If you have a retail business and wish to reach an international or global market to increase your sales, you may decide that the best way of achieving this is through your online presence. The two main methods of doing so are selling through a third party platform, such as Ebay or Amazon or marketing and selling your products directly from your own website. In this article we look at both of these strategies for selling internationally online and consider some of the benefits and disadvantages relating to each of them.

Third party selling

Platforms like Ebay and Amazon enable their users to sell internationally without having to spend significant time and money in building and optimising their own e-commerce website. In the case of Ebay, a seller can elect to display their products internationally or, alternatively, list their products directly on another country’s Ebay website. Amazon’s Build International Listings tool reduces the complexity, expense and time needed to manage the sale of products internationally by automatically creating offers across Amazon’s marketplace within the European Union, monitoring fluctuations in exchange rates and readjusting prices accordingly. Whilst both of these platforms (and others) undoubtedly make the process of selling internationally more straightforward and can be a really effective way of showcasing your products to an international audience, you will be required to pay a fee, which, ultimately, will impact on your profit margins. Many sellers (especially smaller ones) also feel that they have to cut their costs to compete with other sellers on the same platform, which can place additional pressure on profits. This is especially the case with Ebay, as the platform is based around auction principals.

Selling internationally from your own website

There are many e-commerce website solutions available on the market. However, as your website will, in effect, be your international shop window and the first interface between you and your potential customers, you may feel that it is worth investing in a professional web designer. They will be able to help you with planning the design of your site, deciding on the e-commerce platform that is considered most appropriate for your business and optimising your website for a particular international market. Before you start advertising your products in the international market place you will also need to carry out some research.

This should include making a decision as to how you wish to accept payments. Most buyers prefer to pay in their local currency, to avoid the impact of market fluctuations and you may wish to consider opening accounts overseas in your targeted markets. An alternative would be to choose a payment method such as PayPal, which provides access to local funding methods, avoiding the need to open international merchant accounts.

You will also have to organise delivery and return arrangements, including ensuring compliance with local laws, duties, taxes and customs regulations.

The key to successfully selling internationally online from your own website is planning. If you are already selling overseas and wish to expand your operation, you should analyse which markets are already investing in your products and seek to enhance your presence there. If you do not already have a market presence in a targeted country, you should research which countries have a strong demand for your products and whether there is any existing gap in the market. There are helpful sites that offer market analysis and research which can help with the assessment of product demand. When you have carried out all the necessary preparatory work you can start selling.

Whichever method you choose to employ, selling internationally online can be exciting and satisfying, exposing your business to a global market and expanding its potential customer base in addition to its profitability.