Selling online via international e-marketplaces

how to sell your stuff online

Sarah Carroll is the director of Grow Global, a consultancy that mentors and trains clients on how to improve their international communications, and one of the UK’s leading experts on how to make a web site visible in international search engines. 

Here, Sarah gives some guidance on selling online via an e-marketplace.

Selling online through e-marketplaces is a great way to build a customer base in another country and to get exposure for your brand and products.  If you’re only selling online through your own website you could be missing a trick.

There are many countries in the world who crave niche and innovative British brands, whether it be in fashion or technology. Listing your products on trusted e-marketplace can be a low risk approach to going international and allow you to test the water or kick-start sales with exposure to new audiences.

This section on reaching customers online through e-marketplaces will give you some tips  to get you started:

Choose your e-marketplace carefully

We’ve all heard of Amazon and eBay and most of us have used one or the other of them.  We usually use the UK version of these marketplaces, but if you are branching out into new markets think about listing your products on local versions of these marketplaces like to sell into the USA or to sell into France. There are about 15 local versions of Amazon and eBay across the globe.

So if we step away from the two main players, we see that there are in fact hundreds of other e-marketplaces around the world.  The regional players include Rakuten, starting in Asia, but becoming more and more a world-player and Mercado Libre which is the king of e-marketplaces in Latin America.

The giants in Chinese e-marketplaces are the threesome of Alibaba, Tmall and Taobao, with many others emerging close behind them.  Scratch the surface a little more and you’ll see specialist online marketplaces like Laso in Japan and Tejuri in the UAE, giving access to millions of customers in the local country.

In many parts of the world, customers prefer to buy from an online marketplace than from a company’s individual web site.

Managing your e-marketplaces

One of the great advantages of using an e-marketplaces is that it is truly local.  By reaching customers in this way, you will already be making use of a localised service – the marketplace will offer local currencies, local payment methods, suitable delivery methods for that country and will comply with all the local terms and conditions.

Many have their own payment methods such as PayPal (eBay), Alipay (Alibaba, Tmall, Taobao) and MercadoPago (Mercado Libre).

Translate your listings

To appeal to local customers and to be found in local search engines, you will have to have local language product listings. Most e-marketplaces insist on this and will help you to do this.

You may need to select your products to appeal to local cultures and local tastes, including updating the messages, copywriting and images. International customers are more likely to buy from you if you do this.

Do your maths

These online marketplaces may seem like a dream come true for international selling and there is a lot to be said for this way forward.  However, as with everything in life, listing on a marketplace is not free and you need to check all costs involved, from listing, commission and currency charges, as well as considering the options for delivery, returns and local support.

If you are serious about selling into a local marketplace, it is probably best to have a local language speaker on hand to provide customer service.

Despite the amount of research and work that you can put into selecting the right marketplace for your company, the benefit at the end of the day is a pool of keen customers, ready to get to your brand and your products.

Read Open to Export articles on methods of payments, how to manage international payments, and selling through websites and e-commerce for more information.

You can also see read of our case studies (including this one on a luxury travelwrap company seeking global expansion online) to find out how other businesses have succeeded in selling online through international e-marketplaces.

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