Cross Border Trading – Proper preparation can mean higher returns.

Recently there has been a strong emphasis on Cross Border Trading (CBT), most noticeably at eBay. The potential in this will not be lost on many retailers selling online, with the opportunity for revenue that additional markets represent. With eBay offering lots of options and incentives, it’s a good time to look into this growth area.

However, as with any change in your business, we would always recommend doing the appropriate preparation and research ahead of time to ensure the move goes as smoothly as possible.

Firstly, have you considered the language barrier? Other countries, of course, speak other languages. Therefore to fully engage with the market, your listings need to be in their language. While we are aware that eBay and others are investing in this area, currently it’s something the seller has to be responsible for. There are 2 main methods to consider, Automated Translation, or translation by a human being.

Many companies offer translation to and from a number of languages for CBT as a part of their portfolio of services. It’s always worth considering the best approach for your requirements and resources.

For automated translation, there are a number of options available. Remembering that automated translation will always be less accurate overall than human translation, owing to slang, idiomatic language and differences in the use of certain terms, but the price and time taken is usually lower. There are a number of companies offering access to these services, including Bing and Google, and more specialised teams.

Alternatively, there is human translation. Some companies have their own teams of specialists, allowing you to contract with them for a given amount of work or rate for work ‘per word’. You could also consider that if you’re looking at focusing on certain key foreign markets, and you have a high number of new listings or updates every month, would it be a viable business expense to bring people with Language skills onto your team to deal with updates and new listings? The overhead may actually be lower compared to using an external service, and it may be worth considering.

Even if you’re working with another English-Speaking market, there may be spelling differences which would affect your listings showing up in searches. For example, ‘Aluminum’ and ‘Aluminium’, ‘Colorful’ and ‘Colourful’. The devil is always in the details.

Remember, that when preparing for CBT, you need to check if registration for sales taxes, such as VAT is required. Within the EU, countries have agreements in place and VAT is charged at the point of purchase (the customer), and recorded on their normal VAT return. Always be aware other countries may require you to register separately. There are a number of companies that specialise in this area, and a little preparation can save a lot of paperwork, expense and stress later on.

You should also be aware when working with Marketplaces that exist in different countries under the same brand, that the categories may be different on the ‘foreign’ marketplaces. eBay, for example, are currently working on automated category mapping, and are using suggested categories in the meantime. Remember, if you list your products in the wrong category, it can massively impact your visibility, and therefore your sales.

Different markets have different buying patterns. Not all marketplaces have auctions, or fixed price listings, how will this affect your listing strategy?

Research the market… Do people prefer buy it now or auction listings where the option is available? What are the best time frames for the listings to be available, and for them to last? What are the listing costs on those markets, and how does that affect your plans for launch and growth? Is there demand in the market for your products, or is it saturated by cheaper options in the same area that may dilute your sales?

Make sure you have the appropriate disclaimers in place for longer shipping costs and times, and for delays. Clearly state that there may be additional expenses involved with regards to returns or exchanges, and who will be responsible for them. Be prepared to back up your policies as well.

Seller Ratings
Monitor your seller ratings, especially detailed views, on the selling channels. These can affect fees and search results. Be aware of those effects, and plan for the worst case as well as the best.

Track how you are being rated by buyers in all areas, and remember to attempt to communicate with sellers to resolve issues and maintain your standings. If a particular area of your stock is causing more issues, consider withdrawing those listings to protect the rest of your business.

Different countries use different currencies. It seems obvious, as with the language, but it’s important to make sure you’re aware of relative currency values and costs. Different channels may also have different policies regarding disbursement of funds and exchange rates. Don’t price yourself out of the market, and definitely don’t price yourself out of business.

You need to make sure your Euro Price is as competitive as your Dollar or Sterling prices are. If you’re concerned about disbursement of funds and exchange rates/fees, consider talking to a specialist, to discuss the best ways to optimise your returns from your hard work and stock. There is a wealth of experience in many areas, and sometimes it makes more sense to pay for assistance from a specialist and save yourself time and money.

With the recent Spring Updates on eBay, the emphasis is on clear, large photos without slogans or captions. In regards to CBT, it has the advantage of not having to worry about translating captions. Their guidelines specify large pictures of the actual product on a plain background, no text or logos.  No distractions, and easier to make out the item and details on Mobile Devices as well as PCs.

Remember, using lots of pictures to illustrate your listings will take some of the burden from content writing and translation, and if you feel your pictures just need cleaning up to make them fit with the guidelines, once again, look at services from specialists and experts to save you time, and increase your profile and attractiveness to new customers.

Lastly, when considering CBT, you should be asking the big question:

You can sell it to them, they can understand the listing, the price is right, but can you get it to them, and will it be at a reasonable price?

Consider, when looking at shipping options there are times and distances involved as well as costs. A package going from London to Birmingham is travelling approximately 117 miles, a relatively short amount of time in transit, and is maybe getting moved about, either by hand or on a conveyor belt 3 to 6 times. A product going from London to New York is travelling more than 3,461 miles, and will be changing hands or being moved around a lot more…. Therefore you need to make sure items are packed correctly, especially where they are fragile, or temperature sensitive, for example. Extra packaging is extra weight and volume, and that costs extra money to ship, and may exclude certain shipping methods for time constraints, for example. Also ensure the Shipping methods you want to use are available for all the countries. A product that turns up in bad condition is often a lost sale, a replacement, an overall financial loss with additional returns and shipping. At worst it’s a dispute that affects your seller ratings, and a bad review that will discourage new customers at the time you need them in a new market.

And lastly, remember Customs! Some countries restrict purchase of certain goods, or apply additional tariffs. You might want to avoid selling those products on marketplaces in those countries, for simplicity’s sake!

Cross Border Trade is an area that is constantly growing as more and more sellers invest in the possibilities. The entities involved, be it marketplaces, service companies, software providers or even government bodies like UKTI, all have a lot to offer if you want to take advantage of it.

While there were previously a huge number of overheads to enter a new market, it’s much easier to try now, with low risks if you plan properly, and the potential benefits can be high. And the expertise to ensure you cover all the angles has never been more easily available. You can learn by doing, look online, or pay for an individual or company to give you the benefit of their expertise, and come out ahead in the end.

It’s a risk, but a much smaller risk than it has been before if you consider, as above, the potential problems, and make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. You have very little to lose, and everything to gain!!

Topics: Distribution and E-commerce
Export Action Plan