international selling mistakes

Selling products or services on an international level can be a big step for many businesses. When done correctly, selling to foreign countries has the potential to boost sales and increase the overall revenue of a company. But like other aspects of business, global ecommerce has its own potential risks and setbacks. When you’re ready to scale your business and expand globally, make sure you avoid these six major international selling issues.


1. Selling to the Wrong Market

Selling to the wrong market can quickly lead to disastrous results. For example, selling ski products to countries along the equator isn’t going to work. Additionally, you have to consider the economy in the countries you sell in. A watch that sells for $500 in the U.S. isn’t going to sell for that price in places with lower average incomes or higher rates of poverty.

That’s why it’s so important to do research to learn about each international market. Make sure that you have a good understanding of the local market and culture before launching products. Research into local markets should include:

  • Market size
  • Local economy
  • Customer challenges (pain points)
  • Current solutions
  • Where your product fits


2. Failure to Account for Expenses

While international sales can often be incredibly profitable for ecommerce businesses, it’s important to have a realistic idea of what expenses can be expected. The cost of shipping internationally is higher than that of domestic shipping. Taxes, tariffs, and other fees can add up on top of shipping expenses.

The best way to avoid spending too much on international shipping is by being aware of exactly what international costs and fees will be charged. Once your estimated shipping is calculated, it is much easier to make an informed decision about whether or not selling internationally is financially practical for your business.


3. Failure to Localize

Localizing your business means tailoring it to a target location. This includes having accurate translations on your website and in marketing materials. Many companies, even mega-corporations, have made this mistake. Remember the successful slogan of the American Dairy Association, “Got Milk?” When it was translated into Spanish, the slogan became, “Are You Lactating?” The same thing can happen with product names and descriptions.

Using a translation service that knows the local colloquialisms is a must. Marketing in places where other languages are spoken requires more than just Google Translate. If customers are unable to understand your product, or are offended by it, it’s likely they won’t buy it.

Localization also involves being aware of various cultural norms in another country. Examples of localization within ecommerce marketing include things like referring to a “band-aid” as a “plaster” in London, or printing brochures on A4 paper in Europe as opposed to the 8.5×11-inch brochure paper that is commonly used in the US. Localization ensures that your customers feel they are being served by a company that values them, instead of one that doesn’t take the time to understand them.


4. No Market Entry Plan

A market entry strategy is a plan involving the distribution and delivery of products or services to a new target market. There are multiple ways in which a business can enter foreign markets, there isn’t a one size fits all approach. Unfortunately, many businesses assume their established business plan will do just as well internationally as it did domestically. Consider working with someone in the location where your business will be conducted internationally. Input from someone local will give you a better idea of how to tailor your business to a specific location.


5. No Local Representation

When consumers call or otherwise make contact with a company, they prefer to speak with someone who is local. Customers feel more heard and understood by someone from the same community, rather than someone in another country. For this reason, having local representation has the potential to set one ecommerce business apart from another. When it comes to local representation, it’s important to make sure the locals you employ represent the areas you sell to, relatively speaking.

Having limited numbers of representatives in a location where a considerable amount of business occurs increases the likelihood consumers reach a rep in another country or location.


Final Thoughts

For those working in ecommerce, international selling can be a profitable venture when done right. Remaining conscious of major international selling issues gives your business its best chance at success. If you have a solid understanding of your market and the consumer base you are targeting, international selling can take your business to the next level.

Learn more about selling to foreign markets, check out our posts about international selling today.


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