How to win with international online shopping

May 27 2020 | PayPal editorial staff

Cross-border ecommerce is growing quickly as international, online shoppers seek out bargains and unique products. That means there’s a world of potential customers out there, just waiting to buy what you’re selling.
You can grow your online business by reaching new customers in markets around the world. But to make your international expansion a success, you need to start with a plan.

Here’s an outline of 5 critical steps to get you started.

There’s also a longer version, available as a free, downloadable ebook. You’ll find the link at the end of this article.

1. Find your target online shopping markets

Start by learning all you can about potential, target markets, paying special attention to the following:
  • Local buyers – who will buy, what are their online shopping habits, what are their shopping priorities or potential barriers? Explore local marketplace sites and social media to get to know your potential new customers.
  • Competition – Do your current competitors sell in those target markets? Do they have country-specific websites? Who will be your local competitors in the target market? Consider what each does well and not so well. What will make your business stand out?
  • Points of entry – Will it be better to use your own website (perhaps offering translation and local currency options) or an established online marketplace. Check out some of the big, international marketplaces and any local favorites in the market you’re investigating.

2. Consider how people prefer to pay

One of the main reasons that cross border shoppers abandon purchases at checkout is that they don’t have the comfort and convenience of paying in their currency of choice using a preferred payment method.

In fact, 1 in 4 online shoppers have abandoned a transaction because their preferred payment method wasn’t available.1 So, as you research payment providers, check they offer one or more payment methods – such as debit cards, credit cards or PayPal – that appeal to online shoppers in your target markets.

Also, be sure to select a payment provider that is known and trusted in your target markets. Security concerns are another reason that shoppers abandon their online shopping baskets.

PayPal can help you earn the confidence of international customers. PayPal also makes it easier to offer international customers the payment methods and payment currencies they prefer.

3. Learn the rules, from taxes to regulations

It’s important to keep your online business within the law when you sell internationally. Here are the most important areas to research:
  • Export and import restrictions – Find out if your country has restricted or banned the sale of your products to any countries.
  • Duties and taxes – Find out if these will affect the price of any items you plan to sell, so you can let customers know from the outset.
  • Customs and regulations – All international shipments must clear customs, the agency that regulates shipments entering a country or region. Each package must have customs forms attached. Some shipping companies will handle this for you as a service.
  • Free trade agreements – These agreements between countries can help you reduce or eliminate tariffs and other barriers for specific products. Check out the countries that have agreements with your own.

4. Establish shipping and support services

Choosing reputable shipping services, having clear policies for delivery and returns, and offering great customer service can help your online business earn the confidence of international buyers.
  • Delivery – Make sure your policy is easy to find on your website. Be sure to include all charges and estimated delivery times. Offering online parcel tracking can give added comfort to your customers.
  • Returns – Establish a clear, “no questions asked” returns policy. Offering free shipping for returns can also boost customer confidence. Be sure your returns policy is compliant with all applicable laws.
  • Customer support – make it easy for online shoppers to find and contact you by telephone or email. Include your email address, telephone number and postal address on all your communications. Can you offer a telephone helpline or a chatbot to help with customer queries?

5. Attract more online shopping customers with international marketing

Once you have your plan in place, think about how you’ll build your online business through marketing. Try these tips:
  • Use SEM and SEO to attract online customers – Search engine marketing (SEM) and optimization (SEO) can help you stand out from the online crowd by appearing higher in search result rankings.
  • Try personalization and retargeting – These can help you catch the attention of busy shoppers and web site visitors, even after they’ve left your site.
  • Explore email marketing – Marketing automation tools make it easier than ever to run email marketing campaigns for registered customers, an effective way of bringing customers back to your site.
  • Use social media to engage with customers – Have conversations with customers and understand their interests to help provide the information they want. It’s also a useful channel for targeted ads.
  • Think visually with video and images – Online shopping is very visual, especially on smaller phone screens. Shoppers love short-form videos and high-quality images of the products they’re browsing.

Download your free eBook today

You can grow your business by targeting international markets and the growing number of cross-border shoppers. But you need a plan.
Our free eBook outlines 5 critical steps. It’s full of useful information, online resources and tips from other international sellers, just like you.
Click the download button to access your free eBook.

PayPal (2018), research conducted in 7 markets: US, UK, Germany, Australia, Italy, Spain and Brazil,
The contents of this site are provided for informational purposes only. The information in this article does not constitute legal, financial, IT, business or investment advice of any kind and is not a substitute for any professional advice. You should always obtain independent, professional accounting, financial, IT and legal advice before making any business decision.