How to Succeed at International E-Commerce

December 16, 2019

Marketplaces Bradley Hearn By Bradley Hearn

At ChannelAdvisor, we believe strongly in the power of cross-border trade. We’ve witnessed some incredible success stories from brands and retailers over the years, and have seen sellers increase sales by as much as 1,000% after expanding to international marketplaces.

With global e-commerce sales set to approach $5 trillion by 2021, and with 95% of the world’s population living outside the US, all sellers should at least consider options for global selling.

However, we understand it can be difficult to know where to start or how to sell successfully to global audiences.

For those of you who are new to the world of cross-border trade, let’s take a quick look at the essential elements you’ll need to expand profitably.

Why should you be selling internationally?

To understand what makes selling online internationally so appealing, consider what’s happening in Latin America. After an impressive growth rate of 21.3% in 2019, e-commerce sales in Latin America are now approaching $71 billion. The region is tied with the Middle East and Africa as the world’s second-fastest growing e-commerce market.

The best part? You don’t have to be located in Latin America to sell to consumers there. With a marketplace like Mercado Libre, brands and retailers can get products in front of purchase-ready shoppers in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico — without having to worry about translations or currencies. Considering the marketplace sees nine purchases per second and more than one million items sold each day, mostly from importers, that’s a pretty big advantage.

But Mercado Libre is just one example. International sellers sold billions of dollars in merchandise during Singles Day in China this year. Across the US and Europe, the often-overlooked Wish continues to reach more than 300 million international shoppers. And around the globe, consumers are discovering foreign brands and retailers on more than a hundred different marketplaces.

So, how can you tap into this wide world of potential sales without getting overwhelmed? Let’s look at three key steps to get started quickly and easily. 

1. Choose easy-start global opportunities

Selling internationally is not the complex undertaking it once was. From the availability of distribution centers to language translation services for product content pages, many marketplaces offer an array of options that make it easy to expand.

The key is to identify options that will increase your reach without requiring a lot of extra work.

If you’re already selling on large marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, these can be great places to start. Amazon Global Selling includes more than a dozen marketplaces, each one with tools to simplify customs, track purchases and handle tax calculations. Better yet, you can leverage Amazon’s 175+ domestic fulfillment centers as an easy gateway to international deliveries.

eBay’s Global Shipping Program makes it equally easy for brands and retailers to sell internationally while shipping domestically. When your item sells, you simply ship it to a US distribution center and let eBay handle the rest.

Other strong quick-start options include Newegg Global and Fruugo. It’s best to start your expansion process with one or two of these established marketplaces first, and then expanding to others as you become comfortable with the process.

2. Be selective as you expand

Once you’ve dipped your toes into the waters of selling online internationally, there’s a good chance you’ll want to reach even more global audiences. As you consider additional channels, watch for options that will be easy to launch and seamless to manage. 

You’ll want to look for marketplaces that make the most sense for your product catalog, have strong revenue potential and offer tools you can use to get set up quickly and easily. You might opt to try out fast-growing channels such as Breeze or AllSale to reach consumers in Africa and the Middle East. Or you may want to look into an emerging marketplace like Tophatter, where millions of shoppers from the UK, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere compete in high-speed auctions that ensure nearly every item sells.

There are literally dozens upon dozens of options, so do your due diligence to identify those that will be good fits for your listings. 

3. Explore your options for international shipping

As you get more and more comfortable with international selling, it’s a good idea to become familiar with global shipping options. The more you can compete on speed while keeping fulfillment costs down, the better positioned you’ll be to squeeze as much potential as possible from your global transactions.

We cover this subject in detail in our five-step guide to international shipping, but the main thing to know is this: Fulfilling orders to overseas customers will expose you to a wide array of complications such as duty rates, customs clearance and international taxes.

If you don’t have (or don’t want to spend money on) the internal resources to handle these complexities, find a partner to handle them for you.

In conclusion: Cross-border trade can open your business to a whole new world of consumers who are ready and eager to purchase products from global sellers. But to be successful with international selling, following the three steps above will be key.

Looking for more assistance with cross-border trade? ChannelAdvisor offers a wealth of options for increasing global sales. Get in touch, and we’ll be happy to connect you with an international selling expert who can discuss your goals and offer advice.