If you’re selling online, you’re not just giving people across the UK the chance to see – and purchase – your products: the internet also makes it easier than ever to reach a global audience.
Just over 40 per cent of the global population currently has access to an internet connection; in 2013, the UK was the world’s leading exporter of goods purchased online with a trade surplus of over US $1 billion. And the future is looking promising: globally, the e-commerce market is expected to grow from US $25 billion in 2013 to US $130 billion by 2020.
Here are some basic steps to ensure your company has in place the foundations for a solid e-commerce strategy to receive and respond to international online orders quickly and efficiently, thus allowing you to optimise your e-commerce platforms for global sales.
Choose an online retail and payment platform
Regardless of whether you’re using an e-commerce element (online store) on your company website, online marketplaces or even both, online retail is the best platform to showcase your products to an international audience. Whichever e-commerce platform you use, ensure it is set up to process international payments – even if you’re still a domestic trader, you never know when you might suddenly receive an order from abroad.
Decide which market(s) to target …
If you haven’t yet sold abroad through online channels but are eager to get going, start by researching which countries you want to sell your products to – where potential niches for your product could exist.
It can be easier to initially tackle English-speaking countries – Australia, Canada and South Africa (note that the US can be a trickier market to enter). Closer to home, Ireland and other EU countries also offer a range of opportunities of trade with significantly reduced (where they’re not removed) barriers, duties and Customs regulations.
Once you’ve tested your global online trade processes in a few initial markets, you’ll be in a good position to take on bigger challenges – such as emerging markets.
… And how to best reach them
Once you’ve decided which target market(s) to hone in on, think about how easy it will be for your global customers to find your website. For example, just because you may rank highly in UK searches for your keywords it doesn’t mean you’ll do the same for other countries.
Some online ad providers will allow you to target selected countries or areas to increase your local SEO.
Alternatively, you may already have international customers approaching you from specific locations – in that case you will already know that demand for your product exists beyond the UK. A solid global e-commerce strategy geared towards these markets will allow you to respond to requests more efficiently, ultimately allowing you to further drive your market penetration.
You should also consider your plan for:
An effective way of marketing to a specific country (‘geotargeting’) is to set up a website with that country’s domain extension – for instance, yourwebsite.fr for a French audience or yourwebsite.ca if you’re aiming for Canada. But bear in mind that while it’s relatively easy to purchase a .com domain from the UK (the domain generally associated with US companies), various restrictions may exist around registering and buying domain names ending in other countries’ country codes – you may need to have proof of citizenship or having a local registered company for specific countries.
Consider whether you want to adjust your website language to your target markets. Though English is the dominant language of the internet (and many browsers have translation functions), it is good practice to feature product descriptions in your target market’s language. However, you do need to ensure that the translation is to a high, ideally professional, standard.
Determine which model works best for your business – options include having one price and one currency across the world, one price with multiple fixed (or floating) currencies or independent local prices that have been adjusted to each market.
If you have any questions about how to best reach an international audience using e-commerce or would like to share your own business experience in entering new markets through online channels, we would be glad to hear from you – please leave a comment below or contact us via Twitter @DHLExpressUK. For general questions about international trade, contact the DHL Business Export Advisors.
Sources: Google Webmaster Central: Internationalisation, Internet Live Stats: Internet Users, OC&C Strategy Consultants and Google report ‘The Global Retail E-mpire’, Usage of content languages for websites.