Expanding Your eCommerce Store Internationally

By Ten Squared, posted on the 15th of September, 2021 · 4 minute read

Expanding internationally can help your brand unlock completely new markets and make sales skyrocket. As the world becomes more connected, consumers are quickly gaining access to millions of businesses around the world, everybody simply loves choice. Currently, in 2021, the international e-commerce market is worth an estimated $780 billion USD making up around 12% of all retail purchases, this is expected to reach $4.8 billion by 2026. So how can you expand internationally smoothly?

Research and Plan

There is no point in investing money, time and resources into something that is not going to bring you the expected returns. Hence, as we have said before, the most important step in any process is research and planning, if you are reading this you are probably already undertaking this step. The best way to avoid making mistakes yourself are by understanding the mistakes those who came before you made, you will never be able to eliminate all mistakes, however, you can certainly minimise the number of mistakes you make and ultimately these mistakes can make or break you. Research however does not only have to be reading, you may choose to text a few items in a few markets to get familiar with selling internationally before going all out.

Track Down Your Target

This is of course a part of your research and planning stage, if you can track down the perfect market for your product you will be in a great position to start. If you have been running your store for a while you might be able to look at your own analytics to discover which countries already have customers purchasing your products. If people are already buying your products from any given market it is probably a great place to start.

You should also do research to try and find out which countries have a strong demand for products like yours. Smaller countries are also often more likely to buy internationally from Australia or other businesses.

Questions to ask when tracking down your target:

  • What is the competition?
  • What does the competition charge?
  • How fast does the competition ship?
  • How much do they charge for shipping?
  • Can you advertise effectively in their market?
  • Can you ship to the market?
  • How much are consumers within that market willing to pay?

Payment Methods

Once you have narrowed down the markets you wish to reach first, you need to consider what payment methods they prefer. This might seem trivial but it is a vital step in expanding internationally. Why? Well, checkout is the most common point at which users will abandon their purchases, mostly because their preferred payment method is not available. Additionally, you need to carefully consider whether you will allow individuals to check out in their local currency, if not their local currency consider using an Internationally recognised currency such as USD.

If you are not keen on researching the perfect payment provider for each market you are intending to enter, ensure you have payment providers with a strong global reputation. Our go-to for this is PayPal, it has long been known as one of the most popular international payment methods. The main reasons for this are likely its security, the purchase protection they provide and its undeniable ease of use. Additionally, PayPal allows you to take payments in more than 2000 markets in over 25 currencies. Hence PayPal has been built with eCommerce in mind.

Currency & Conversion

If you decide to make customers checkout in a different currency ensure you have the prices displayed in the local currency so that they can understand the cost, this will prevent users from getting through the process thinking they are purchasing a $5 product with a great value proposition to a product that might actually be worth $50 + tax + shipping, because now they have the comparison point of $5 that they were willing to pay, they are now far more likely to drop off at this point and abandon their purchase.

Market Entry

How will you test and enter different markets? This depends on what market you are looking to enter sometimes small markets can be extremely rewarding, but without knowing just how rewarding it might not yet be worth investing in creating a dedicated eCommerce store. In this case, you might consider using existing online marketplace's to first test the market. With this step, you need to consider what the platform of choice is within your market, for example in some markets eBay might dominate whilst in others, they may prefer to use Amazon because of the same day shipping they offer within that market.

Update Your Website

You of course need to do some leg work on your website before launching internationally. You should start by mentioning that you accept international orders, add a couple of questions in your FAQ's section related to your international buyers. You may also wish to change some settings on your website to make sure your products are listed in local currencies based on IP addresses, eventually, you might even want to translate your website into multiple languages to make the experience completely seamless.

Create Custom Websites For Your Best Market

Once you know what markets you want to target you might begin launching custom websites for your different markets. In essence, the goal is to create a website designed to specifically appeal to customers in a certain market. This may be by highlighting different aspects of your brand or product to make your product appeal more to those consumers. You might change the visuals to help users better visualise themselves with your product. You will also gain complete control over pricing, conversions and shipping rates within your new market.

Hence, this step is all about optimising the user experience for every user no matter where they are visiting your store from. It is no secret that optimisation can help completely change your conversion rate.

Tweak Your Product

Eventually, you will want to analyse your orders to understand which products are selling well in each market. This will likely help you identify new possibilities. Depending on your competition in these differing markets you will likely see different products become your top-selling product, you might even see distinct differences between variants of the same product which can help guide the development of brand new products.

Customer Support

You need to make sure your customer support system and the team is equipped to take on the increase in customer enquiries as you expand internationally. Of course, nothing goes perfectly and there is only so much you can do to test your user's experience. Hence, those who are really testing whether or not you achieved everything perfectly are your customers. You will need your customer service team to be ready to respond to any reports of issues and be able to identify effectively whether this is due to user error, a bug or something that was simply overlooked and is not an urgent problem but rather an improvement that could later e made.

Logistics

Shipping internationally in a time-effective way is no easy challenge. This is where you need to consider what works best for your company, the number of products and the cost of shipping. In the US market, consumers have begun to expect 1 to 2-day shipping thanks to eCommerce giant Amazon. This means shipping your product by sea to these markets is not plausible. Hence, for these markets, you may wish to consider using distribution centres. When expanding internationally shipping is no easy task and you need to carefully consider your costs when shipping in a time-effective way overseas.

Utilise Your Analytics

At each step throughout this process, your analytics is going to be your best friend. You can hence compare the traffic, the sales, the profit, the customer complaints and more to understand what is happening on your store and what you need to tweak to really super boost your customer experience.

Advertising

Advertising in other countries is also going to require a little more thought. Everything you are doing in your home country that is working is not guaranteed to work overseas and in some countries is guaranteed not to work. For example advertising on Facebook and Google in China is simply going to be incredibly difficult as both these services are restricted in China. Hence, research what services your users use in their home market and ensure you are targeting these in your advertising.

Identify Key Sales

Once you have established your brand in a new market, it is a great idea to invest time in understanding the local sales. For instance, America is infamous for its crazy black Friday sales making appearances in numerous movies. So which sales will your customers expect you to be a part of? How can you remain competitive during these sales periods? These are both important questions to help you remain competitive as the market inevitably become more competitive. Hence, keeping track and participating in local sales can help you grow your market share within those markets.

Taxes

Another important aspect to consider is the local taxes, these include import taxes and sales taxes to name a few. It is essential to understand the taxes for two main reasons. Firstly so you can properly understand your profits and secondly, so you can continue to trade within these markets without legal issues.

International Laws

Different countries have different laws about what you can do with your website. These include what claims you can make about a product, how you can structure your pricing, and how much customer information you can track and use to help improve your store. For example, the toughest privacy laws for websites currently enforced are in the EU, these laws are outlined in the GDPR and include restrictions on what you can use cookies for as well as a complete ban on the use of undisclosed cookies (hence the cookies popups you now see on countless websites). Hence, it is vital that you invest time in understanding the local laws before you pursue these international markets.