Is it Time to Go International?
For most online merchants, it's not a question of whether to sell internationally, but how to go about it. The potential that international markets represent for online merchants large and small is simply too big to pass up. The dramatic increase in potential customer base, the far higher growth rates for e-commerce in nations outside the U.S., and the value of geographic diversification cannot be understated.
While e-commerce growth rates in the U.S. are expected to hover around 9 percent over the next several years, those in Europe are forecast to be 11 percent over the same period, according to Forrester Research. In emerging markets such as China and India, the number soars above 20 percent.
And yet there are innumerable obstacles for merchants considering entering overseas markets, from basics such as translating copy and converting currency to logistical hurdles such as shipping restrictions and import duties to subtler challenges such as sensitivity to local markets and cultures.
On balance, however, the opportunities for most online merchants far outweigh the challenges for this simple reason: when it comes to international e-commerce, whatever merchants can't do themselves, they can find partners who can help them.
Whether it's participating in a larger retailer's marketplace — e.g., Amazon.com or eBay — implementing international shipping from their existing e-commerce site, or building and marketing separate full-on websites for individual countries, there are plenty of partners willing to help merchants do much of the heavy international lifting.
Before deciding which path to pursue, the most basic question is whether people in other countries want to buy your products. There are plenty of ways to figure out whether products are attracting international interest, from analytics data to customer service inquiries to social media interactions.
Once merchants have identified the overseas markets they want to enter, they have several options short of establishing full-bore international e-commerce sites.