A helpful guide to going international for small businesses.
We love it when small businesses think big. And with game-changing developments in eCommerce and global logistics, the world is closer to your brand than ever before.
That said, expansion for expansion’s sake is a recipe for disaster (just ask the Roman Empire). If you’re serious about branching out beyond borders, here are some key boxes you’ll need to tick along the way.
Your international small biz checklist:
1. Choose markets strategically
We’ve all fancied ourselves selling to the New York elites, the Parisian trendies and the growth markets across China, but be discerning in identifying opportunities to get your product in the hands of new customers.
It’s important to know that there’s a gap in the market and an appetite for your product when choosing which markets are ripe for expansion. Find a comprehensive guide to choosing overseas markets.
2. Research new markets (and their costs)
Whether that takes the form of surveys, data collection, or first-hand observation (ideally all of the above), it pays to get the lay of the land. If new factors are likely to chew into your margins, look for greener pastures.
Aside from the customers themselves, you’ll need to get to grips with any relevant tariffs or laws, as well as any simmering political factors (note the current tariff tiff between the US and China) that might influence sales. Check the customs and duties page to be sure.
3. Localise your messaging (don't fly naked)
Success in any market depends on your ability to connect with an audience. Get a feel for the consumer landscape – just as you would in any local market. Know their needs, pain points, priorities, and how to speak their language. Figuratively, that is. Being able to literally speak the language goes without saying.
Speaking of which, that clever tagline you spent ages workshopping might be idiomatic, and therefore unsuited to an international audience. Here are a few funny examples of marketing campaigns that got lost in translation.
4. Set up your payment gateway
Statistically, international customers are most likely to drop off at the checkout page. This likelihood increases when their preferred payment method isn’t available.
As part of your research, you’ll need to determine how potential customers want to pay and cater to that accordingly. If the customer journey is difficult, customers simply won’t take it. However good your product may be, consumers will always opt for the path of least resistance.
Find eCommerce tools that provide the smoothest customer experience while also giving you simple oversight of all transactions. If you’re already using Sendle integrations such as Shopify, eBay, or WooCommerce, it’s time to take a deep dive into their international scaling options.
5. Get your shipping in ship-shape
Shipping solutions always boil down to two things: speed and cost. Once again, it’s worth shopping around for the most efficient tools for order fulfilment and tracking – options include the likes of ShipStation, ReadyToShip, and Starshipit which are already Sendle integrated.
Incoterms (International Commercial Terms) are also something you should know about. They’re a set of rules used to standardise international contracts and let you know who bears the various costs, responsibility, and risk at each stage along the shipping chain. See the beginner’s guide.