8 steps to selling overseas
Millions of small and medium businesses are listing on sites like eBay, Alibaba, Amazon, FlipKart, Tmall and Rakuten to reach global buyers, states McKinsey. To set yourself up for success before you focus on international sales, there are a few key things to consider.
1. Identify your target marketsThe first step is to determine where you want to sell. If you’re already selling online, check out where your existing customers are located and what they’re buying. You may already have a customer base in a particular country that you could build on.
To reach more customers, research the markets you’re interesting, looking at:
- Market profiles. Austrade’s country profiles gives you comprehensive market information and insights into import volumes, business culture and any restrictions you may face.
- Local buyers. PayPal PassPort can give you insights into how buyers in specific countries shop, what motivates their purchases, what they buy overseas and potential barriers to cross-border shopping.
- Competition. Do some online comparison shopping to find out where your global competitors sell and whether they have country-specific websites.
- Local demand. You can test demand by selling on established marketplaces like eBay or Freelancer.
2. Localise your paymentsOne of the biggest reasons international shoppers abandon purchases at checkout is they can’t pay with their preferred payment method. As you research payment providers, make sure they offer one or more payment methods (like PayPal, Discover, Union Pay, Maestro or Alipay) that appeal to customers in your target markets.
You also want to ensure you can sell in multiple currencies. While most customers prefer to pay in their local currency, an internationally recognised currency like US dollars can work if you can’t accept local currency. If you can’t offer payments in a local currency, consider implementing an accurate and up-to-date currency conversion tool so customers can see exactly how much they’re paying.
3. Understand duties and taxesFind out if the goods you’re selling attract import duties or taxes in the market you’re targeting. If they do, you may be able to adjust your price point to include them or otherwise let customers know to expect to pay additional tax or duties before items are delivered. Chat with your tax professional to work out what works best for you.
4. Learn about customs requirementsAll international shipments must clear a region’s customs agency. To help customs officials understand the contents and value of your shipment, you should attach customs forms to the outside of your package. Some shipping companies will handle this for you as part of their service.
Don’t be tempted to declare a package as “gifts” – it’s illegal to misrepresent an item to avoid customs fees. Australia Post provides information on customs forms requirements, and you can get information about international customs regulations from the World Customs Organization.
5. Choose the right shipping servicesChoosing a reputable shipping service can make international customers more confident about buying from you. It’s a good idea to provide different shipping options at different price points to give customers choice and reduce cart abandonment due to high fees.
Many shipping services, like Australia Post, Temando and DHL offer handling, customs and excise documentation, and shipping calculators. Others have all-in-one cross-border solutions which build tax obligations and international shipping prices into your online checkout or help customise your website for a local market.
No matter what shipping solution you choose, make sure your customers know your shipping policies and estimated delivery times. When you’ve sent the package, share tracking information with them. Where possible, we recommend requesting signature confirmation to ensure items are safely received by your customers.
6. Craft a clear returns policyEstablish a clear returns policy that complies with all applicable laws. At a minimum, your policy should outline:
- How it complies with local consumer laws
- Refund details, including when a refund will occur and what it consists of (whether it’s full money back or a store credit)
- If there’s a time limit for returns (for example, within 30 days of item delivery)
- If there are any return delivery or other handling fees
7. Make customer support a priorityMake sure your policies on international shipping, returns and payment are easy to find and, if possible, in your customers’ local language.
You should also make it easy for international customers to contact you by phone or email. If it fits your budget, a 24-hour customer helpline in local language is ideal. Otherwise, clearly flag to customers what languages you can answer their queries in and during what times (including time zones).