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Five things you need to know before selling overseas



Expert | Featured | Growing | Growth | Import | Export | Opinion | Retail | Retail | Sales

By Peter Cowan

The advancement of technology has radically changed the way that consumers browse for items and make purchases. Shopping online for items overseas has become as normal as picking up a bottle of milk from the local corner store.

Consumers around the world now expect to be able to browse international brands at anytime, anywhere and on any device, whether it be on the train to work, while at work, or from their couch.

This shift in consumer behaviour can be daunting but it has also unlocked countless opportunities for businesses to tap into new international audiences and customers.

For Australian small to medium businesses (SMBs), selling overseas can offer benefits such as increased profits and revenue, heightened brand awareness, and business growth. However, it’s not as simple as setting up an international website. SMBs need to remove the friction associated with shopping internationally and offer a tailored retail experience to ensure they are setting themselves up for success.

Here are five things you should know before you take the cross-border leap for your business.

  1. Weigh up whether it is the right move for your business

First and foremost, make sure it is the right move for your business. Selling overseas is not a viable option for every type of business, so it is important to weigh up the advantages (and disadvantages) that it would bring to your business. Start by questioning whether your product or service has a competitive advantage. Consider what differentiates your product or service and do your research to figure out whether you need to adjust your pricing to meet global expectations.

Some of the greatest cross border success stories come from SMBs that have identified a gap in the international market and leveraged this to drive sales. For example, Australian brand MooGoo has become a globally renowned skincare company that specialises in catering to sufferers of eczema and other skin irritations. By finding a treatment for a condition experienced by consumers globally, MooGoo have expanded internationally and are now selling their products in eight different markets.

  1. Make mCommerce the centre of your business strategy

Being able to easily and seamlessly engage with a brand online, particularly via mobile, is now a consumer expectation. PayPal’s most recent mCommerce Index Report[1] foundalmost three-quarters of Australian smartphone owners (72%) use their mobiles to shop or make payments, a figure that’s remained steadily high year-on-year. Furthermore, according to a cross-border consumer research study[2], an increasing number of purchases are made via a mobile device. There is a clear opportunity for Australian SMBs to not only build rigorous eCommerce strategies, but to capitalise on a high level of mobile commerce adoption among global consumers.

  1. Match the agility of your eCommerce offering with fast or free delivery

One of the biggest barriers SMBs face when selling overseas is the time and cost of shipping. With a growing number of local brands offering same day delivery, it’s essential that SMBs invest in a competitive shipping offering when selling overseas. Australian SMBs should search for a shipping partner that works for their business and their customers alike. If possible, offer your customer free shipping on a minimum spend or simple shipping upgrades, such as expedited shipping times. Your customers may also change their mind once receiving your product, so offer them free return shipping to leave them with a positive impression of your business. By offering free online tracking, you can also give your customer peace of mind about their purchase.

  1. Make your eCommerce offering appealing to overseas audiences

It is not only important to know your customer, but also to know their country, their culture, and the various cultural sale moments applicable to the region that they live in. PayPal’s Cross Border Consumer Research [3] found that consumers from developed markets such as the US, UK and China have a stronger preference for stores that sell in their own language. Providing a simple feature to enable consumers to view your online store in their own language, makes it easy for them to navigate your website and more likely to complete a purchase.

The same sentiment is reflected when it comes to currency. We found [4] that that three in four consumers (76%) would prefer to have the option to pay in their local currency, while nearly two in three (61%) check conversion rates before paying. Automating the presentment of your products in a consumer’s local currency, or alternatively offering the option to view prices and complete the purchase in the local currency will help to encourage international customers take the plunge and make their first purchase on your website.

  1. Offer your customers a secure way to pay

Another challenge facing businesses looking to sell to international markets is consumer distrust due to low brand recognition. One way to build trust with your customer is by offering a secure and recognisable payment option, such as PayPal Buyer Protection. A secure payment option enables the consumer to make their purchase knowing that they are protected by buyer protection, and can claim a refund for the full purchase price, plus original shipping charges if the item is not received or not as described.

As eCommerce strategies are streamlined and additional platforms for shopping online are introduced, the benefits of selling overseas will only continue to expand. There’s a huge market beyond our borders and if it’s right for their business, SMBs should definitely explore their cross border opportunities.

Peter Cowan is the Director of Mid Market, Small Business and Partners at PayPal.

[1]PayPal mCommerce Index 2018

[2]PayPal Cross-Border Consumer Research 2018

[3]PayPal Cross-Border Consumer Research 2018

[4]PayPal Cross-Border Consumer Research 2018

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