By nature, humans tend to think big. Nobody has small dreams: a flat next to Central Park, to travel around the world by motorbike, a 10 meter length yacht, to climb the Everest, internationalize our e-commerce…
There’s no charge for dreaming, and we all love to let our imagination run wild. The ugly truth is that, even though anyone could fulfil those dreams if they wanted to, they are unreachable for most of people.
Focusing on e-commerce, it is quite motivating to imagine us selling all around the world and to any kinds of people. However, we have to bare in mind that these are complex strategies and only a few can accomplish them.
This process requires some previous steps to prepare our e-commerce to compete on an international scale. If you don’t follow them it may have negative consequences for your business.
However, we are optimistic and firmly believe that you can do it. You just have to consider some points first, such as if you really need it or if it would be a good path for your e-commerce to follow.
Internationalization: the basis
As we said before, there are some steps you should follow to achieve this transformation safely and in a sustainable way. That is to say, you need to be an established brand in your country of origin, whenever is possible.
Sometimes the obsession of working in other countries makes us forget about the customers we have around us, the ones who can easily know us and buy our products. If you work on this and have a good image in your national market, then you’ll have a strong basis to build your business up.
On the other hand, you should have a clean economic situation and a good financial strength. You should have a clear idea of the markets you want to sell and define a suitable strategy, because the cost you’ll have to assume is really big. Convince yourself: e-commerce internationalization is expensive.
Once you’ve accomplished these two steps, it is time to plan the internationalization process and to consider the benefits for our company.
Internationalization is necessary for those online shops that have outgrowth their national markets or that have specific objectives in countries different from theirs. If any of those is your case, your next step should be to find a country whose customers might want our products.
For Spanish businesses, the most interesting markets are UK, Germany and France, mainly because they hold the 60% of European’s B2C commerce. The inconvenient is the great competition of those markets.
On the other hand, Italy and Portugal have a great potential and are good business opportunities, as the competition is lower and online customers are growing.
If you are thinking about China being a good option then you are absolutely right, because there are around 350M customers. However, their market has its own rules and is quite difficult to surpass the initial obstacles, even though China has a great potential.
If you already have the need to well internationally, you have a good national presence, a good economic situation and clear objectives; then it is your moment to start the internationalization process.
Internationalization process: Key points
1. Language decisions
Will you create a platform entirely in English or use a multi-language platform adapted to any market? In some countries, it will be enough with a customer service in the country’s language, while others will require to entirely adapt to the culture and tastes of the country.
Based on our experience, we think it is better to adapt the content to the local language. When doing this, keep in mind that the content have also to be adapted in order to get a good organic positioning with the most relevant keywords of that market, so that we can get traffic and sales.
2. Keep control on shipment fees
You should analyse the different shipment companies to decide which is more suitable for you. In Spain, the company Correos is the cheapest option but you could have customs issues with some countries.
In those cases, the best choice is to work with international shipping companies that can manage any Customs issues and the home delivery. This could also improve the customer’s perception of the company and to diminish the number of returns and complaints.
3. Logistics plans
You need to be efficient if you want to success. It is quite different to send products inside your origin country than to send the same products abroad. Each one should arrive to its destination fast and with the lowest fees possible.
Moreover, it is important to adapt this service to the customer’s habits of the country. For example, some countries have a clear preference for pickup points rather than home delivery, as they offer more flexible schedules.
4. Payment systems and currency are important
Don’t ever forget that not every entity will make things easier for you and you will have to adapt to the preferred payment methods of each country.
For example, Germany prefers transfers, England prefers credit cards and Portugal an entity called Multibanco. To avoid any issues, you can always offer PayPal for every country that admits it.
In terms of currency, it is important that every product are shown in the country’s currency. It is convenient that your e-commerce platform allows you to work with multi-currency, so that you can define the prices and promotions on each foreign currency.
5. Study the local culture and laws
You need to understand the culture of a country if you want to sell your products there. Some products may be considered as offensive or may not be socially accepted.
The study of the values and behaviours could be the strength you need to make the right sales. Even some parts of the same country may present different traits. For example, the East Cost of USA considers coffee as a relaxing drink, while West Coast thinks of it as a stimulating drink.
Furthermore, we should never forget about the legal scenario of each area; that is, importation restrictions, customer’s protection rules, ticketing duties, licenses or taxes.
A new market could be a more welcoming place if you work with other companies of your same business area. This could help you with your integration, the transaction process, paperwork or even complaints. Take a look to any possibility of partnership that may appear and choose those that could benefit both companies.
7. Selling on marketplaces
The creation of an international website can improve the image of the brand, but when yo first start you expansion process marketplaces offer a straighter way to reach the customers. You can use both international and local marketplaces, like Cdiscount in France or Kuantokusta in Portugal.
If you choose Amazon, we recommend using FBA. Logistics will be easier for you because Amazon will keep your products in their international warehouses and will ship them whenever is needed, which will also reduce the shipment time.
8. Watch your competitors
Your should study not only their products, but also their strategies, customer’s service, shipment time and fees, returns policy, etc. If you know them you can beat them and offer an extra value to every customer.
9. Monitor the prices
International sales are closely related to entering in new competitive markets where each cent counts, so it is essential to monitor the competitors to discover how much you can adjust your prices and still have profits.
You should use tools like Boardfy to make easier this tasks for you. It will also show you some extra information such as the nationality of each seller and discover if they are locals or foreigners, so you can adapt your pricing strategies.
As you can see, internationalization is an important challenge that could mean a great boost for your e-commerce, but you should be cautious before starting the process.
Our advice is to analyse the market of your interest, calculate the costs, define a suitable strategy and correct it every time you need it.
If you meet the previous requirements and follow the last advice your e-commerce will get to the most distant place on Earth.