101 to Expanding Your Business Internationally
When looking to expand your business internationally, there are a few factors to consider. The list below will help you identify which market is right for your brand:
1. Assess How Easy it is to Ship to Specific Country
Cost effective and hassle free shipping is extremely important to grow your business internationally. You’ll need to understand country specific shipping regulations and costs prior. UPS has a handy tool that enables you to see a list of regulations for each country. You will just need to enter the origin/destination of your product and the tool will spill back documentation or requirements needed to ship to specific country. Vietnam for example has specific regulations on orders originating from the US that are greater than $100 US dollars. Pick a country to do business in, where your item is allowed to be exported. Additionally, research the full shipping costs. Make sure to weigh your item – obviously shipping will vary based on the weight of your item. You should also consider the shipping taxes as they vary from country to country. You wouldn’t want a potential buyer who is expecting a $20 shirt to have to pay another $20 in international duty costs. Consider geography when identifying countries that can meet your logistical demands. For example, if you are a business based in California, it might be more cost effective to ship to Asia/ Australia versus Europe.
Additionally, research the costs for shipping items back to you. As you grow your brand in a new market, you want to enable returns to establish trust. If you plan for example to ship to Europe or Asia, DHL is a cost effective provider. Set-up sometime to speak with them directly to iron out all costs involved – they have specific solutions for small businesses.
Finally, consider using a fulfillment provider such as Shipwire, or Fulfilment by Amazon. A fulfilment service is a third party warehouse that prepares and ships your orders for you. Using a fulfilment service is a great option if you don’t want to have to deal with shipping.
2. Research Countries’ Social Media Networks of Choice & Influencers
You will need to consider how social media affluent the country you plan on doing business in is. Vinco publishes every year a World Map of Social Network which highlights pre-dominant social networks used in various countries. Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest have become universal platforms in most countries except for China, Russia, and a few others. There are currently more social network users in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Additionally, a report from “We are Squared” stressed that investing in online Ad Buys in emerging markets as a greater Return of Investment due to lack of competition than other markets. Beyond researching which preferred social network a specific country has, you will also need to research likes/dislikes of specific demographic you plan on marketing too. Tools like Google Trends, Trends Map and SocialAppsHQ can help you monitor trending conversations around the world around your specific topics while identifying influencers in specific countries. These tools along with Quancast will assist you in discovering which social media networks, local blogs, online forums you should focus your time on. Finding local partners who can help you along your business journey can also prove to be a viable asset when first starting out.
Please understand that it does take time for brands to become well known, especially with the sheer amount of competition that the e-commerce sector has. Feel free to read my other blogs post on why Social Media Results don’t happen overnight. However, don’t let the competitiveness of your market deter you from achieving your business goals. As long as you have the determination, the knowledge and that ability to go the extra mile, your online company will succeed.
3. Assess the Demographic’s Willingness to Shop Abroad.
To do this you should research where your potential customer is spending most of their time. Look into their online spending habits. You will find that many consumers are likely to be willing to purchase products online from any country, so long as they are using a safe, reliable online payment system. Do some research online by going through trade publications and papers, such as Emarketer, McKinsey amongst other. Paypal has a great report entitled: Modern Spice Routes: The Cultural Impact of Cross-Border Shopping, which I encourage you read. You must ensure that the demographic you plan on marketing to is willing to shop in your specific country.
4. Evaluate Country Specific Needs
It’s important prior starting to export goods to research burgeoning needs within each country. Which goods are customers looking for online? In Hong Kong for example, the population purchases wine and fine art online, while in Vietnam, residents buy electronics. Different countries shop online to tailor specific wants. Be in tune with these needs.
Overall, it is crucial that you have a deeper understanding of how your chosen country carries out their business. By doing some simple market research you can learn about the country you are interested in doing business in and roll out one country at a time. You can also find out how much potential your products could have in a given market, as well as prospects for their success. Start small and target specific markets. Once you have taken those first steps, anything is possible for the future growth of your e-commerce business.
Below are a few additional resources to help your brand become a global entity: