How to expand overseas as an online seller
Leeann Nash May 16th 2023 - 4 minute read
Breaking into an overseas market is exciting and daunting in equal measures.
When done right, it can provide a strong new revenue stream and help you diversify, leading to a more resilient business model. But it’s important to prepare to have the best chance of success.
Here are six tips on how to expand your ecommerce business into an overseas market.
1. Expand slowly
The first thing to note is that its best to start slowly. Moving into a new foreign market can be complicated, so it’s best to focus your attention on nailing the initial phase of expansion rather than trying to take on too much at once.
This may mean choosing to expand into just one new country to start with, once you’ve researched the best place to begin. Or you may want to initially experiment with selling things through a marketplace, if you’re not doing so already. Platforms like Amazon and eBay can be good low-risk small-scale ways to test the waters.
This gives you the chance to do things thoroughly and strategically, while also leaving space for you to iron out the kinks, set up new systems, and learn new skills. Once you’ve successfully established yourself in your targeted overseas market, you can start to scale up.
2. Do your research
As with any ecommerce venture, you need to do your research before making any big decisions.
The main thing is to find out where your business is likely to be most successful. Look at what your competitors are doing. Which international markets are they targeting? Are they successful? Are there any gaps?
You should also look at your own website traffic to determine if you already have any international leads. If you’re already gaining interest from a particular country then that might give you some crucial momentum to get your operation off the ground.
All potential new overseas markets will have benefits and drawbacks, so be sure to look into the pros and cons and then match them up with your existing business model.
For each option, consider everything that could affect your business, such as the size of the target audience, the competitive landscape, pricing, logistics and language. This will help you determine which is the best market for you to try and break into.
3. Understand the challenges
Once you’ve settled on the best way to enter an international market, it’s time to go even deeper into your market research.
Go back over the areas you examined in the previous step – the competitive landscape, target audience etc. – and go into much greater detail.
You also need to understand the challenges and how you can overcome them. What are the taxation and customs laws? How much does shipping cost? Do you need to pay for translation? Is the target audience already aware of your brand, or will you have to build recognition from scratch?
There will undoubtedly be some surprises in your journey to become an overseas online seller, but it’s best to be as prepared as possible.
4. Consider your platforms
Next you need to consider your selling and marketing platforms. Do they need updating, expanding, or even changing completely in order to meet the new demands?
For instance, if you have a UK website and you’re trying to break into the French market, you may need to create a .fr version of your site.
This is crucial for SEO when geographical location is important. For someone searching in France, .fr website domains will be far higher up the rankings.
It’s also important for user experience (more on this below) and for brand credibility. French users are more inclined to instinctively trust a French web domain.
Additionally, they may also believe they’ll get a better buying experience. Consumers may associate a foreign website with hassle and higher prices, including clunky translations, shipping costs and delays, and customs duties. An experience that fits with their geographical experience, on the other hand, may feel familiar and reliable.
5. Customer experience
Following on from this, you need to consider the full customer experience of your new target audience.
If your new customers speak a different language, make sure your ecommerce site is translated into their native tongue. Similarly, price products in the currency they use. Again, these steps create a sense of familiarity between you and your customer, while removing some of the potential barriers to a sale.
It’s also important that you’re fully prepared to offer customer support for your new international audience. You need to be able to deal with complaints and queries quickly and effectively, otherwise your new overseas venture could fall victim to disgruntled customers and negative reviews.
6. Review your payment strategy
Another important thing to review is your payment process and foreign exchange strategy.
Does your current payment provider operate in your new target market? Do they allow for payment in multiple currencies? Are they trusted by the audience you want to appeal to? Make sure you evaluate your current system and the alternatives so that you’re set up for success.
It’s also vital that you have a strategy in place if you’re handling multiple currencies.
Foreign exchange markets are notoriously volatile, and seemingly small shifts in an exchange rate can make a significant difference to your profits. Not only can this volatility hit your bottom line, but it also makes it hard to budget.
By working with a specialist currency broker, such as Currencies Direct, you can mitigate risk and even find opportunities in FX volatility. We offer a range of transfer services, alongside expert guidance and support, to help you develop a strong FX strategy as an online seller.