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1. The importance of selling internationally in today’s market

The ultimate guide to selling internationally in 2024

Are you ready to grow your online business worldwide? Our exhaustive guide to selling internationally in 2024 simplifies the process, discussing its importance, different methods, and essential logistics for successful global expansion. This information is designed to help both international online businesses and established retailers enter exciting new markets, so let's get started!

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Selling internationally in today’s market can help diversify revenue streams, increase exposure and brand recognition, tap into new markets, buffer against economic downturns, and establish valuable connections for competitive advantages in the global marketplace.

  • The main challenges of selling internationally include understanding international market regulations, navigating logistical hurdles, overcoming language and cultural barriers, integrating diverse payment systems, and comprehending and adapting to foreign market competition.

  • There are two main methods for selling to customers in other countries: starting your own ecommerce business for full control and adaptability and leveraging online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba for their broad reach, customer base, and helpful tools that ease international expansion.

  • To start selling to international buyers, start by conducting market research, understanding legal and tax implications, and considering cultural nuances and language preferences.

  • Utilizing Gelato for international ecommerce helps achieve efficient global fulfillment, automated production, real-time order tracking, and cost optimization that help you focus on growth and capitalize on the global market's opportunities.

The importance of selling internationally in today’s market

Profitable global selling setup

In today's globalized world, the opportunities for international sales are endless. The internet has opened doors to previously inaccessible markets, allowing businesses of all sizes to connect with customers from different countries and cultures. Let's look at some reasons you should start selling internationally.

Diverse revenue streams

Selling internationally not only increases your potential customer base but also diversifies your revenue streams. By tapping into international markets, you can reduce your dependency on one market and decrease risks associated with fluctuations in local economies.

Improve exposure

Selling internationally exposes you to new ideas, trends, and innovation. It pushes you to adapt and challenges your business to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving global marketplace.

When you sell internationally, you open yourself up to a world of possibilities. You have the opportunity to reach customers who may have never heard of your product or service before. This can lead to exponential growth and increased brand recognition.

Tap into new markets

Expanding your business internationally also allows you to take advantage of different cultural preferences and buying behaviors. Each country has its own unique set of consumer habits, and by understanding and catering to these preferences, you can tailor your marketing strategies to effectively reach and engage with your target audience.

Buffer against economic downturns

Selling internationally can provide a buffer against economic downturns in your home market. If your domestic market experiences a recession or a decline in consumer spending, having a diverse customer base in different countries can help mitigate the impact on your business. This can provide stability and ensure the continued growth and success of your company.

Establish valuable connections and collaborations

By establishing partnerships with foreign companies, businesses can access new markets, share resources, and gain valuable insights into local consumer behavior and trends. When you sell internationally, these collaborations often lead to innovative solutions, blending different perspectives and expertise. Selling internationally also fosters cross-cultural understanding and can significantly enhance a company's global footprint, making it more resilient in the face of market fluctuations and competitive pressures.

The main challenges of selling internationally

Logistical hurdles in global trade

Taking your ecommerce business to the global stage can be quite an adventure. While it offers the promise of reaching more customers and making more money, it also brings some challenges, such as:

  • Understanding international market regulations: Different countries have varied regulations regarding sales, taxes, and commerce. It can be a complex task to navigate through these and ensure your business remains compliant.

  • Logistical hurdles: Managing logistics, like shipping and return policies, across different regions can be a daunting task. Each country has its unique set of regulations, and addressing them appropriately is vital.

  • Language and cultural barriers: Diversely unique languages and cultures across the globe can pose a substantial challenge, especially when it comes to product descriptions, marketing, and customer service.

  • Payment integration: Accepting various forms of payment from different countries can be quite a hurdle. Ensuring secure, hassle-free transactions is crucial for a successful international ecommerce operation.

  • Competing in foreign markets: Understanding the local competition and market climate is an indispensable aspect of selling internationally. Acting without proper market knowledge can lead to poor business decisions.

Methods for selling internationally

Online international selling strategy

Understanding different methods of selling internationally becomes vital to your success if you're eyeing global expansion. Let's explore two key methods that can help your business conquer the global marketplace.

Starting your own ecommerce business

If you want to expand your business internationally, starting your own ecommerce business is a great option. It gives you complete control over your brand, products, and how you interact with customers. It also makes it easier to grow and adapt to different markets around the world. 

Just remember, to be successful in ecommerce, you need to have a website that is easy for users to navigate, use effective digital marketing techniques, and provide excellent customer service.

