A checklist for expanding your ecommerce business overseas

When you first launched your eCommerce business you may have dreamt of expanding internationally one day. If that time has come, here’s a checklist that will help with your global expansion strategies. 

Key points

  • Your local eCommerce business may be ready to expand internationally. 
  • Taking your online business overseas requires careful thought and planning. 
  • This checklist rounds up some of the factors you need to consider before taking your business overseas, including market research, local support, payments and shipping. 

Does your online business have an untapped international market? That’s an opportunity many small business owners would jump at. But first you need to do the right groundwork to see whether it’s worthwhile selling outside of Australia. 

Here’s a short checklist to help you start selling online internationally. 

Have you properly researched your international market?

Find out if there’s already interest for your product. Is there strong demand or an obvious gap in that market? It’s always easier to meet a need than to create one. 

Start by looking at your own data to see where your international orders are coming from. Learn as much as you can about your international customers’ spending patterns and local buying trends. Then think about how you can offer a localised shopping experience for them. 

Google Analytics is great for gauging whether there’s international interest in your products or services. Google’s Market Finder can quickly analyse search traffic on relevant keywords to help drive people to your business. 

Then use a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner to calculate the level of competition for search ads. This will tell you whether you’re entering a crowded or untapped market.

Find out how these Australian businesses connected with their international customers

Is your website translated and localised for global expansion? 

Your website needs to be translated and localised to appeal to international customers. This provides them a richer user experience and a better understanding of your product or service.

Translation means giving international customers the option to read your website’s copy in their own language. Engage a local professional copywriter to produce a translation that maintains your website’s tone of voice and its key messages. 

Localisation involves modifying your content according to location-based requirements like that country’s units of measure and currency.

Have you figured out how you’ll accept payments from international customers?

How will you be accepting payments from international customers? This is important because online shoppers tend to abandon their purchases at the check-out if their preferred payment option isn’t available or if they don’t trust their payment details will be handled securely. 

Find out the preferred payment method in your target market and how to offer it on your website. 

Then find out if your payment provider lets you list products in different currencies. If it doesn’t then include a currency converter on your website so customers don’t have to go elsewhere to find out how much your product costs in their own currency. 

Have you thought about packaging for international delivery? 

Think carefully about how you package your products for international shipping. Is there even the slightest possibility they might be damaged in transit? If you aren’t sure about your packaging options, head to your local Post Office for advice.   

Here's a good resource on the dos and don’ts of packaging with Australia Post

Have you decided how to handle overseas returns and refunds? 

Are you happy to shoulder the cost or return postage if your customer doesn’t like your product? Customers are generally unlikely to buy from your ecommerce store if your return policy is unclear or seemingly unreasonable. 

Look at return policies of similar businesses and consult a professional in Consumer Law to make sure your business is compliant with Australian laws as well as relevant international ones.

Do you have local support to help your business expand internationally? 

Building trust among customers and stakeholders in a new market is crucial. A local contact network can take you much further than going at it alone. 

Find a local business partner and supply them with all your research findings and business background. Give them any training they need to hit the ground running in managing business operations and marketing. 

Their knowledge of their home market and ability to converse in its language will help you bridge communication gaps, resolve teething problems quickly and expand your business there. 

Also consider hiring a local financial controller to help with your accounts, invoicing, payment and local tax laws. You’ll be saving yourself heaps of time – and potentially, money – down the line down the line and you can be confident that you’ll get through any auditing processes. 

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