In the age of globalization and peak connectivity, expanding your small to mid-sized ecommerce business (SMB) into international markets makes a lot of sense — but where do you start?
Expanding your ecommerce business internationally
Let’s look at the key stages of global expansion to give you the right footing to dip your toes into international waters.
1. Conduct market research
Not all foreign markets are created equal, and diving headfirst into a market that isn’t right for your business can be a costly mistake. Start by conducting foreign market research to create a preliminary list of countries or regions for consideration based on factors that are relevant to your business, such as the following:
- Local economy: GDP, inflation, labor costs, etc.
- Culture: Openness to foreign business, innovation, etc.
- Institutions: The legal requirements and ease of setting up a business
- Infrastructure: Tech development, warehousing logistics, etc.
Government resources are a great source of information about which industries are in-demand, and, therefore, which areas are most feasible for your business.
2. Plan ahead
It’s unlikely that anyone knows as much about your business as you, which is why your plan of action for international expansion starts with you assessing your readiness and commitment to grow your business internationally by creating the following:
- SWOT analysis: What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in your new target markets?
- An operational plan: What resources do you need to execute your expansion plan?
- International business plan: What is your vision for your international business, and what timeline will you follow to achieve your goals?
3. Work out your finances
Financial management in small and medium-scale enterprises is one of the biggest challenges for business owners, particularly when it comes to moving business overseas. There are several avenues you can explore to secure funding:
- Government grants
- Peer-to-peer lending
- Private loans
- Loans from banks or financial institutions
4. Finesse the finer details
Cultural, social, legal, and economic differences can have a huge impact on how you do business overseas, and they can be a headache to navigate for those without much international experience. Here are some of the key things to consider:
- Your pricing strategy — should reflect local market standards
- Taxes and duty — can differ significantly from market to market, consider DDP shipping or section 321
- Local customs, import and export laws
- Your tax obligations
- Foreign currencies and local payment methods
- Cultural norms
5. Hash out your approach to sales and distribution
While your local distribution strategy might be a well-oiled machine, when it comes to distributing your products internationally, you’ll probably be starting from scratch. Make sure to:
- Compare international shipping and distribution options
- Identify your online sales channels
- Consider your distribution strategy
6. Work out shipping and fulfillment
International selling success comes down to providing great service, no matter where your customers may be. For SMBs, processing orders in a timely and convenient fashion should be top of the priority list. Be sure to have the following bases covered:
- Get to know local packaging and labeling regulations
- Compare international fulfillment providers to see what’s most cost-effective and efficient in different markets
- Streamline your business operations
“We found that sending inventory to Europe involved less paperwork and was faster than expected. The process of getting inventory sent to ShipBob’s fulfillment center location in Europe was very streamlined.”
Nikolai Paloni, Co-Founder of Ombraz Sunglasses
7. Streamline your business operations
Maximizing efficiencies is important for any business owner, but especially for those who are trading internationally. Once you’re up and running, take control of your expanding business by managing all your operations on one platform.
With a cloud-based order management system, you can manage your inventory, sales orders, shipping, finances, logistics and more from a single dashboard – giving you the freedom and insights you need to work smarter and grow your business.
Need help with international fulfillment?
Get in touch with ShipBob. We have discounted shipping rates to around the world as well as an international fulfillment presence). Request a pricing quote below to start the conversation and see if we’d be a good fit for your business.