Selling on online marketplaces

By using online marketplaces, your brand can reach a worldwide audience and discover numerous new possibilities. These platforms have become extremely popular and provide an easy way to start selling internationally.

If you are thinking about expanding your products to a global market this year, utilizing major platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba can give you immediate recognition and trust. These platforms offer a reliable system, a large customer base, and sometimes even translation and localization tools, which can significantly boost your international sales.

How to start selling internationally step-by-step

Market research for global sales

Follow this simple, step-by-step guide for a smooth and successful start in the global marketplace that will boost your expansion and revenue.

1. Conduct market research

The first pivotal step involves identifying potential markets for your products. This could entail a deep dive into the global economic landscape, analyzing nations that showcase promise for your product category. Followed by comprehensive market research that extends beyond just recognizing demand. 

You also need to understand the competitive scenario in these global markets. This includes not just your direct competitors but also local brands or alternative solutions available. Moreover, grasp the cultural nuances, as these could significantly influence consumer behavior and purchasing decisions. Understanding social trends, buying habits, and local preferences can prove invaluable in tailoring your product and marketing strategies effectively.

There are an array of tools to help you conduct market research effectively, including but not limited to: 

  • Google Market Finder: An insightful tool that helps you find potential markets based on search volume for related products.

  • Statista: Offers extensive data on international markets, trends, and consumer behavior.

  • Export.gov: A great resource for US-based businesses, providing information on export conditions, guidelines, and market profiles.

  • Pew Research Center: With its vast database of comprehensive reports, the Pew Research Center is an excellent tool for understanding international consumer behavior and societal trends.

  • Google Trends: This tool gives you valuable insights into which products or services are trending globally, helping you make data-driven decisions and shape your international ecommerce strategy.

With these tools ready at hand, it's important to consider the following factors when identifying a new market: 

  • Consumer demand: Look at consumer behaviors, trends, and preferences in each potential market.

  • Economic stability: Check for consistent economic growth and stability in the region.

  • Market saturation: Determine if there's room for your product in the particular market or if it's already saturated

  • Cultural compatibility: Gauge if your product aligns with the culture, norms, and values of the specific market.

  • Legal and regulatory environment: Expertise in market-specific rules and policies reduces the chances of non-compliance.

Armed with effective research tools and being mindful of these factors will set you on a well-guided course to successfully sell internationally.

2. Research legal and tax implications

When you sell products internationally, you must comply with various legal requirements and consider the tax implications associated with cross-border transactions. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Import/export regulations: Research and comply with the import/export regulations of each target country to avoid any legal issues with international shipments. Familiarize yourself with customs duties, import restrictions, and labeling requirements.

  • Intellectual property protection: Understand the intellectual property laws and regulations in each market to safeguard your brand and products from infringement.

  • Tax obligations: Consult with tax professionals to understand the tax obligations in your target markets. Different countries may have varying tax rates, reporting requirements, and thresholds for registration.

  • Legal agreements: When expanding internationally, it's essential to establish clear legal agreements with suppliers, distributors, and partners to protect your interests and ensure compliance with local laws.

3. Understand cultural nuances and language preferences

To sell internationally, it's critical to deeply understand cultural nuances and language preferences. This goes beyond merely translating your online store and adapting your content, product descriptions, and marketing messages so they make sense and connect with local customers.

For instance, if you're expanding your business to Japan, it's not enough to just translate your content into Japanese. You'll also want to understand the country's gift-giving tradition, a detail that could be useful in shaping your shipping, packaging, and promotional strategies. Perhaps you might consider offering a gift-wrapping service or running special promotions during key gift-giving periods like Golden Week.

Be mindful of cultural norms and language subtleties. Avoid mistakes in your product design and advertising that could put off potential customers. Always keep in mind that localization helps build familiarity and trust with your international customers.

4. Select products for international customers

Your chosen products should resonate with a global audience, exhibiting an appeal that transcends geographic and cultural boundaries. Ideally, these products should have features that can be readily adapted to cater to varied consumer preferences in different markets. Consider factors like shipping constraints, local regulations, and environmental conditions, as these can influence product feasibility. 

Additionally, be open to making design modifications or offering localized versions to align with specific market tastes. This careful selection process can increase your chances of international ecommerce success, reinforcing your brand's global presence.

5. Plan your fulfillment strategy

It's vital to partner with reliable logistics providers experienced in international shipping. In this context, print on demand (POD) providers like Gelato emerge as top options, offering seamless integration with global distribution networks and easing the complexities of international selling.

