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International Selling - Part 2: Getting great at international sales in ecommerce

In our previous post we covered some of the pitfalls to international selling in ecommerce. In this post we share a number of best practices we can help you adhere to in order to make your overseas missions successful.

 

First things first

Firstly, don’t rush in! Our customers tell us that doing the planning and preparation first, and taking a ‘softly softly’ approach to international sales helps build the confidence. The Volo system gives you the flexibility to control your speed of entry. Similarly, if English is your current trading language, we advise you to expand into other English language-based marketplaces first. Selling into Australia and New Zealand, for example, also allows you to take advantage of seasonality while working in a common language.

When you’re ready to embrace listing your products and serving your customers in their language, the Volo system has a number of integrations with translation providers so that you can manage multiple-language listings and multiple currencies. Using one integrated system will make the process more straightforward.

While selling passively – by which we mean simply reacting to purchases from foreign buyers who are on your domestic marketplace – can be a good way to trial a channel, selling actively on international marketplaces produces 8 times better results, according to eBay research from 2013. This means localising your multi channel listings in depth across the listing process, and your communications to a similar degree of detail across the delivery process, covering the areas of pricing, shipping, search terms, product measurements, marketplace specifics and terms and conditions.

Be sure to research thoroughly your competitors and ecommerce marketplace performance in the countries you are contemplating. It goes without saying that trialling a small number of higher margin products in less competitive regions is a safer way of dipping your toe in the water. However, you must balance this against any potential infrastructural issues around getting the product safely in the hands of your buyer.

 

How to delight your customers

Customer service in non-domestic languages can add an extra layer of complexity and cost to your operations. Again, it’s about getting the balance right between delighting your customers and managing your overhead. If at all possible you should respond to your customer in their language. You have to build your library of answers to frequently asked questions in the relevant languages. In this way your customer service staff can be as productive as possible and not have to recreate the same answers on a regular basis. Make sure also that you have factored seasonality into your staff planning to have the right coverage for the seasonal peaks and troughs in your business.

If you are trading in large volumes with customers using other currencies, then fluctuating exchange rates can have a large impact – positive or negative – on your margins. Working with international specialists on currencies, exchange rate trends and finance generally could save you as much as 3% on every single transaction. This is hugely beneficial to your bottom line. Volo can advise on the right international specialist for your business, or you could do research on the large international ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.

 

Tread carefully

Shipping reliability and costs vary markedly between mature and developing markets. You need to tread carefully here and have a plan. How will you ship items to your buyers, handle returns, and at what thresholds does it prove uneconomical to pay for an item to be returned? We advise that at the outset you focus on low weight items so that you can gauge the speed, cost and success rate for deliveries and returns & credits. Again, there are specialists in this field, and Volo can help you connect with the right one.

On the legal, regulatory and tax sides, your overriding concern should be to make sure you are operating within the limits of the particular country or economic area. Once more, specialist providers can help you stay on the right side of the laws of the land. Finally, things can go wrong. You should work with an insurance and liability specialist to make sure your foray across the waters isn't a bridge – or another type of crossing – too far.