Welcome to the second instalment of our three-part international blog series! With our last blog we focused on why international expansion is becoming an increasingly popular strategy for online retailers. Today we will be focusing on the HOW of expanding internationally; specifically we’ll take a look at some of the tools at your disposal if you are looking to expand to new regions. In the final post we will assess the demographics of some popular e-commerce regions.
While offering a play-by-play guide for international expansion would be ideal, it would require a much lengthier format than a blog and would differ vastly by company. That said, this blog will share some of the low-hanging fruit for those retailers who wish to dip their toes into international waters before making a heavy investment.
Marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon are good starting points when approaching cross-border trade. But how do you begin selling on these channels and what programmes do they offer to make cross-border trade accessible to online retailers?
An easy way to trial your expansion to new territories with eBay is to offer
international postage for your eBay listings (using PayPal as your payment
method). With this basic way of selling internationally your listings gain visibility
on international eBay sites. Adding details about your postage
costs and services will enhance your listing to international buyers and help
with your conversion rate.
If you feel like you want to take your international eBay sales a step further,
you can list directly onto other eBay sites and tailor your listings to each
individual country. This gives you the opportunity to increase your conversion
rate by targeting millions of new buyers around the world from your domestic eBay
account. To drive your conversion rate in other countries, tailor your listings
to the needs of local buyers – create an item title and description that
attracts local buyers and is optimised for local search, set a price reflecting
the offer and availability, as well as typical price ranges in that country,
and make sure your returns policy complies with local requirements.
With eBay you can even reach
buyers in emerging markets, such as Russia and Brazil easily. According to
eBay, these markets grew significantly in 2012 and will continue to grow
rapidly over the next 5 years. Buyers from 30 of the fastest growing markets
without an eBay site see an optimised version of eBay.com for their location.
When these international buyers visit eBay.com, they can only see listings that
offer postage to their country. Simply list your items on eBay.co.uk and offer international
postage to these 30 countries. Your items will automatically be visible to
buyers from these countries that visit eBay.com. If you list your items
directly on eBay.com and offer international postage to these 30 countries your
items are likely to appear higher in search results for buyers from these 30
countries that shop on eBay.com.
Things to know about selling internationally on eBay:
- Your Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR) from buyers located outside your domestic site do not impact your domestic seller status.
- You don’t need to create another selling account for international selling – you can sell internationally from your existing eBay account.
We recommend a phased approach to expanding internationally via Amazon. Your own international expansion may begin with getting orders to international customers via export or it may mean getting your product in front of new international customers by selling on a new Amazon marketplace. Amazon is trying to help retailers with listing and fulfilment programmes and tools to ease your transition into these new marketplaces.
Sellers in the UK and in the US may consider the Amazon FBA Export programme as a good aid when expanding internationally. If you are already using Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) you can apply to this export programme where Amazon picks, packs and ships the order to your international customers. If a customer has any questions regarding the order, they can contact Amazon Customer Services. If a customer wants to return this product, they can go through the normal returns process for Amazon and Amazon Customer Service will provide the return instructions.
UK Retailers: If you have an account in the UK and list on Amazon.co.uk, you can also hold products through FBA in the UK and use the FBA Export programme. FBA products warehoused in the UK and listed on Amazon.co.uk can now be purchased by customers across the EU. Extend your market reach to cover up to 26 other EU Member States and millions of potential new customers using your standard FBA fees. While it does not add new sales channels, this tool increases the potential number of buyers who will be able to see and buy your products.
One of the largest challenges for UK retailers expanding internationally is that listing on a European marketplace requires the listing details (e.g. product title, description) to be translated into the local language. To address this point Amazon has launched a tool in Seller Central called Expand Offers Internationally. This allows you to identify the products in your inventory that are already in the Amazon catalogueueueue for a targeted country and use the report to create a list that can be uploaded into ChannelAdvisor. For these products, you only need to provide the local price and quantity of your offer. This will help you expand quicker with reduced costs. Discover more about the opportunity for retailers in our Expanding Internationally on Amazon Series.
US Retailers: In the US there are certain categories eligible for FBA Export. Orders for these products can be placed from international locations if the buyer is in a supported country. When you enrol in FBA Export, all of your qualified listings will be eligible for international orders on Amazon.com and there is currently no extra charge for this service. In the US, you can sign up for this programme in Seller Central.
Also, why not consider selling on Amazon Canada? It’s right across the border and lists in English, making Amazon.ca a logical next step for marketplace expansion. Amazon has launched its Amazon Prime programme in Canada as well as the Amazon Currency Converter, which converts your sales to U.S. dollars and sends funds to the bank of your choosing. You can self-fulfil orders or use the FBA for some or all of your products.
Amazon Canada currently supports 15 categories including Consumer Electronics, Home & Garden, Sports, Tools and Watches, and is in the process of adding more. Read more about opportunities for US retailers on Amazon in our Expanding Internationally on Amazon Series.
Make your Webstore Accessible to Internationals
One of the easiest ways to gauge international interest in your products is by making them available to international buyers. A few quick tweaks to your website will make that a possibility. If you have incredibly low prices or really unique products, you may be surprised by the number of international conversions you could receive.
There are several partners out there that can make your checkout internationally compatible such as International Checkout, Global Shopex, Bongo International or Borderlinx. These sites do the legwork for you, and can usually be implemented in a day. You simply add the international checkout button to your site and they will guarantee the appropriate duties and taxes are charged, offer customer service in multiple languages and even ship the products for you. Returns are processed by most of these companies as well, in accordance with your return policy.
Adding these solutions won’t lend to an international windfall, however, unless you put some marketing heft behind it. Of course, if your international sales skyrocket, you’ll likely want to consider putting some heavier resources toward developing websites in local languages, but this is a great way to test the waters with minimal investment.
Summing it Up
These are some of the tools that can help retailers determine if the international opportunity is ripe for their businesses. The key point to remember is to expand slowly and test the demand for your products before investing a lot of money. We’ll be back soon with the final instalment of our international expansion series. Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog at the top of the page to have this advice sent directly to your inbox.