Are you limiting your business potential by not selling "outside the lines" of your home country?

eCommerce presents an unprecedented opportunity for small businesses to cost-effectively reach global consumers. A recent PayPal and Nielsen study estimates that 1.8 billion people will enter the consuming class by 2025, annually spending $30 trillion or 50% of the world's consumption! And with broadened Internet availability, eCommerce becomes a cost-effective channel for selling to customers that were never previously addressable.

But how can you make sure you participate in this growth, and do so smartly? Below are a few thoughts to consider before you stamp your business passport and enter other markets.

Recognize that "Yes, Other Markets Are Different"

Selling internationally introduces new variables that businesses need to account for before "going global." First, there are more regulatory requirements that can be tricky to navigate. Customs, duties and taxes can make both shipping and accounting a challenge. Second, cultural traditions and special events in other countries and regions can be critical to understand in order to sell the right products to the right customers, and to position those products effectively and appropriately.

Stay In Touch With What's Hot Overseas--and Capitalize Now for the Holidays

You'd probably be as surprised as I am when I learn about product trends in various markets around the world. There are brands I wore as a kid that have long been out-of-fashion in the US, but are huge brands in other markets. (That gives me a reason to still wear those brands here at home too...) In short, don't trust yourself to know what products hold the greatest potential overseas. Stay in touch with the data. Below you will see the three fastest growing consumer categories from around the globe, according to PayPal sales data:

  • Clothing, shoes, and accessories
  • Health and beauty products
  • Personal and home electronics

Do one of these categories describe the products you sell? If so, you may want to consider a rapid ramp up for the holiday shopping season, a time where retailers generate 20 to 40 percent of their annual sales.

Don't Be Scared of Long Distance Relationships, But Look For Events to Catalyze the Relationship

Ever hear the adage that Black Friday got its name because it's the day retailers get out of the red and into the black for the year? Consider these international equivalents to Black Friday, and imagine the potential growth benefits for a global-minded seller leveraging multiple "Black Fridays" a year:

  • China's Singles Day (November 11), which sees $8.2 billion in spending in a 24-hour period, nearly quadrupling our Black Friday spending.
  • Boxing Day in the UK, Australia, and Canada (December 26), on which the UK alone spent 2.7 billion last year.
  • The Brazilian Lover's Day (June 12)--a Valentine's Day equivalent in a fast-growing economy that is expected to grow spending on US goods by 546% over the next four years.

Don't Travel Alone...Get Help

The good news for small businesses looking to enter international markets is that the leap is only getting easier and easier to make...but only if you get help in making the leap. For example, PayPal has a free tool for small businesses called PassPort that offers easy to access guidance, country by country. PassPort helps you build a checklist of actions to help you get up and running with a localized eCommerce presence, highlights cultural taboos and trends, identifies seasonal events and sales peaks, and specifies tax and customs procedures. PassPort consultants can also offer a free one-on-one consultation to answer some of the tricky questions about the highest-volume overseas markets.

You should also connect with other small businesses to hear of their experiences in selling overseas. There are likely plenty of your peer businesses that have experience selling overseas. In fact, the Small Business Administration (SBA) estimates that 97 percent of all exporters are small businesses. There may be a small business owner around the corner from you that can share their experiences from which you can learn.

Beyond the guidance that PayPal and the SBA can provide, more tangible help can be available too. In certain circumstances, the SBA will also provide loans and grants to help get your international presence off the ground--and it takes only a couple of days to get approved. Other businesses like PayPal also offer credit or working capital to small businesses. If you're looking to take your business global, be sure to look into whether these financial products can help you extend your sales across borders.

Stay the Course

Finally, be confident and persistent as you test-and-learn how you want to expand internationally. There will be bumps in the road, but there are plenty of resources to help you overcome any challenge. Just remember that there are billions of potential customers that you're not yet selling to. Commerce has never been more connected, and the opportunity to prime your business for international growth is simpler than ever. Find the right tools for the job and start your global selling journey.

Published on: Sep 10, 2014