationally is easier than it has been in the past, but it’s not worth investing time if nobody is aware or interested in what you have to offer.
You should already have a constant and reliable stream of revenue from local and regional consumers before you consider foreign commerce. This proves that there is at least a reasonable demand for the products you offer. Look at your demographics and survey other countries to make sure your move will be worthwhile.
Chances are you won’t have too many communication issues if you live in the US and you sell through Shopify in Canada. However, clear and accurate communication becomes a big factor when you start dealing with language barriers. If you’re corresponding with Rakuten for example, a Japanese e-commerce giant, you’ll want to make sure you and your correspondents understand each other perfectly. The last thing you want is to have miscommunications get in the way of your business.
Companies that specialize in international commerce should have employees that speak your language, but make sure you’re clear nonetheless. Speak in the same terms regarding times and prices, keeping time zones and conversion rates in mind. If you ever have uncertainties, clear them up immediately so your transactions go according to plan.
Consult Your Lawyer
You’re probably not familiar with all of the commerce rules that govern international business, but you have to follow them nonetheless. You could face penalties if you don’t, and those won’t give your business a good reputation across borders. Labeling laws may vary by country, and the types of products you can ship may vary as well. To make sure you play by the rules, have a lawyer help you through the process. This takes some of the stress and anxiety out of the equation, especially for newcomers to the international market.
A handmade necklace that you sell for $15 on your Etsy shop may not come out to the same price when you factor in international shipping. If you’re selling in a place like Japan, your customers will also pay in yen as opposed to dollars.
Be prepared for a disaster if you don’t know or understand currency exchange rates. Citizens of different countries use different currencies, and during international commerce, there needs to be a way to compare values. A given country’s currency exchange rate and the economy will affect the price points you choose for your products.
Pick Your Platforms Wisely
When you remove some geographical filters, you’ll have access to many more potential customers than ever before. The question is, which platforms will help you get in front of the people who are most likely to buy your products?
From Rakuten in Japan and Pinduoduo in China to Shopify in Canada, there are tons of viable options for international e-commerce. Rather than jump into any one platform blindly, narrow down your search based on your demographic. Selling internationally could mean almost anything, so find out where in the world your target audience lives. Identify a geographic area, and then look into the popular e-commerce platforms that help you reach it.
As always, you also want to figure financial logistics into the equation. Think about how much it costs you to ship your products to a given region, and how much markup would be needed to make the transaction benefit both sides. Consider the listing fees and advertising packages you might pay for, and work with a trustworthy platform that checks all of your boxes.
Adjust Your Marketing
If you’ve chosen to take your business to the international market because of an overwhelming demand for your products, then you must already have a substantial fan base to appeal to. This is an ideal scenario, however, and you still want to make sure there’s enough buzz surrounding your new launch. Selling online internationally is a big deal and can be huge for your business, but people need to be aware of the opportunity.
Now that you’re selling on foreign platforms, your marketing should reflect your new availability. Let fans and followers of your Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts know your products are now available internationally, and advertise the jump in your email lists and website as well. Link directly to your posts on these foreign platforms, and use relevant foreign keywords to activate these previously unreached markets.
Get There Soon
Although you should never rush to the international market, time is a diminishing resource. If you know you’re ready, then you might not want to waste any time taking advantage of this kind of opportunity. The world’s bigger corporations are already present all over the world, but now that technology has made expansion possible for any successful business, the race is on for SMBs.
Are you thinking about testing the international market with your products? If you have the backing, now you have the tools to make the move as well. Review your sales data and your projections to see if your business is solid enough for the expansion, and make sure you have customers out there waiting for your products to become available.
Always double check your emails and leave no questions unanswered in your correspondences with foreign e-commerce platforms. Think about economic factors like exchange rates and taxes, as well as geographical factors and your demographic. With the right choice of platform and marketing tailored to your international expansion, you could quickly increase your market and the efficiency of your business.