The internet has allowed a small business to sell items to consumers located around the globe, whether those businesses have storefronts or merely exist online. But many small businesses are still limiting their customer base to those within the U.S. Moving to a larger customer base may involve making a few tweaks to your business model, but it can easily be done. Here are eight ways you can draw new customers to your online shop.
Use Fulfillment Centers
On your own, you may find global fulfillment is a logistics nightmare. Amazon has ten online marketplaces located across the world, offering businesses the opportunity to sign up to sell specifically in these markets. When items are sold, local fulfillment centers take care of getting the items to customers affordably.
Set Up a Global Marketplace
In addition to your own e-commerce shop, you can use sites like Amazon and eBay to post your items and open them up to be viewed by people who are shopping from other parts of the world. As people buy from your online shop, include discount coupons to encourage them to buy more products from your store on Amazon, eBay, or your own website in the future.
Map Out a Plan
One way to make sure you only expand as quickly as is comfortable for you is to start slowly and move outward. You may decide initially to only sell in Canada and Mexico, since shipping is less expensive to these areas. In some cases, a specific area of the world might be an ideal target market for your product, with your research having shown that customers in Australia or China are particularly interested in your product. By using one area as a test market, you can learn from your experiences and put that knowledge to use in your continued expansion.
Create Local Websites
For businesses that are truly interested in reaching an overseas market, the first step is to ensure your website can be read in the native languages of your new customers. More than half of customers in a survey stated that they only buy from websites written in their languages. This means your website's content and product strategy should align with the interests of that market to be most effective.
Learn Local Search Engines
As an American business, chances are your search engine optimization (SEO) strategies center around Google. Keep in mind that in other countries, Google may not be the reigning search engine. China's top search engine is Baidu, while Yahoo Japan reigns in that country. If you're assuming Google is the leader in every market, you may be losing an entire consumer base.
Optimize, Don't Translate
Your digital marketing efforts in other countries can be challenging. You can't simply write text as you would for an American site and have it translated. For real results, you'll need to have content created by someone who speaks that language and fully understands its many nuances. For best results, you should work with search engine marketing experts in that area who understand the terms that most appeal to consumers in that area. Much of this can be lost on someone who doesn't truly understand the culture of the area and the current trends dominating the local market.
There are several programs specifically designed to help American businesses succeed internationally. Export.gov provides both trade leads and market research into different global markets, including more than 100,000 guides specific to both agencies and industries. By studying this data, you'll be able to make an informed decision. Through Export.gov, you'll be able to locate counseling and training programs that can help guide you as you make the move into international trade.
Know the Laws
Many great plans have been derailed because the business owner failed to research local laws before beginning efforts to expand. As part of your research on an area, play particular attention to local tax laws, customs requirements, and import restrictions to make sure items bought from your company will be able to be shipped to that area without major problems. You'll also face tariffs from the U.S. for any goods you ship to customers outside the U.S. You should know these costs up front to avoid getting yourself into a financial quandary down the road.
Your business can open its marketplace to multiple other countries, bringing unlimited potential for earnings. As long as you're aware of the many facets of overseas selling beforehand, you'll have a plan to tackle each of those challenges before they arise.