5 Actionable Steps To Take Your Online Ecommerce Business Global
If your goal is to take your online e-commerce business global, these five actionable steps will help you ramp up and get the job done.
Taking an online eCommerce business global can seem quite intimidating. Have your packages recently needed to cross vast distances and face the regulations of multiple countries?
If so, going global can pay big dividends. The trick is knowing how to exit your small pond and enter the greater ocean without hitting too many snags along the way.
Step 1: Research the Markets You’re Entering
Humans are humans. We all have similar wants and needs and, as society becomes more globalized, our cultures grow more similar too.
That said, what’s popular in the United States is not always popular elsewhere. Even if you only ship domestically, the odds are good that you’ve noticed you’re not equally popular everywhere. Why would that change when you go global?
One simple way to research how popular a given product may be in a certain part of the world is by using Google Trends. This tool will let you see how popular a search term is by country, letting you gauge interest.
That said, this strategy does have some weaknesses. For instance, something people hate may also get a lot of search traffic. Google Trends makes a good entry point for market research but is only the first step.
While not every country can afford a huge market research campaign, at least look at Trends and ask locals how they feel about the products you want to bring to the market.
Be sure to also research the local history and culture. Some things we assume are universal symbols or ideas may not actually gel with other cultures. The more different a country is from your own, the more thorough you need to research.
This sort of research becomes easier once you have actually entered the market as you will start to have workable data rather than needing to rely on estimates and what data other companies have made available.
Is a fulfillment center not operating in a way you’re happy with? Contact the associated company or even swap if you’re unhappy.
Is demand higher or lower than you thought? Shift production to close the gap.
The only real caveat here is to remember most trends are temporary. If a holiday is coming up or a major economic event has occurred, that will have an effect on sales but things will normalize again.
The trick, and it isn’t always an easy one, is spotting which trends are big problems and which are temporary inconveniences. Some trends can last years while others are flashes in the pan, both good and bad.
Step 2: Study Up On International Shipping
When a business ships domestically, the rules and regulations it is held to tend to be pretty standard. Without too much research and only a few weeks of practice, it isn’t too hard to grasp the basics.
International shipping is (often) much more complicated. For one, you will often be required to pay additional taxes and fees based on the product you’re shipping and to where.
What a business owner needs to keep in mind is they are now trading products between multiple countries. It is not only US taxes and policy you have to worry about, but the country you’re shipping to (as well as any international regulations).
Some shipping services will not even ship certain types of products as the regulations involved grow too complicated. This can be a major concern if your company sells weapons, plants, animals, or other heavily regulated goods.
Making assumptions when it comes to international shipping can lead to legal troubles or you being blindsided by hidden expenses. By performing your due diligence, you can avert disaster and check to make sure entering a market will be worthwhile.
Step 3: Make Sure You Can Fill Orders
When you start to operate on an international level, meeting orders can be a much bigger challenge. Most companies will need to scale up their operations to meet the higher demand for their products.
One of the easiest ways to do this is through an order fulfillment service. By using a company like ours that specializes in order fulfillment, shipping becomes much easier and your pipeline more efficient.
When you’re doing order fulfillment yourself, invoices have to be printed, products need to be packaged, and inventory needs to be tracked. There is a huge amount of work that gets put into fulfilling orders.
On a small scale, most operations can handle this themselves. On a large scale, taking advantage of specialized order fulfillment centers can become essential to managing large amounts of orders in an effective manner.
If you need to scale up your operations, you need to hire what is called a third-party shipping company. These are companies whose operations are designed around helping you get products to customers fast.
When you enter a new market, the odds are also good that you’ll now be dealing with a different type of currency too. It’s important your payment system can accommodate any necessary conversions.
Many companies use PayPal, which can handle much of that legwork for you, but it’s important to review your system and make sure everything is in order. A potential customer who can’t buy your products may not return.
One other thing to consider is regional pricing. While somewhat controversial, many stores vary their prices depending on what region they are selling to.
While this might seem strange, keep in mind that some parts of the world are poorer than others. It often makes sense to accept tighter margins in poorer regions to attract more customers, making more profit overall.
Regional pricing can also be used to help you absorb some of the cost of different tax rates and high tariffs. Much of it depends on what margins you can accept and what prices you need to stay competitive in a given market.
Step 4: Monitor Inventory and Production
This step is closely related to the above but comes from a different angle. It’s important your operation has the production capabilities to meet the demand for their products.
If you are entering a new market, your product has the potential to be seen by millions of more people than it once was. That’s a lot of new attention that not every ecommerce business is ready for.
While it can be hard to predict how demand may increase as your business expands, one thing you can do when first entering a market is simply have more inventory on hand than you might normally desire.
This does mean you may have to handle a higher than normal upfront cost but, combined with the research you should already have done, you should be able to estimate vague numbers that can help you meet initial demand.
From there, you can use your own sales data to help guide where your production levels need to be at. The bad news is that once your products are available in a new market, it can be harder to keep inventory up.
In a way, offering products in a new market is like opening up the floodgates. Before you do so, you can build up inventory. Once you’re open for business somewhere, the equation changes as products are now steadily draining too.
While you can of course pull products off your store temporarily, this can put potential customers off. It is better, when possible, to try and keep production at a good enough pace that you can meet most or all customer demand.
Step 5: Maintain a Line of Communication
One of the bigger challenges of going global is communicating with customers. Most countries you want to open up to will have a different dominant language that most of your new customers will be speaking.
At a basic level, you are going to want your website to be easy for these people to use and have some kind of customer support system where they can contact you.
However, it is even better if you can go a step further, offering newsletters, deals, and more to your international customers. While this can be hard at first, it can pay big dividends in the long run.
The less a customer feels secondary to your company, the better they will feel about it. A customer doesn’t want to feel permitted to buy your goods. Instead, they want to feel welcomed.
While it isn’t possible to always have native speakers of various languages on staff, there are a variety of third-party services to translate content and generate ads in different languages. These can be a big help in foreign markets.
We Can Fulfill Your Online Ecommerce Business Needs
If you’re planning on entering the world of international online ecommerce business, we at Fulfilltopia can help. Our fulfillment centers can take the complicated business of filling international orders and help you streamline them.
We’re a third-party shipping and general order fulfillment company that can handle your operation’s needs, be they expansive or small. If you’re interested, explore our site for more information!