Unlike traditional manufacturing methods, POD allows businesses to produce goods only when an order is placed, eliminating the need for inventory management and reducing upfront costs.

One of the key advantages of POD in the international market is its ability to offer localized products to customers without the need for a physical presence in each country. With POD, businesses can create products tailored to specific regions, languages, or cultural preferences, effectively appealing to local customers and increasing the chances of success in foreign markets.

Additionally, POD enables businesses to test the demand for their products in different countries without significant investment. By partnering with a global POD provider, businesses can quickly and easily enter new markets, evaluate customer response, and adjust their strategies accordingly.

This trustworthy partner should offer a comprehensive, robust package of services that stretches beyond traditional boundaries, encompassing high-quality printing, meticulous quality control, and seamless global fulfillment solutions. Leveraging their expertise, they'll essentially manage all logistical challenges and complexities associated with order fulfillment and distribution. This strategic alliance allows you to concentrate wholly on core business tasks, driving innovation and boosting profitability while staying on top of local customer service.

6. Set up international payment options

When setting up international payment options, you can't simply duplicate your domestic solutions. You'll need to understand the preferred payment options for your target market and adapt accordingly. 

Specific countries or regions can have quite unique payment preferences. For instance, many people in the US still opt for debit or credit cards, but in China, digital wallets like Alipay and WeChat Pay are more common. So, make sure to offer a payment system your customers are familiar with and happy to use.

Keep in mind that payment regulations also vary globally. While establishing this setup, it’s crucial to ensure you comply with the local legal and tax laws. Consult with financial advisors and local counsel to avoid pitfalls.

Finally, security should be a priority when accepting international payments to protect your business and reassure customers.

7. Establish an international shipping and returns policy

When you're expanding your business to foreign markets, it's crucial to have a comprehensive international shipping and returns policy. Shipping fees and processes, customs charges, delivery times - these variables can differ significantly from one country to another, so it's imperative to set clear expectations for your customers. 

A thorough policy will also help you avoid costly return shipping fees and issues with customer satisfaction. Learn about local regulations, consult legal experts, or consider partnering with a global fulfillment network like Gelato to streamline this process. A well-defined shipping and returns policy not only builds trust with your international customers but also protects your business from potential unexpected costs and legal complications.

8. Localize your website and content

For international success, it's essential to create an engaging and personalized experience for your consumers. This is where localizing your website comes in. It involves adapting your site content to suit the local language, culture, and buying preferences of your target markets

Upgrading to a local domain name and redesigning your site to align with the market's aesthetic can also prove beneficial. Remember, localization goes beyond translation - it’s about making your website feel intrinsically local to international customers. It lays a strong foundation for international SEO, enabling your ecommerce business to thrive globally.

9. Optimize for international SEO

It's crucial to thoughtfully tailor your website content and product descriptions to target specific keywords in various languages. Optimize your online presence for international search engines following local SEO practices and cultural nuances to ensure your brand is not only visible but also highly attractive and relatable to your international audience. Utilize top SEO tools like Google Trends and SEMrush for keyword research while also keeping abreast of the latest SEO trends to maintain your competitive edge.

10. Adjust product packaging, if necessary

Product packaging isn't to be overlooked when making plans for international sales. It can profoundly impact a buyer's first impression, and differing global standards may necessitate revisions. 

Adjusting product packaging is also essential for meeting certain environmental or legal regulations. You may need to consider packaging materials, design elements, and instructions in different languages. You might even need different versions of packaging to cater to various cultural nuances. 

The key is flexibility and adaptability. Remember, the package is part of the product experience, and a poor one may deter customers from making repeat purchases.

11. Market to and engage with target customers

In order to be successful in international markets, you must customize your approach for each group of customers. By identifying these groups and understanding what makes them unique, you can effectively promote your product and marketing efforts and increase engagement. 

Whether you are using social media advertising, email marketing, or content marketing, make sure you communicate in a way that connects with the local audience. Use local culture, slang, and references in your messages, as this is a proven way to boost your reach and conversion rates.

Remember to consistently monitor and learn from your marketing strategies to improve future efforts, and don't forget to research your competitors as part of your overall plan.

12. Offer multilingual customer support

If you set your sights on foreign markets, providing multilingual customer support is a non-negotiable requirement. A crucial part of optimizing your customers’ overall experience is offering multilingual support, enabling clearer communication, driving customer satisfaction, and promoting loyalty. 

Remember, the essence of customer service is making your customers feel valued, and understanding and speaking their language is a vital part of this equation. Multilingual customer support improves:

  • Communication: Offering support in customers' native languages bridges language gaps and ensures a clearer understanding of customer queries and complaints.

