Selling online internationally via websites and e-commerce

Sarah Carroll, director of Grow Global, is one of the UK’s leading experts on how to make a website international and visible in international search engines. Here she shares her tips on reaching customers online through your web site or e-commerce platform.

How to sell online

More and more, companies are realising the potential of reaching their customers directly online. Even companies selling services can use their web site as a lead generation tool, and companies selling products can make healthy international sales through a well-designed e-commerce web site.

This section on reaching customers online through your web site will give you some tips on the steps to follow to get you started:

Choose your platform carefully

Most SMEs take the e-commerce route and the market is full of companies vying for your attention, promising to build you the best e-commerce system yet. Before you take the plunge, stand back and produce a specification of your requirements and evaluate what’s out there.

Be sure to pick a platform that will be able to support you as you expand internationally, supporting language pages, multiple currencies, different payment systems, delivery options and sales tax rates. Make sure that it will integrate with any stock, finance or customer relationship management systems you already have in place or plan to add.

Think about introducing suggestions to your site (‘Customers who bought X also bought Y’ or ‘This product works well with Z’) to maximise cross-selling opportunities and to help customers explore your product range. Monitor your site analytics closely to see how people are using your site to make the process as smooth as possible.

Your website is your digital shopfront, so make sure it shows off your brand and your products in the best light and makes the buying process as easy and familiar for your customers as possible.

For more information listen to the Open to Export webinar on taking your website global.

What is e commerce?
We refer to e-commerce when talking about transactions made online. Think carefully about which ecommerce platform you’re going to use – what cut will it take of your profits? Will it support the size and quantity of transactions you’re looking to make?

Localise and translate your content

To appeal to local customers and to be found in local search engines you will have to have local language content dedicated to each country you are planning to sell into.
Furthermore, you will have to customise your website pages to local cultures and local tastes, including the messages, the copywriting and the images. International customers are more likely to buy from you if you do this.

Read about the role translation when entering international markets and how search engine works around the world for more information.

selling online

Select local payment methods

We are very advanced and indeed trusting in e-commerce in the UK – one of the world’s leading e-commerce nations. We’ll quite happily part with quite a lot of cash on our credit cards and know that our goods will (normally) arrive.

Many cultures are very distrustful of credit cards and usage is much lower. In this case it is good to allow the prospect of customers paying by direct transfer or local payment systems. While PayPal is truly global and accepts most currencies, don’t forget to think about other specialist payment systems, such as Alipay in China.

Read this article about different payment methods for more information.

Do your research

Bring everything in the whole marketing, selling and logistics process into question when you are going international. Don’t assume everything will be the same – in fact, don’t assume anything will be the same.

Look into distance selling regulations, delivery methods, exchange rates, local legal requirements, customs documents to name but a few areas that will need your attention.

You can read more here about the importance of doing your research.

Build your reputation

It is important that your customers know they can trust you and believe in your brand as you build your track record in a new country. When customers can’t walk into a physical shop to see your products for themselves before they buy, they will often turn to online review websites like Feefo and Trustpilot, where other customers talk about their experience with your business. Make sure you regularly monitor these sites, as most of the popular review platforms allow businesses to respond to comments, giving you the chance to rectify any problems in a timely fashion. Also make sure you collect testimonials from happy customers and any press coverage you manage to secure.

For tips about online branding and connecting with your customer base, read this article about the a,b,c’s of online branding.

Despite the amount of research and work that you can put into building an international e-commerce strategy, the benefit at the end of the day is tremendous and can be more or less instantaneous.

See some of our case studies to find out how other businesses have succeeded in selling online with an e-commerce web site.

Topics: E-commerce and Sales & Marketing
Export Action Plan