For American consumers, online shopping is more than just a trend — ecommerce sales amounted to $409.2 billion in 2017 and are projected to surpass $603.4 billion in 2021. With 96% of Americans having shopped online, it makes sense that international retailers are expanding into new territory to sell to this active (and growing!) market.
Note: This article is solely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice.
How to start selling online in the US
Before your business can start selling to customers in the US, however, there are three big steps you must take: Registering your business, choosing a fulfilment provider, and importing your inventory. Here’s how to get started.
1. Register your ecommerce business in the US
First, you may want to register your business name as a trademark in the US. If you don’t register your business name, you risk not having legal protection if another business decides to use the same name. The easiest way to register your business name is on the US Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) website.
It’s also worth noting that the USPTO will only register business name trademarks if they are unique, uncommon, and unlikely to be confused with an existing trademark. Make sure that your business name isn’t already registered in the US by searching the trademark database. If it is, the USPTO will reject your registration for your business name.
In addition, United States law requires businesses to have an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to ship merchandise into the US. At ShipBob, we partner with Firstbase.io for any customer who needs to set up an LLC and be incorporated in the US.
When choosing a business entity, there are two main options: incorporating your business or registering as an LLC. We recommend consulting a US lawyer to understand the business entity that best fits your operations and tax needs.
A quick note: ShipBob does not provide our EIN for import purposes. You must be listed as the Importer of Record for anything you import to the US. Merchandise that ShipBob receives must be free and clear of customs and import duties in order for us to sign for it.
2. Choose a US-based fulfilment provider for ecommerce orders
If you’re selling in the US, we strongly recommend choosing a US-based third-party logistics (3PL) provider to store inventory and ship orders to US customers. This can save you significant time and money; shipping within the US is exponentially cheaper and faster than shipping internationally.
If you choose a 3PL with more than one US fulfilment centre, you can cut costs even further by splitting your ecommerce inventory inventory across the locations closest to your end customers.
With 73% of shoppers expecting affordable, fast deliveries and 24% of customers canceling an order due to slow shipping, finding the right fulfilment centre location(s) can help you offer fast shipping to your US customers at an affordable price.
Allowing customers to send returns to your US 3PL’s fulfilment centres can also increase sales — 66% of shoppers review a retailer’s return policy before buying, and 95% of shoppers say they would purchase with a retailer again if satisfied with their returns process.
[Related article: How to Create a Great Online Returns Experience]
When choosing a 3PL in the US, it’s important to find a partner that you trust to handle your inventory, provide a positive experience to your customers, and ultimately help you grow your business in the states and beyond.
To learn more about choosing the right US-based fulfilment provider, check out our e-guide, How to Choose a 3PL for Your Ecommerce Business.
3. Import your inventory to the US from overseas
Once your business is legally set up to sell in the US and you’ve chosen a fulfilment partner, we recommend working with a freight forwarder to import your inventory and get it to your 3PL’s distribution centre. Freight forwarders have a comprehensive understanding of the requirements, regulations, logistics costs, and documentation your business may need throughout the importation process.
When you work with a freight forwarder alongside a US-based fulfilment provider, you can leverage their expertise around complex shipping regulations and take a large part of the burden of cross-border commerce off of you and your team. ShipBob partners with freight forwarders like Freightos to help our clients book international freight shipments to any ShipBob fulfilment centre.
[Related article: Freight 101: Introduction to Freight Shipping]
With the ecommerce market in the US growing so rapidly, it’s never been a better time to expand your ecommerce presence and start selling to US customers. If you’re ready to get started with a US-based ecommerce fulfilment partner, check out ShipBob.