5 tips for selling products internationally.

Aug 07 2018 | PayPal editorial staff

Whether you’re selling erasers or carburetors, we can probably guess one of your biggest business concerns: finding and attracting new customers.
The good news is that a world of potential customers is out there, just waiting to buy what you’re selling. You just have to think a little more globally.
 
If you have any doubts that selling internationally is a real opportunity for your business, just look at the numbers: according to a Forrester Research, cross-border B2C e-commerce is expected to more than double to reach $629 billion by 2022.1 And with broadened Internet availability, buyers in developing – and even established – markets will have better access to businesses that sell products online all over the world. Businesses just like yours. 

First things first: Put a plan in place.

Before you open your doors to the world, you have to put a strategy in place. We’ve outlined five critical areas of planning, so you’ll be well-prepared to help give your customer base a major boost.

1. Find your target markets.

Like any new venture, it pays to do your homework. Your first step is to learn who your international customers are, what they buy, and how they shop.
  • Gather market intelligence. Start by looking at your own data to see from which countries people are already buying your products. Try expanding your reach into these markets, even if only to test selling specific products.
  • Research demand for your product and local buying trends. To help inform your target markets, look into the top countries that have strong demand for your product and niche specialty. Is there demand or a gap in the market? Are there specific holidays during which your product might be popular? While you’re at it, try to learn as much as you can about consumers’ spending patterns and from which countries they typically buy.

2. Consider how customers want to pay.

Next, start thinking about how you’ll get paid. And as you research payment providers, consider how your buyers prefer to pay, and a payment provider’s reputation.

  • Research local buyers’ preferred payment methods. These vary significantly depending on the country. It probably won’t surprise you that most people prefer paying in their local currency. Some payment providers will let you list products in a number of different currencies. If you can’t offer payment in local currency, make sure to give a currency conversion so customers can see what they’re paying.
  • Choose a payment provider with a reputation for security. Look for a payment provider with a strong global reputation. PayPal, for instance, consistently ranks among the top payment methods buyers choose for international payments – because it’s a secure way to pay.2 For businesses, we’ll give you access to local funding methods, without the hassle of having to open multiple merchant accounts overseas. You can accept payments in more than 200 markets in 25 currencies.3 And it’s already built into the top ecommerce platforms and carts, so setup is easy.

3. Pay close attention to regulations.

Of course, selling internationally brings a whole new set of rules. Once you’ve decided where you’ll sell, take the time to look into specific rules and regulations for that country. A few key areas to consider:

  • Duties and taxes. Find out if duties and taxes will affect the prices of items you plan to sell in target markets. Make sure you understand the rules that apply to your products so you can let your customers know about any expenses they’re expected to pay from the outset.
  • Customs. All your international shipments will have to make their way through customs, the agency that regulates shipments entering a country or region. Each package will need a customs form on the outside; some shipping services even help take care of this – do some checking to see if yours does.
  • Free-trade agreements. These agreements are good news for international sellers because they help reduce or eliminate tariffs for some products. The US has agreements with 20 countries, and while taking advantage of these agreements might mean more recordkeeping work for you, the savings are worth the extra effort.

4. Think about shipping and returns.

The best practices you already apply to shipping are even more important when selling internationally.

  • Set clear delivery expectations. International shipping can take longer and cost more for customers, so it’s vital to keep them in the loop. Give accurate delivery estimates based on country and list shipping costs in an easy-to-find place.
  • Establish a return policy, and when putting your policy together, consider:
    • Any requirements as detailed by local consumer laws.
    • Refund stipulations, like when you’ll issue them and whether you’ll give store credit or a cash refund
    • Time limit for returns
    • Restocking, return delivery, or other fees.

5. Plan your market entry.

When you sell products online, you have several options for entering the international market, including:

  • Starting small on an existing online marketplace. Established sites like eBay can often give you better reach for lower cost. They allow you to test demand for your products before committing a large sum to re-developing your site. Also, consider other online marketplaces that may be popular in your target market.
  • Optimizing your current website. A slightly more advanced option is to optimize your current website for international buyers. You can start by simply highlighting your ability to accept international orders with information on countries served and the shipping costs. Once you have more experience, you can look into listing your products in local currencies for those with a non-US IP address, and maybe eventually install a multi-language toggle for your website.
  • Creating a custom website for certain markets. The most advanced option is to build a website designed to appeal to specific overseas customers. This can include investing in a local domain name. The products and strategies that work in the US may not necessarily work in other countries, so a targeted website gives you full flexibility to test the best presentation of your items. It’s also a chance to optimize for the most popular search engine in the country in which you’re selling. (It might not be Google.)
    • If you take this route, just remember to test the experience, so you make sure that elements like text translation, currency conversion, and calculation of delivery costs work correctly. 

Your future customers are waiting.

Like traveling abroad, selling products online abroad is an adventure we highly recommend. It has the potential to expose your business to new countries, cultures, and most importantly, customers. To learn more about expanding your business beyond your borders, download our free ebook, How to sell internationally.

How to accept international payments.

The contents of this site are provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent, professional accounting, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.  

1Source: Forrester Research, Online Cross-Border Retail Forecast, 2017 to 2022. 
2PayPal Cross-Border Consumer Research, 2016. PayPal-commissioned Ipsos study of domestic and cross-border trade research across 32 markets and approximately 28,000 consumers globally.
3Merchants can get paid in more than 100 currencies, withdraw funds to their bank accounts in 57 currencies and hold balances in their PayPal accounts in 25 currencies.