When you have an ecommerce store, including a strong international strategy in your plans is essential. Last year, global ecommerce sales were $23 trillion and should reach $35 trillion by 2021. According to eMarketer, online commerce will continue to grow and become a bigger part of retail. You do not want to miss out on international sales.
Start With International Shipping
One of the easiest ways to build an international ecommerce strategy is to start by offering customers international shipping. You can use your existing website and slowly roll out more shipping options by adding one or two countries at a time. If you are in the United States, consider offering shipping to Canada because it is close. Then, expand by giving customers the chance to buy from other places, such as Europe.
To make this process smoother, make sure the ecommerce software you are using has the option of integrating with international warehouses and fulfillment. It may be cheaper to ship items by stocking them in international warehouses to make the trips shorter. However, before you do this, make sure the sales volume is worth the additional cost.
Figure Out Taxes and Tariffs
Although using accounting software like QuickBooks is common, it may not be enough for ecommerce businesses that go global. Consider getting a dedicated accountant or an accounting team that can help you manage finances and taxes for international and local orders.
When you start selling items around the world, you may have to pay additional taxes, tariffs or duties. These fees can get complicated quickly, especially since they vary from country to country. First, you have to be familiar with international shipping rules. Each country usually has its own export and import laws. Second, you will have to figure out how to fill out customs forms for the items being shipped. Some shipping software programs like ShippingEasy simplify the process by letting you automatically fill these forms.
Some of the common taxes you may run into abroad include the value added tax (VAT) or general sales tax (GST). You also have to deal with duties or tariffs, such as extra fees on certain imports. Finally, you have to be aware of extra fees for processing shipments through customs.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for ecommerce businesses is figuring out how to make international shipping affordable and reliable. Picking the right carrier is an important part of the process. The most common carriers include DHL, FedEx, UPS and USPS. You may want to compare prices among all of them and find the best one for your ecommerce store.
If you are in the United States, USPS can ship domestically and internationally. It is considered a public carrier, so it delivers your packages to other public carriers in different countries. This means that you will have to deal with multiple carriers along the way.
DHL, FedEx and UPS are private carriers, and they can handle the entire shipping process. The costs can vary among them, so make sure you compare each of them. If something goes wrong, it may be easier to contact a private carrier and check on a package.
Focus on Social Media
If you want to reach a global audience, then social media is an easy way to do it. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other networks can help you connect with shoppers around the world. Part of your international ecommerce strategy should be a social media plan.
First, pick one or two social media networks and focus on them. It is easy to get overwhelmed and do too many networks at once. Consider picking Facebook and Twitter for starters, or select Pinterest and Instagram. The key is to start slow and maximize your presence on these networks first before moving on to others.
Next, figure out what will resonate with a global audience. An easy way to test this out is to run several campaigns and do A/B testing. Then, you can compare the results and see which performed better. You want to keep your social media posts culturally sensitive yet interesting.
Also, try localized advertising on social media, which lets you target audience in specific countries with different ads. This can be a good way to test different ads and strategies on a platform. Other options include selling on Facebook’s marketplaces, offering products on WeChat and trying other methods.
Although an international ecommerce strategy can seem complicated, it is possible to build a successful one with careful planning and testing. It is important to think about long-term goals throughout the process. Do you want the business to sell merchandise around the entire planet, or will you be satisfied with a smaller global footprint? By having a clear vision for your business from the start, you will be able to formulate a better strategy.