Writing for Business Advice, Jake Trask, a director at international payments company OFX, explores how owners of small companies can reach new markets on an international scale through using ecommerce.
In recent months, the currency market has been weakened by a series of political shocks, from Brexit to Theresa May’s poor performance in the general election.
But there’s an upside to this political uncertainty, and that’s the weak pound, which is making British exports more competitively-priced overseas. For online sellers, there’s never been a better time to start selling to international buyers.
Nevertheless, it can be daunting to start selling to overseas customers without prior experience, so the following tips for using ecommerce are a great place to start:
Research your markets
If you’re already a successful online seller, it can be tempting to dive straight into international sales. But though there may be similarities, it’s likely your target market is rather different to the UK, so it’s important to do your research up front.
An understanding of your competition is particularly useful, as you may find that the market has already been cornered by a local player and you need to adapt your offering.
Equally, you may discover that there’s a gap in the market that just isn’t being tapped – an excellent opening for you to move into.
If it’s achievable, travelling to the market in question can be a great way to build up your knowledge and deepen your understanding of local customers and their priorities. If not, the Department for International Trade offers in-depth country guides, which are an excellent resource for anyone looking to sell overseas.
Read up on local laws
Once you’ve build up a basic knowledge of your chosen market and are confident that it makes sense for you to sell there, it’s time to start digging into the details.
Taxes and customs prohibitions vary by country, so it’s really important to look at the small print and ensure you’ve looked into how this will affect you. HMRC has some excellent advice, but if you need more information, you might also consider consulting an expert.
Don’t forget to consider the finer points. For instance, you might not have considered things like local holidays, which can be vastly different to those in the UK.
This doesn’t need to be a pitfall – in fact, China’s “Singles Day” (11 November) is the biggest online shopping day of the year, so being aware of this in advance is an excellent way to help you plan and boost sales in this market.
Invest in local SEO
SEO is an excellent way to reach new international customers, and should be built into your expansion plan from the outset.
Even if your target market is English-speaking, you can’t assume that keywords will remain the same. Start by researching local keywords, as well as taking a look at your competitors and how they are managing SEO.
Targeting the wrong keywords can lead to low traffic and a poor conversion rate, so this is important to get right from the beginning.
Manage international payments
Foreign exchange is part and parcel of selling overseas, and unfortunately, that means navigating constant fluctuations in exchange rates. If you don’t want to lose out to poor exchange rates or crippling transfer fees, it’s critical to pay attention to currency.
Partner up with a payments company that goes further than offering transparency and competitive exchange rates, which you should consider to be the basics.
Some companies offer a tailored service for online sellers, helping you save money on both fees and exchange rates with virtual currency accounts ready to plug straight into your chosen ecommerce platform.
Partner for quality delivery
As you’ll know from your experience selling to customers in the UK, quality delivery is critical to ensuring a smooth end-point to the buying process and continued customer satisfaction.
It can be difficult to create a consistent delivery experience through a series of local suppliers, so it’s worth looking to a global delivery company like UPS, whose specialist service is both cost-effective and gives customers control and visibility over their shipments.
Look for a quality provider that can get you safely over the line, leaving you with nothing to worry about except a host of five-star reviews.
Jake Trask is FX research director at OFX, an international payments company that offers specialist currency support for online retailers
Compliment the above tips with these five things to consider when launching an ecommerce platform
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.