Cross-border selling can seem overwhelming, leaving small businesses unsure of how to dive into international markets or opting to avoid it altogether. Especially with recent international uncertainties such as Brexit, being wary is understandable.
Yet, following the Brexit vote on June 23, 2016, UK online retail sales increased by 18.7% in July, compared to last year’s sales during the same period, according to IMRG August 2016 Sales Index. This increase marks the strongest online sales performance since November 2014. Global markets are faced with new challenges every day, but many e-tailers are continuing to find success, no matter what’s happening around the world.
The cross-border selling opportunities in the 2016 $2 trillion ecommerce market (Worldwide Retail Ecommerce Sales: The eMarketer Forecast for 2016) lead us to a pivotal question. How can small businesses not only expand by selling globally, but also ensure that they have a successful outcome despite economic or political uncertainties? Here are five strategies.
Diversify your selling to different markets and countries
You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Well this advice absolutely applies to your business strategy. Offering your product in a handful of global markets ensures that any potential international issues won’t drastically and negatively impact your business.
Diversifying your markets will keep your business alert and flexible to adapt to challenging situations. If one market crashes, your company won’t come down with it, you’ll have “backup” markets to protect your business and keep it profitable.
Take advantage of global marketplace platforms.
Entering a new marketplace with your own website can be time-consuming, costly and present difficulties such as language barriers. Selling via local online marketplaces can be a relatively risk-free way to test out new markets and enable your business to be agile and able to move quickly.
For example, if you’re looking to expand into the Latin America market, you’ll want to consider Mercado Libre — the most popular and largest ecommerce site in Latin America. It’s centered on auctions and listings by third-party sellers (similar to eBay). Not convinced yet? The company’s recent 2016 Q3 results showed that Mercado Libre’s total items sold increased 61 percent year over year and total payment transactions increased 67.6 percent year over year.
International marketplaces offer a win-win for business and the consumer. They provide consumers with one-stop shopping for products they might not have found otherwise, and they allow businesses to connect with an expanded buyer audience they probably wouldn’t have been able to reach on their own.
Don’t overlook shipping.
Selling your products to international customers is one thing, but you have to have a solid plan in place for how you’re going to get them their purchases. Choosing the right shipping method is crucial, as well as offering multiple shipping options tailored to customers’ delivery speed and cost preferences. U.S. customers have heightened delivery expectations, which means international customers have to too.
According to a 2016 comScore study, which surveyed 5,000 U.S. consumers, 75 percent of shoppers rate shipping costs as being the most important buying factor, exhibited by 56 percent of shoppers reporting they’ve abandoned a cart due to high shipping costs. Additionally, consumer perception of what constitutes as fast delivery has accelerated. A 2015 Deloitte holiday study, which surveyed more than 4,000 U.S. consumers, reported that 9 out of 10 shoppers only consider same-day, next-day and two-day delivery to be fast.
Also, don’t forget about the customers’ return process. Returns play a major role in sales conversions. According to a 2014 Endicia survey, 89 percent of surveyed American consumers said they’ll shop again at an online store after a positive returns experience. Consumers’ buying experiences don’t end when they click “Submit Order” — the subsequent delivery process will still influence the future sales growth of your online business.
Endicia’s international shipping solutions can help you streamline all of these things by automatically filling out customs forms, quickly clearing customs, reducing shipping costs by utilizing local networks and having more visibility into each shipment with end-to-end tracking.
Develop networks in your new market(s).
When you decide to begin selling internationally, it’s important to develop relationships in the new markets. Make the effort to establish strategic partnerships with prominent websites, influencers and social media players to generate brand visibility and improve SEO performance. If your brand isn’t anywhere to be found in your new, local market, it will be difficult for consumers and businesses to find you — resulting in lost sales opportunities.
Localize everything — from language to cross-border taxation.
Keep things simple by localizing all of the information for the customers that you’re targeting. To start, this means presenting your company information in the relevant language for customers. And, localize yourself to where you’re selling. If you don’t speak the language or understand specific laws, develop relationships with local service providers, industry contacts and partners that can help you smooth over issues that may arise with local postal services and other entities.
Localization also means ensuring that all currency conversions, international payment options and duties and taxes are clearly stated and accurately represent local information, so customers aren’t surprised with unexpected fees upon checkout or delivery.
International selling presents businesses with huge opportunities to grow their operations. By nurturing international partnerships, optimizing shipping and services and connecting with local resources, small businesses can successfully expand their global footprint.