International Business: Amazon
Making the decision to begin selling internationally market can be daunting. Enthusiasm can be dampened by the anxiety that often goes along with the prospect of going global. Sellers must weigh various considerations before launching a global expansion. Accurate timing for the move is essential to getting good results faster, and rolling out to the global market with a full appreciation of the risks and costs is crucial to business success.
The Right Time to Go Global
If you have been thinking about whether or not you should start offering your brands and products to overseas markets, one or more of the following situations may have prompted you to start planning:
- Stagnant or scant growth in your current market and the need to reach additional markets to meet sales targets; or, great success in your current market, suggesting that it makes sense to move to the next level
- The promise of increased profits based on advantageous logistics in markets closer to the manufacturing source
- Inquiries from shoppers located outside your current market, indicating or supporting an impression that your brands and products would fill a need and be in high demand in other markets
All of the above are good indicators of needed change towards better business sustainability. Every business must be able to adapt to the market and seize opportunities for growth, after all. With Amazon, the marketplace is no longer limited to Amazon.com and its linked markets in Canada and Mexico. Amazon Europe offers five additional sites that can service a very large market comprised of nearly thirty countries in the European Union, and Amazon Asia offers three sites in the key countries of Japan, China and India that are poised to take the continent by storm in the next few years.
Amazon has strategically expanded to make selling internationally more attractive, They have taken advantage of the international areas that hold the top eCommerce promise. Joining Amazon at these hot global spots grants you entry to millions of new potential customers without having to start from scratch with the additional investments normally associated with a new location. Moreover, you can begin enjoying immediate returns because Amazon has already built trust with these shoppers.
Recognizing the Challenges
Having an amazing marketplace laid out before you is tempting. There are still several concerns involved in global expansion, however. Below are some of these considerations that must be carefully contemplated before delving into selling internationally.
- Creating local awareness, such as starting fresh with no reviews
- Pricing adjustments to compensate for different costs and market tolerance
- Import restrictions
- Promotional timing, knowledge of local exposure points
- Product variety
- Changes in packaging and completing product information for compliance
- Compliance with regulations (both US and new market) such as privacy and security
Business and Financial Challenges
- Creating a local entity
- Credit-card fraud
- Additional costs for compliance testing, and for taxes, duties and customs fees
- Currency conversions, local banking and credit card processing
- Updating SKUs and translating listings for compliance
- Logistics issues such as shipping delays and fulfillment options
- Package inclusions
Customer Service Challenges
- Language barrier
- Customer service hours
- Managing returns
- Updating checkout fields and calculating additional fees
- Multicurrency pricing and multilingual views
Tips on Selling Internationally
Going global with your brands and products is a long-term commitment that will require a certain level of energy and financial support.
- Quantify your Marketing Resources – Do you have what it takes to back up your global expansion over a period of three, five, or even ten years?
- Commit to the Long-Term Process of Going Global – Are you prepared to begin again the process of properly marketing your products to and streamlining your service process for a new market? Do you have substantial knowledge of the market to adjust your expectations and generate significant demand?
- Get to Know the Culture – Are you familiar with different aspects of the buying culture, such as payment preferences?
- Research Your Sales Channels – What have you learned about the general eCommerce atmosphere in your proposed new target market? Are you familiar with options within that area that are outside of Amazon?
- Familiarize Yourself with Additional Duties, Taxes, Import Fees and Customs Brokerage – Do you know how to compute for customs fees? Are you familiar with VAT? Are you aware of the associated penalties for non-compliance? Do you know what you need to get your EORI? Is your accountant prepared to handle sales in different international jurisdictions?
- Lay out a Plan for Logistics Changes – Do you have a plan in place for handling warehousing? Returns? Additional shipping stops for FBA preparation?
This list is by no means exhaustive, but a sampling of the different requirements that you will have to prepare before you can start safely selling internationally on the Amazon marketplace, or on other channels. Take the time to go through all the different nuances of selling in each of your prospective marketplaces. You may find that some of the locations that you wanted to enter look more manageable or more profitable than at first glance. If you have taken in all that needs to be done for a successful entry as an international seller, have all the resources to do what it takes, and are still excited about launching an expansion, then it would seem that the time is right for you to start selling internationally.