Business development 21 June 2017

Five tips for using ecommerce to sell to a global online audience

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:

  1. 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 isnt 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.

  1. 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 doesnt need to be a pitfall in fact, China’s “Singles Day” (11november) 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.


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