International selling may look frightening at first glance, but ultimately, the opportunity outweighs the risk. By knowing what’s true and what’s false about expanding abroad, you’re better equipped to enter the global market with confidence and ease.
Here’s the truth: selling internationally isn’t half as scary or complicated as some think, and can open up a significant additional revenue stream. This is especially true when your home economy isn’t doing so well. And with the Internet making it increasingly easy for ecommerce businesses to find an audience, becoming a global powerhouse is literally a “hop, skip and a jump” away.
For all those still on the fence about expanding your business abroad, here are the top four myths about international selling debunked (and a few reasons to put those unfounded fears to rest).
You’ve got to be a big player to sell abroad
Many businesses I consult with assume that international waters are reserved for the likes of Amazon and big-box retailers. But that’s far from the truth! Any business with an online storefront can take its products international.
California-based specialty apparel store The Giant Peach offered international shipping from its inception – and today, global markets comprise roughly a quarter of its online business.
When it comes to finding a global audience, the Internet is a grand equalizer. If you’re having trouble tapping into new countries, try listing on international marketplaces, like Rakuten, to get a leg up.
You’ve got to speak French (or Spanish or Lithuanian) before you expand
One of the biggest misconceptions about selling internationally is that you need to know a second language before you begin. Instead, I always advise small business owners to start small and in their native tongue – that way, they can get their feet wet without getting in over their heads.
For U.S. retailers, Canada is a great entry point into global ecommerce. Then try adding other English-speaking countries like the U.K., Australia and Singapore to the mix. This method of gradually introducing new countries ensures that e-tailers only take on what they can handle at any given moment.
International shipping is complicated and time-consuming
This one is more of a half-myth.
International shipping certainly can be difficult, especially if you don’t have the correct processes in place. But if you do, it really is a piece of cake.
What kind of processes are we talking about? Shipping software, for one, can save businesses time by prefilling international customs forms. It can also sync up with your product inventory and warn you of international shipping bans for certain products (for example, you can’t ship leather goods to Italy or playing cards to Greece).
Another process is transaction management and currency conversions. Software like Miva Merchant can integrate directly with your ecommerce store to manage the international payment process.
There’s no security or visibility in shipping abroad
A lot of people think of international shipping as a shot in the dark: maybe your package will get there, maybe not.
While the reliability of international delivery often depends upon a country’s postal system, there are still a number of options that can provide added security.
For example, most couriers offer package tracking, even to international locations. One option in particular, Priority Mail Express International, not only offers USPS tracking for free, but comes with the added security of a money-back guarantee to select locations and insurance against lost, damaged or missing contents. Speed and price aren’t compromised with this service – packages are delivered within 3 to 5 business days, making it a more affordable option offering peace of mind.
Amine Khechfe is the general manager and cofounder of Endicia.