International Business Online: How to Start Selling Globally

Dec 1, 2016 by Jesse Ness, Ecwid Team
International business online: how to start selling globally
Posted Dec 1, 2016 by Jesse Ness, Ecwid Team

Selling globally sounds a bit intimidating for some online retailers, but in reality, with some initial planning and research, you can start making sales in foreign countries in no time at all.

Investing some time and money into this “getting started” process can help ensure you have a successful launch when you open up your online store to international buyers — and that you don’t make any costly mistakes that can hurt your brand.

In this post, we’ll explore the getting started process for selling your products globally so you can start connecting with international buyers and making sales around the world.

Recognizing Opportunity

Before launching your international sales strategy, it’s important to be sure you’re capitalizing on a real, valid opportunity with products that are unique within this new marketplace.

How do you do that?

Start by conducting market research around your offerings to determine product viability, just like you did when you developed your business plan (only this time, you’re analyzing different markets.) Begin with a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to determine how your product will stand out in this new environment.

SWOT analysis

Here’s what this looks like in action. Say you want to sell your t-shirt line in other countries, so you start with your SWOT analysis:

Strengths: You use top-of-the-line shirts that are known for being extremely comfortable and long-lasting. Plus, your t-shirt designs are one-of-a-kind, and you’re the sole stockist for the brand–making them highly unique.

Weaknesses: Your current line only includes four designs, and therefore your product offerings are limited.

Opportunities: No one in the international market is currently selling your brand, so you can offer something completely new to this audience. You also plan to invest another $4,000 into printing four additional designs this year, which will help expand your offerings and address your weakness.

Threats: You don’t have a copyright on your designs, so another retailer could potentially steal your designs, making your store obsolete.

Notice how conducting this analysis, you can prepare for the challenges and opportunities that can make selling your brand worldwide profitable for your business.

Not only will this research help you determine whether or not you’re pursuing a relevant opportunity, but it’s the first step in developing your global marketing strategy, too. Plus, by doing this research beforehand, you minimize risk around tying up your time and financial resources only to discover your offering doesn’t fly in international markets.

Read more: How To Do SWOT Analysis For E-сommerce

Examining the Foreign Marketplace Environment

Once you’ve determined whether or not your products and offerings have a real chance in a global marketplace, next, you should start to think about a few specific international markets you’d like to market to. This will help you better understand your new audiences and to craft more relevant marketing messages.

Customs and Business Etiquette

First, be sure you read up on the customs and standard business etiquette for the countries you’re considering.

Know which salutations to use in emails, the correct way to greet these customers, and a bit about the country’s history to ensure you don’t make (an unintentional) culturally insensitive error. Doing so can ruin your brand name and any chance for success in this new market.

Know Your Main Competitors

Next, start to get familiar with your main competitors in these new markets.

See how you can differentiate your brand and what you can offer that’s not currently addressed by existing brands. If you’re not sure where to begin this research, you may consider hiring help from a brand consultant within the country you’re studying to speed up the process.

Focus Groups

Focus gropus

Before selling globally, you also want to be sure the customers in this foreign market will respond positively to your offerings.

Conducting focus group research with people who live in the countries you’re considering selling in will be a good indicator of whether or not your products will do well in this new environment.

No travel necessary: You can hire companies like CRI or GreenBook who offer conduct international focus groups online.

Legal Compliance

Be sure to check the country’s legal restrictions to be certain you’re not attempting to sell and ship an item that’s not allowed.

The Federal Trade Commission has a list of guidelines and best practices for selling globally that you should be in compliance with as well. They recommend guidelines such as using fair business and marketing practices, creating secure online payment methods, and protecting consumer privacy.

Pricing and Currency

From here, you’ll want to determine the pricing structure (and currency exchange rates, for that matter) of your products when selling globally.

First, figure the exchange rate. You can quickly and easily determine how your money will translate by using an online conversion tool like this one. Here, you can also look at the historical data for the exchange rate to see how it has risen or fallen in recent months.

oanda

When pricing your products, be sure to factor in the exchange rate so that you’re not losing money on your international sales. Keep in mind that your prices may need to be adjusted over time to account for changes in exchange rates.

To determine an appropriate pricing model, be sure to also examine your competitors’ prices within the market and the country averages for specific types of products.

For example: Say you’re selling jeans. In the Unites States, the average pair of jeans only costs $34. But in Geneva, Switzerland, the average pair of jeans costs $153. This data should be taken into consideration when pricing the product, and may mean that you have separate pricing structures for products sold globally.

Ensure Your Online Store Accommodates Global Shoppers

Finally, be sure that your website and online store can accommodate global shoppers and can translate into the appropriate language.

For Ecwid users, if your website is in English, there’s no problem. If not, you can create another website and:

  • Add the same Ecwid store (in another language), or,
  • Add a new Ecwid store (with offerings just for the specific audience)

Ecwid also has a translation tool that can aid in this process. You should also consider other global selling barriers, such as:

  • Your brand name: Will it be easy to spell in the target country?
  • Shipping: Have you enabled international shipping?
  • Payment methods: Can you accept payments from the target country?
  • Marketing: How will your marketing be able to reach your global customers? How will you leverage social media?

Covering these bases helps make sure that you’re making it as easy for global shoppers to visit your site and make purchases no matter where they live.

Selling Globally: It’s Possible

If you can plan ahead and follow the tips we’ve outlined here, you can enter the global marketplace without any major snags in the process.

Take your time, and do your research beforehand to create the best possible experience for this new group of customers.

Once you do, you’ll start seeing your products shipped to customers around the globe — and that’s pretty incredible!

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Do you have an online store that sells worldwide? Or do you have more questions on how to start an international business? Let’s meet in the comments section below!

About The Author
Jesse is the Marketing Manager at Ecwid and has been in e-commerce and internet marketing since 2006. He has experience with PPC, SEO, conversion optimization and loves to work with entrepreneurs to make their dreams a reality.

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