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Sell online to a global audience

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By Jake Trask, FX research director at international payments firm OFX

Geo-political events such as Brexit and the recent general election have caused the pound to weaken, making it more attractive than ever for British retailers to sell online to international customers. As Sterling’s post-referendum lows make UK goods more competitively priced overseas, there’s no better time to start selling to a global audience.

Of course, changing your sales strategy can take time and consideration. But if you’re looking to sell outside Britain for the first time, there are a few simple things you can do to make the process as easy as possible.


Know your market

Before selling overseas, it is essential to research the markets where your target customers are underserved, and where there could be a gap for your product to fill. Be sure to research competitors and identify the places where you may face pressure from local rivals. Should you have the necessary resources, travelling overseas can be a great way to familiarise yourself with each market, tap into local know-how and immerse yourself in the unique conditions you’ll face. Of course, this first-hand experience will also help you when marketing to overseas buyers – a little effort and knowledge can go a long way.
 
However, if international travel isn’t possible, there are plenty of other ways to educate yourself about new markets. The Department for International Trade, for instance, provides excellent country guides, giving a clear overview of the markets that could work for you and your product. You could also consider running a low-cost survey on social media, to get feedback on your product directly from target overseas customers.

 

Do your research

Each country will have its own regulations, so doing your research up front will mean the selling process is much easier down the line. Consider everything from customs prohibitions (you’d be surprised by what you simply can’t ship to some countries) and taxes, to simple things like payment methods and local holidays. In China, for example, November 11 is “singles day” – the single biggest online shopping day of the year. Taking advantage of this could give your sales a huge boost.
 
Consider translating your website, so you’re better able to communicate with customers in your target market. Choose an expert translator, or simply use a plugin that can automatically convert your website to the local language.

 
Finally, remember to research the differences in local sales platforms, as they may differ from the UK. You may be surprised to learn, for instance, that Australia doesn’t yet have Amazon, so you’ll need to look at a local alternative if that’s your marketplace of choice.
 

Build strong SEO, and consider paid campaigns

Strong SEO can play a huge part in reaching new international customers, so don’t forget to build it into your plan.
 
It’s best to start with some research into local keywords and competitors. Which keywords are your competitors targeting in this market, and where are they getting their links? Don’t just assume that you can use the same keywords that you do back home, as these can vary even in English-speaking countries. Targeting the wrong keywords can generate poor-quality traffic and fewer conversions, so it pays to be thorough up front.
 

If you want to go even further, it’s worth setting budget aside for pay-per-click (PPC) adverts. These help to bring quality traffic to your site through the use of targeted keywords, and can form part of a well-rounded inbound marketing campaign.
 

Plan for international payments

Selling internationally means taking payments from overseas customers and, much as you may want to avoid it, that usually means foreign exchange. It’s important to pay attention to this, as it’s all too easy to lose money to poor exchange rates and eye-watering transfer fees without the support of a specialist partner.
 
Speak to an international payments company that offers the essentials – competitive exchange rates and complete transparency on fees – and that also demonstrates ecommerce expertise. Some providers offer virtual accounts in a range of major currencies, plugging directly into ecommerce platforms to save on transaction fees and exchange rates when bringing your revenue back home.

 

Partner up for smooth logistics

So, you’ve done your research, listed your items, and the orders start to roll in. Now it’s time for international shipping – and you certainly shouldn’t underestimate its importance. In fact, 90 per cent of online shoppers have abandoned orders because of shipping costs, while poor delivery can seriously undermine customer satisfaction.

Sourcing local logistics providers can be costly and inconsistent, so opt for a global delivery company which can give you expert support that’s both cost-effective and easy to manage across multiple markets. It’s important that customers have control and visibility over their shipments, so be sure your provider offers a quality service that won’t let you down at the final hurdle.