Once upon a time, a family-owned olive grove in France would have sold its olive products to a small local market, but times have changed and now small business can target a much wider market via the Internet. With the advent of ecommerce stores, it has never been so easy to sell products and services in the global marketplace, but if you are thinking about expanding into the global market, there are several things you need to consider first.
Will My Products Appeal to a Global Market?
You may need to do some research before you can answer this question since there are always going to be limitations on what you can sell abroad. For example, you may have a thriving business selling de-icer in certain countries, but marketing de-icer in the sub-tropics is likely to be less than successful. If in doubt, check your competitors’ websites and look at search engine trends for specific countries. Should search queries reveal that there is a demand for your products in Outer Mongolia, there is a potential market waiting to be tapped.
We Don’t All Speak the Same Language
It would be so much easier if everyone on the planet spoke one universal language, but unfortunately the human race did not evolve that way, so if you want to target customers in a different country, you will probably have to make your online store multilingual. Correct translation is crucial or you may inadvertently offend a large number of potential customers, so double-check everything before you open your virtual doors in a foreign country.
From Dollars to Euros, if you are hoping to expand your customer base into the global market, your online store may have to accommodate transactions made in different currencies. And since currency exchange rates vary on a daily basis, your prices will need to reflect this. You also need to think about which methods of payment you are willing to accept, plus whether local taxes are payable on monies earned in different countries—if in doubt, consult an accountant for advice.
The cost of shopping some products abroad may be so high that it is simply not worth selling them, so do your research and find out if shipping abroad is a viable option. Researching distribution channels is an important part of any expansion into the global marketplace and unless you have a reliable distribution network, customers are going to end up very cross when their goods fail to arrive safely or on time. In some countries, the postal system is non-existent, so do your homework before offering to ship to far-flung places.
Dealing with Problems on a Global Scale
Having a customer support system in place is essential if you want to encourage customers to come back. A customer support helpline is there in case your customers want to ask a question about a product or are having a problem with their order. Ideally this should be a telephone number with a real person on the other end of the line, but if you are operating in the global market place, language barriers and time zones need to be factored into the equation or you could end up answering a call from an irate customer shouting down the line in a foreign language at 2AM.
Written by Bryan Mills
Photograph by Kai Hendry/Flickr