  • Customer satisfaction: Customer grievances can be resolved swiftly when customers can express themselves properly, leading to increased satisfaction.

  • Customer loyalty: When customers feel understood, they are likely to stick around and engage more with your brand.

13. Manage customer expectations

It is important to manage customer expectations when selling internationally. Remember, you're dealing with diverse markets, each bearing unique expectations.

Be proactive by setting realistic expectations from the beginning. From order timelines to product specifications, be transparent and consistent. Customers appreciate the certainty of knowing what to expect. 

Support this strategy with robust customer service. Tailoring your communication style to regional languages and time zones contributes significantly to a better customer experience. Stay ahead of the curve and ensure a smooth transaction, nurturing trust and fostering long-term customer relationships.

14. Monitor and adapt

Building a successful international ecommerce venture is essentially an ongoing process of monitoring performance and adapting to emerging trends or new information. 

Keep tabs on evolving market trends and customer behaviors. Are certain products performing better in one region than another? Are customers responding to specific marketing tactics? Use technology to study these patterns, improve your methods, and remain competitive.

Additionally, it is important to monitor how your competitors are doing. Study their tactics, watch for any errors they are making, and gain knowledge from them. Keep in mind that adaptability and continuous learning are essential for succeeding in today's rapidly changing global ecommerce industry.

Grow your ecommerce business internationally with Gelato

International selling opens up many new exciting possibilities that allow for significant growth potential. By taking advantage of the global ecommerce landscape, businesses can diversify their offerings, increase brand visibility, and tap into emerging markets.

It is crucial to tailor your strategy to meet the unique needs and preferences of each international market you enter. Ultimately, the aim is to create a global online store that appeals to customers worldwide, providing exceptional service to a global customer base. This is where you can harness the power of Gelato, a game-changing platform that elevates your international ecommerce strategy.

Gelato streamlines your cross-border ecommerce business, allowing you to focus on growth. Here's how Gelato enables your success:

  • Efficient global fulfillment: Gelato's global network, spanning 34 countries, ensures that your products are printed and shipped from the facility closest to your customers, reducing international shipping times and costs.

  • Automated production: Gelato's automated production system minimizes manual intervention, resulting in faster turnaround times and consistent product quality.

  • Real-time order tracking: Gelato provides transparent order tracking, allowing you and your customers to monitor shipments in real time and plan accordingly.

  • Cost optimization: By eliminating the need for warehousing and large upfront inventory investments, Gelato helps you minimize costs while maximizing profitability.

Take advantage of the incredible opportunities available in the global marketplace and leverage the power of Gelato's print on demand service to fuel your international success. 

Sign up for Gelato today and unlock the doors to global growth!

International sales FAQs

What do I need to do before selling internationally?

Before selling internationally, you need to research your target market and understand local regulations, cultural differences, and tax obligations. Familiarize yourself with the local preferences and competition. Additionally, you must ensure your products are suitable and legal in the target countries. Pay attention to shipping costs & return policies, and potential language barriers in customer service. With Gelato, our global infrastructure aids you in navigating these challenges easily.

What are the benefits of selling internationally?

Selling internationally expands your customer base dramatically, potentially reaching up to 5 billion customers. It diversifies your income, reducing reliance on a single market. Additionally, it increases brand recognition and enables you to take advantage of global trends and seasons.

Do I need an export license to ship internationally?

Export licenses depend on the type of product and the destination country's regulations. However, as Gelato produces your products locally in 34 countries, you can often bypass the need for export licenses, minimizing the complexities of international trade.

What are the payments for international transactions?

For international transactions, payments typically occur through credit cards, PayPal, and wire transfers. Conversion rates apply based on the currency of the transaction. With Gelato, we offer a streamlined global payment process, mitigating many of the traditional challenges related to international payments.

How do you market a product overseas?

To successfully market a product overseas, it is important to understand the local market and utilize social media influencers from that region. Creating a localized marketing plan and adapting the message to appeal to international audiences is crucial. Implementing SEO strategies and localizing the website to match the local language can also enhance international marketing efforts.

How to select which countries to target when selling internationally?

Choosing which countries to target for international sales requires in-depth research on the market to learn about the consumers, their needs, and preferences in each region. By studying various factors such as market potential, legal and tax regulations, competition, and cultural differences, you can pinpoint the best opportunities. Additionally, adjusting your website and marketing strategies to suit the local audience is crucial in making this decision.


Next steps

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