Companies are increasingly realising the potential of reaching their customers directly online. Even companies selling services can use their web site as a lead generation tool, and companies selling products can make healthy international sales through a well-designed e-commerce website.
Here are our top tips for successfully selling online overseas.
Selling online doesn’t just mean having your own full e-commerce website – there are plenty of other ways to sell your products and services in other countries, many of which are low risk and allow you to test the water. You can add your products to an e-marketplace like Alibaba, or simply add a PayPal button to your product pages.
The market is full of companies vying for your attention, promising to build you the best website. Your platform choice will largely depend on your strategy, as above. If you take the e-commerce route you'll need to make sure the platform supports that.
Be sure to pick a platform that will be able to support you as you expand internationally, supporting language pages, multiple currencies, different payment systems, delivery options and sales tax rates. Make sure that it will integrate with any stock, finance or customer relationship management systems you already have in place or plan to add.
To appeal to local customers and to be found in local search engines you will have to have local language content dedicated to each country you are planning to sell into.
Furthermore, you will have to customise your website pages to local cultures and local tastes, including the messages, the copywriting and the images. International customers are more likely to buy from you if you do this.
As one of the world’s leading e-commerce nations, we're quite trusting in e-commerce in the UK. We’ll quite happily part with quite a lot of cash on our credit cards and know that our goods will (normally) arrive.
Many cultures are very distrustful of credit cards and usage is much lower. In this case it is good to allow the prospect of customers paying by direct transfer or local payment systems. While PayPal is truly global and accepts most currencies, don’t forget to think about other specialist payment systems, such as Alipay in China.
Remember to check what fraud checking procedures can be offered by your payment provider.
Consider the impact of “chargebacks” where the customer can obtain a refund of their whole payment (including any delivery charges) from the payment provider who in turn then will re-charge the whole payment to you even if the goods have not been returned to you
Look into distance selling regulations, delivery methods, exchange rates, local legal requirements, customs documents to name but a few areas that will need your attention.
Consider what arrangements and policies you wish to offer customers who may wish to return products. Does the customer need to contact you for you to establish why they wish to return their goods? How should customers return goods and who pays the carriage for those returns (the customer or you)?
Consider what procedures will apply for refunding the customer payment for any returns (the cost of the returned goods themselves which the customer has already paid for, and the carriage charges the customer may have to pay for, unless you pay the return charge or provide free return labels)
It is important that your customers know they can trust your brand as you build your track record in a new country. Customers will often turn to online review websites like Feefo and Trustpilot, where other customers talk about their experience with your business. Make sure you regularly monitor these sites, as most of the popular review platforms allow businesses to respond to comments, giving you the chance to rectify any problems in a timely fashion. Also make sure you collect testimonials from happy customers and any press coverage you manage to secure.
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