Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Andrew Maffettone, Director of Marketing and Operations, Seller’s Choice
International eCommerce is a major opportunity for online retailers to open up to new markets, grow brand visibility, and increase sales revenue. A global economic network means it’s easier than ever for consumers to purchase goods from all over the world.
And with competition so fierce in the United States, more and more online retailers are moving to overseas territories. Other countries don’t have the saturation of retailers that America does, but they do have eager consumers longing for new, hot products. In fact, a McKinsey study found that by 2025 there will be over 1.8 billion global consumers spending $30 trillion annually.
Low competition with high demand and market space makes international expansion a significant draw for many online retailers.
There’s no denying that globalization is the future of eCommerce and it’s time for your business to get onboard.
With that being said, global expansion is a lot more complicated than opening up your doors to a new audience. Failure to strategize for expansion can lead to serious losses—and, in some cases, bankruptcy. To achieve success, you need to build a specific, detailed expansion strategy.
What do the most successful sellers do to expand their business globally?
1. Identify Potential Markets
One of the most dangerous things you can do is expand to a new territory without thoroughly understanding the market. If you enter a new country and the launch doesn’t succeed, you’ll bleed money, lose credibility, and potentially be labeled as an “international expansion failure.”
Just like you wouldn’t launch a new product without making sure there’s an audience for it, you wouldn’t enter into a new country before ensuring that market is open to your brand.
For example, Starbucks is a massive hit in America and several other countries. But when they started expanding in Italy, they experienced severe backlash. A significant part of the Italian culture is the “espresso bar,” and they felt Starbucks was coming in trying to change this integral part of the culture. There are almost no Starbucks’ left in Italy, and those that are there cater exclusively to tourists. Just because Italians love coffee doesn’t mean Starbucks instantly had a market.
You can set up shop anywhere—so how do you figure out where to go?
Start by looking at your target audience at home. Consider demographics, interests, and purchasing patterns. How will this translate to other countries as well?
Determine whether you’ve had interest from other markets already. For example, maybe you notice a lot of your social media followers are from Australia, or you’ve been getting a lot of inquiries about shipping to India. These tiny moments of feedback can help determine where your brand already has an international foothold.
Then, research top countries that have a strong demand for your product or niche. Look at:
- The volume (the sheer number of customers)
- The interest (significant, moderate, or light demand for your product)
- The competitors (who are they)
- The success of competitors (their hold on the market)
Ultimately, you want to determine the supply-demand gap. How badly do customers want your product, and why haven’t they had access to it in their country yet?
2. Research Government Regulations and Infrastructure
So you’ve found a considerable gap. A particular country is demanding your product, but there’s significantly too little supply.
This looks like an excellent opportunity for expansion.
But you also want to consider why supply is so low. Why has no one entered this market before? Is it because no one has thought to expand there, or is it because extenuating circumstances are standing in the way? If you have no competitors, it might be a sign that the market is stagnant in some way.
When you’re looking to expand internationally, you need to remember that different governments and economies treat retailers differently.
There might be an import tariff on your product that would drastically cut into your margins. There might be a prohibition on your goods. The sales tax on that category of goods might be astronomical.
Don’t make assumptions about government regulations. Some “strict” governments actually have loose rules when it comes to international import companies because they want to bring in more business to boost the economy. Some “open” governments don’t want international competition.
You’ll also want to look at the infrastructure of the country. Are there appropriate shipping routes within the country? Would you be able to set up warehouses and inventory?
For example, some retailers struggle to expand to India because the majority of the country is so rural. Although the cities have a developed infrastructure, getting goods out to other parts of the country can be next to impossible. This means that rather than expanding to an entire country, you’re really only expanding to a small market of urban dwellers.
3. Hire Local Employees
Before you even start to strategize expansion, you want to get locals on your team. Hiring individuals from within that country is a great way to get an “in” and learn more about customs, trends, and holidays. You might even want to consider setting up an entire “branch” of your company specifically for that country, even if you’re using freelancers.
Hiring a local translator is also of significant importance. You should use the translator to stay abreast of current events within that country, and as a way to market to and communicate with your audience effectively. Bad translations are one of the fastest ways to lose credibility in your new market.
After hiring, train your employees in your brand’s mission, history, and voice. From there, they’ll have a comprehensive view of your business so they can help you implement strategies for growth in their country.
4. Consider Payment Methods
You’ve researched your market, and you’ve have people on the “inside” to help you strategize. Now it’s time to look at the logistics of selling overseas.
You want to start by looking at payment methods because checkout is the point where most international shoppers abandon the purchase. You want to make sure that their preferred payment method is available and that they feel secure in giving you their money. You also might want to consider accepting payment in their own currency or offering a currency converter.
Companies like Payoneer will help you facilitate seamless, cross-border payments that everyone trusts.
5. Prepare Market Entry
If you sell on Amazon or another platform, we recommend starting your expansion there. Amazon can grant you permission to sell on their international platforms like Amazon Europe, Amazon China, and others. This is a safer way to introduce your brand to your new market by tapping into Amazon’s existing customer base in that country. You can also utilize Amazon’s fulfillment and shipping methods as you get more accustomed to that country’s logistical procedures.
You’ll also want to optimize your current website for international buyers. This means offering a translation (if applicable), changing currency, and shifting the marketing plan. You may even want to duplicate your website with that country code. For example, in America we use .com, but Australia’s websites use .com.au. If you’re operating in Australia, you might want to create an Australian site so it’s easier for customers to find you and so customers see (just by the URL) that you are available in their country.
6. Create a Marketing Plan
Marketing is different in every country, and it’s even different in every city. You want to have unique marketing campaigns for each area of expansion so you can best engage that customer. Targeted marketing shows significantly better results than “universal” or broad marketing. This means you might need to redesign your website, create another social media account, or launch another PPC campaign. It may even mean that you need to entirely redesign your marketing to attract a different type of customer.
If you’re looking to create or update your marketing campaign, check out Seller’s Choice. We offer unique marketing solutions that will establish your brand and grow your revenue at-home and overseas.
International expansion is the key to expanding your eCommerce business. If you want to enhance your brand, appeal to new markets, and grow your revenue, it’s time to go global.
Remember that slow and steady wins the race when it comes to expansion. Thorough market research and preplanned strategizing are critical to success. Check out Seller’s Choice to learn more about how to redesign your brand for a more global market.
Andrew Maff is the Director of Marketing and Operations for Seller’s Choice, a full-service digital marketing agency for eCommerce sellers. Andrew is a digital strategy and marketing expert with over a decade of experience improving the online presence of eCommerce sellers all over the world.