Find out how other Aussie businesses started selling online overseas

Time to take your eCommerce business to the world? Five Australian businesses share their top tips on selling overseas and reaching a whole new world of international customers. 

Key points

  • Australian eCommerce businesses have a big opportunity to expand into international markets.
  • Before you start selling online to overseas customers, conduct thorough market research to ensure the move is viable. 
  • Consider whether to manage shipping and logistics in-house or use a distributor or third-party provider. 

Global eCommerce sales are forecast to exceed US$8 trillion by 2026.1 That’s a lot of products added to a lot of shopping carts. Yet, according to recent figures, just 6% of international customers bought from Australia in 2022.2 Compare this to 26% from the US,2 and it’s clear that Australian eCommerce businesses could be taking a bigger piece of the global pie. 

So what can you do to successfully take your brand to international markets? It’s all about planning and preparation. You need to study the market, do your homework, and set up your systems for long-term sales success. 

Here are the key things to consider, along with tips from brands who have already conquered international expansion.

1. Do your research into selling overseas

Before you do anything else, you need to work out whether global expansion is viable. Conduct rigorous market analysis to assess consumer habits, pricing and currencies, government red tape and tariffs, language barriers and more. 

Ultimately, you need to work out whether your products will be compatible or, indeed, competitive in overseas markets.

“Don’t presume that the new market will demand exactly the same thing and want the exact solutions that you’re offering your current market. Things can be very different,” says Adam Lindsay, co-founder of Koh, a Sydney-based eco-friendly cleaning system.

Also consider whether you can actually afford to sell in new markets. “Study the market. In particular, the local price point of similar products. Then look at your operational expenses and whether you can sustain being competitive in that market,” says David Ibanez, Head of DC & Operations at fashion retailer Showpo.

Austrade provides a comprehensive guide to help with your research. It’s also worth visiting the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Free Trade Agreement Portal to take advantage of arrangements with countries like the US, Japan, South Korea and China.

Get more tips for researching your target market here.

2. Triple-check market demand and product suitability

Your products may fly off the warehouse shelves in Australia. But is there demand overseas? And are your products suited to local cultures and customs? Sometimes, the translation of a product or brand name can land badly — which was the case for one haircare brand, whose curling iron translates as slang for ‘manure’ in German. The last thing you want is to inadvertently offend people with inappropriate packaging or product design.

Melbourne-based electronics retail store, KG Electronics worked hard to ensure their products would work in different countries. 

“Some products have plugs that don’t work in every country,” points out co-founder, Nimrod Ganon. “Some need different legislation or approvals. And some have trademark restrictions that prohibit you from selling them overseas. You want to carry products that can go everywhere in the world.”

3. Make sure your finances can go the distance

Like any business growth strategy, exporting can be costly. You may need to invest upfront in things like travel, additional staff, marketing, trade shows, sampling costs, and local consultancy fees. Yet it can take time — years, even — to recoup these costs. Government incentives, like Austrade’s Export Market Development Grants, may help here.

And remember, teething problems are inevitable and there can be risks involved in expanding overseas. Plan for them by setting up a buffer of both stock and cash flow. Koh’s Adam Lindsay recommends a buffer of at least 20% to protect your business from serious repercussions if the unexpected happens. 

4. Get your logistical ducks in a row

Sorting out shipping and logistics when selling online overseas can be tricky. But persistence pays off — with the right shipping strategy in place, you’ll be able to offer more affordable and timely delivery options to your international customers. 

“The biggest challenge we face selling internationally is customer acquisition and distribution channels. Thankfully, we use Australia Post to ship internationally. Having one of the largest networks in the world gives us the opportunity to capture a much larger audience,” says Austin D’Souza, Managing Director, Ozzie Collectables, who ships his collectables from Melbourne to all corners of the world.

Setting up an international distribution channel might seem daunting at first – but the right partner can support you all the way, says Austin. “Australia Post provides a business customer support portal where we can log concerns or queries, and an Account Manager whom we can liaise with directly in the case of any lost or missed deliveries. It’s a seamless process.”

Some brands choose to use a distributor, consolidator or eCommerce marketplace to access existing markets. Having a distributor located closer to your customers can help make pricing and delivery timelines more competitive — again, just do your homework on how this approach could impact your bottom line.

Don’t forget to consider other aspects of planning and logistics — from getting your website ready to prepping your team. See what else you need to do to get ready to sell online to overseas markets here.

5. Delight your international customers

Once you start selling, you need to be completely transparent about everything from product descriptions to shipping costs, delivery timeframes and returns policies. 

If you’re selling through your own website, set up your eCommerce platform to translate into multiple languages, to display costs in a new currency, and most importantly, to accept payment in other currencies.

As Sonya Michele, founder of dog&boy says, a seamless and trusted online shopping experience will build a loyal customer base over time. 

“Make reliability and cost your top priorities. Every dog&boy parcel has a tracker because I need to know that the parcel will reach its destination once it has left Australian shores. 

“My international contract with Australia Post includes volume discounts, which enables me to absorb the cost for standard shipping across the world. Both these factors make my customers very happy,” she said.

In terms of reaching your international customers, Showpo has nailed the formula. Their advice for connecting with customers spread across the globe? 

“This needs to be considered and prioritised. What platforms will give you the best reach? What time of day will you communicate with them? And importantly, get a clear understanding of when their orders are likely to come in so you can create a fulfilment strategy that delivers a great customer experience,” David says.

For more great tips and insights from businesses who have already taken the leap, explore our hub on selling overseas.

Want to save money on parcel sending?

The more you send with MyPost Business, the more you save. In fact, you can save up to 40% off domestic parcels and up to 35% on international parcels.

Statista, Retail e-commerce sales worldwide from 2014 to 2026, 2023

2 IPC Cross-Border eCommerce Shopper Survey, 2022