Selling cross border doesn’t have to be a terrifying prospect but it should add a different dimension to your domestic efforts. Online retailers looking to sell internationally have a large advantage over their bricks and mortar counterparts, due to ‘long-tail’ products. This means, online stores (unlike physical ones who only keep popular, fast moving items) have the ability to stock specialist items that can serve audiences worldwide, meaning a bigger audience and wider reach. So what do you have to consider to master the art of international selling? There are language barriers, cultural concerns, shipping arrangements and returns policies to get your head around. There is also the customer service aspect to think about. We’ve laid out 3 steps to include in your plan of attack.
- Shipping reliability and costs vary 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. There are specialists in this field, and Volo can help you connect with the right one.
- 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 pleasing 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.
- Don’t go charging in! You have to do your planning and preparation. If English is your current trading language, 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 the same 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.
Finally, don’t forget to do your competitor and marketplace research in the countries you are considering selling into. Trialling a number of higher margin products in less competitive regions is a safe way of starting out.
Here’s what some of our customers have to say…
The Board Basement
Winter sports equipment, clothing and accessories merchant The Board Basement uses the Volo software to manage its international sales and has gone from £250,000 to £1,000,000 in 3 years. Stuart Tait, co-founder and Director of The Board Basement:
“Cross border is really important for us, it’s about 20-25% of our business. Volo’s ecommerce software has made it easier for us to expand in internationally. We’re lucky in that in our business we don’t need to do translating. We offer international shipping, and we’re also on Amazon Germany, France, Italy and soon Japan. Australia is a very important market for us. Last year over our summer we sold 140 snowboards to Australia.”
Nigel Matthews of board games, toys and collectibles retailer Only Global uses the Volo multi channel software to manage international sales and has increased revenues 20-fold in 5 years: “Cross border trading has been the surprise package for us. I can honestly say that selling internationally was not in our business plan when we started with Volo. It simply wasn’t on the radar. We just wanted to control our selling on eBay and branch into Amazon, print our orders, that kind of thing.
“But when we found Volo’s system could do all this cross border trading out of the box, well we stumbled into it. For us, eBay and Amazon were the crux of the international selling picture, and so we wanted to manage those relationships very carefully. It’s tempting with the Volo platform to go gangbusters, but the best way is to take it slowly and make sure you don’t get it wrong. We can manage these multiple channels simultaneously with the channel profiling that the platform does. It manages all the portals and updates and debits them all.”
If you want to find out more about how to sell internationally, contact us here