Six ways to make selling online a success
If you’re selling internationally through your own website rather than an e-marketplace you could be missing a trick. This is the opinion of Karl Susol, team leader of the north west international trade team. Here he gives six key points to selling online.
Why sell online?
Over the past ten years, customers’ behaviour online has changed dramatically.
Impulse buying is becoming rarer, and shoppers are now conducting their own online research looking for deals, bargains and comparing prices. But that’s not to say the online market isn’t growing – the boom in tablets and smartphones has made sure of that. According to Retail Research, in 2015 the UK enjoyed online sales growth of 16.2%, which is expected to grow by a further 14.9% in 2016, with an estimated 77% of all UK internet users making an online purchase in 2015.
What’s really telling is data from Econsultancy which shows that 45% of global shoppers buy goods from overseas stores, a figure which demonstrates the vast potential for international online sales.
What is an e-marketplace?
But this is about more than promoting your existing site to international customers. Instead businesses are testing out e-marketplaces, websites where buyers and sellers can do business electronically, and transactions are processed by a third party marketplace operator. According to a recent study retailers from all over the world expect that global e-marketplaces such as Amazon and Ebay will own nearly 40% of the global online retail market by 2020 – that’s how important they could be to UK retailers.
Of course there are other sites too: Mercado Libre dominates in Latin America, Lazada is massive in Asia and JD.com is one of a clutch of huge sites in China.
So what can UK companies gain from an e-marketplace?
By selling online in this way UK companies can find new customers at home and abroad and, because the sites are global, they can do business 24 hours a day, seven days a week. E-marketplaces are also a low risk approach to selling internationally, allowing you to test the water without over-committing. They can also be cost effective, although there will be some charges involved for the original listing, as well as possibly for commission and currency conversion, too.
Research your markets
When deciding on the countries you want to target for online sales, consider factors such as ecommerce penetration, maturity of the market and population characteristics.
Do you need to consider the language and cultural fit of your products? What’s the disposable income of your audience, and is there a preferred method of payment? You’ll also need to think about competition, fulfilment options and what regulations and taxes are in place.
Localise your content
Done well, an internationalised website can be a great advert for international customers to purchase your product or service.
Research shows that customers in non-English speaking countries prefer to buy in their native language, so you’ll need to make your products accessible. It isn’t simply enough to run the words through translation software as this will reflect poorly on your brand and website; you need to contract with a native speaker to translate the content. However, localisation extends beyond word translation and is also about ensuring the content is relevant, suitable, understandable and in line with the customers’ culture.
You’ll need to think about logistics too and ensure you include information on product availability, estimated shipping times and clarify your international returns policy.
As with any new business undertaking, it’s always best to get specialist advice. North West International Trade, a partner of the Business Growth Hub, can help. In the first place they will be able to advise you on which e-marketplaces are suitable for your business, taking into account issues such as current sales volume, the audience, commission structure, logistics support and relevant product categories.
The Department for International Trade has agreed special terms to list on a selection of international e-marketplaces which can include lower commission fees.