If you’re an online retailer selling to national customers, then it’s likely the idea of going global will have crossed your mind. It could even be a ‘dream’. But is it really as difficult as it sounds for SMEs to achieve? The truth is, expanding internationally will enable any business to diversify and capitalise on new opportunities in exciting markets. As Ecommerce Guide states: ‘Online retail can be a fulfilling and lucrative option for sole traders and micro-enterprises, just as much as for big brands.’ So when do you know you’re ready to sell abroad?
Consistent principles of e-commerce
The idea of ‘being ready’ is a common misconception. There are no rules that say you need to have cornered a certain percentage of the local market before you’re qualified to expand abroad. Furthermore, the principles of selling and cultivating a buyer-seller relationship don’t change just because you’re doing it overseas.
This doesn’t mean, however, that there’s no need to be cautious. Evaluate your resources and skills, and question whether you have the capacity to take your business abroad. If you are new to selling online, consider launching in your own country first as a test run, which will help you overcome any teething problems before promoting yourself to another part of the world.
Again, this is a tactic rather than a requirement. There is nothing to say that your product or service isn’t more suitable for a foreign market, and that you shouldn’t concentrate all your efforts there as a priority.
The benefits and risks of selling abroad
There are many reasons why an e-tailer should consider selling abroad. The potential for growth is huge, with endless opportunities around the world – from rich, powerful markets to fast-growing, less competitive destinations. You can extend the sales life of your existing products by finding new markets to sell them in, and reduce your dependence on your current customer base.
Selling abroad doesn’t come without risks, so it’s important to prepare wisely. Thorough research is vital: find out everything you can about your target nation, its culture and its potential attitude towards your brand. Keep an open mind too since, no matter what your idea is, it will definitely work somewhere in the world.
Don’t ignore the cultural differences that shape a marketplace; adapt to your chosen market and always tailor your marketing efforts. As The Institute of Export advises: ‘Think about relevant colours, shapes and layouts, and the cultural and emotional reactions to them in different cultures. Don’t forget to consider how people will search for and find you.’
This means that your website should be in your target country’s native language. While there is the obvious issue of language barriers when selling overseas, the cost of hiring a translator is relatively low and you will find an abundance of language students offering their services at home or abroad.
Getting a third party on board
There is nothing to fear in deciding to sell abroad; however, this doesn’t mean it’s easy. You need to tackle a whole new range of logistical issues and, above all else, your business operations must be compliant with the relevant laws and regulations. As Web Retailer reports: ‘Many international sellers have been tripped up by a bewildering combination of rules, classifications, policies and providers.’
Preparing an international business plan isn’t just about setting goals and outlining financial projections: attention should also be given to customs, tax, duties, restricted items, packaging, insurance, business registration and licensing, among other considerations. Smart business leaders partner with third-party organisations to deal with all this for them, freeing them up so they can get on with growing their business.
Sprint Logistics provides e-commerce delivery services that integrate seamlessly into your retail supply chain, managing everything from freight planning and import/export, to stock management and onward bulk shipping for you.
We manage the detail in your supply chain together with the physical shipping process to ensure that your goods are internationally compliant and delivered perfectly, so that your business has the best chance of growing across borders.
To discuss how Sprint Logistics can help you introduce your business to an exciting new overseas market, simply contact us today.