Once you know what is selling and how to export, the bigger question becomes, how do you export your products online to an international market? The Internet is the obvious way to reach a global market and start selling without needing millions in advertising budgets through traditional advertising. Our simple guide below explains the basics of getting your website online and key points to marketing.
Here is what you will learn in this guide:
- Understanding E-commerce
- Global Digital Overview in 2020
- E-exporting: Using the Internet to export
- Applications and benefits
- Assessing your potential
- How to Export Your Products Online
E-commerce (also known as digital commerce) refers to the act of selling and buying via the Internet. This definition includes transactions in which not all of the activity takes place online. A website may play a role in informing a buyer about a product or offer for which the purchase takes place offline.
That is a common model that is not typically captured in e-commerce statistics. Similarly, a goods producer or wholesaler may depend on distributors or retailers in other countries to sell goods to customers using their own e-commerce channels.
E-commerce is virtually an essential approach for both large and small businesses now that almost all products and services are online. Having a strong e-commerce presence can increase efficiency and productivity while lowering costs.
Indeed, if you haven’t already moved at least some of your business operations to an online model, you could face major threats from those competitors who are already doing so.
The following section assumes that your business is already a potential exporter of goods or services through the Internet.
Why sell online?
Opportunities for online sales are huge and growing. By selling online, you can:
- find new customers in overseas markets
- conduct business 24/7
- build brand awareness
- access new markets in a low-cost manner
- monitor real-time sales to understand what customers are searching for
Global Digital Overview in 2020
More than 4.5 billion people are using the internet at the start of 2020, while social media users have passed the 3.8 billion mark. Nearly 60 percent of the world’s population is already online, and the latest trends suggest that more than half of the world’s total population will use social media by the middle of this year.
Some important challenges remain, however, and there’s still work to do to ensure that everyone around the world has fair and equal access to life-changing digital connectivity.
Digital in 2020: the essential headline numbers
Digital’s role in our lives has reached new heights, with more people spending more time doing more things online than ever before:
- The number of people around the world using the internet has grown to 4.54 billion, an increase of 7% (298 million new users) compared to January 2019.
- Worldwide, there are 3.80 billion social media users in January 2020, with this number increasing by more than 9% (321 million new users) since this time last year.
- Globally, more than 5.19 billion people now use mobile phones, with user numbers up by 124 million (2.4%) over the past year.
The world turns to ecommerce during lockdowns
Nearly half of the internet users surveyed by GlobalWebIndex at the start of April said that they’ve been spending more time shopping online in recent weeks, but there are some interesting differences between the behaviors of different genders and age groups.
More than half of internet users aged 25 to 44 in the 17 countries covered in the survey say they have been spending more time shopping online in recent weeks, with men, in particular, saying that they’ve increased the amount of time they’re spending on eCommerce activities.
At a country level, China has seen the greatest increase in the amount of time that people have been spending shopping online, which is all the more impressive when we consider that China already has some of the highest rates of e-commerce adoption in the world.
E-exporting: Using the Internet to export
By definition, exporting is the practice of sending or transporting goods or services to a foreign country for trade or sale. In comparison, e-exporting is the practice of receiving and processing orders online from customers located in foreign countries.
The Internet offers some digital advantages over traditional exporting approaches. Not only can you reach a large number of potential customers from around the globe without needing to establish a physical presence in other countries, but you can also:
- Customize your product or service offerings based on the customer’s location by offering special links on your website for different markets (e.g. provide information in the language and currency of the target market).
- Offer electronic customer support through a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) on your website or through email assistance, rather than by operating a costly and time consuming toll-free number.
- Highlight the features and benefits of your products or services using pictures, descriptions, technical details, pricing, shipping and return policies, as well as include customer testimonials and video demonstrations.
- Promote your company and build your brand with potential customers by telling them more about your company’s history, staff, location, partners and so on.
- Facilitate communication with international customers through email. Respond to questions instantly, notify your customers of their product shipment status and send them the latest news or information on special offerings.
There are seven principal steps when you are considering e-exporting:
- Evaluate your e-export potential. Before spending a great deal of time, effort and money on e-exporting, take some time to reflect on your current operations and product offerings. This assessment phase will help you avoid headaches later and will educate you on what you need to do to get ready to e-export.
- Develop an e-export plan. If you are being proactive and thinking about actively marketing your products in foreign markets, an export plan is a definite must. An e-export plan will help you to tackle the digital aspects of commerce.
- Modify your products for foreign markets. Before entering a foreign market, you need to be sure your products are suitable in their current form. You need to consider both the tastes and preferences in your foreign markets, as well as the specific foreign regulations that apply to your products. Note that these will vary by country, so you may have to limit the foreign markets where you sell or intend to sell your products.
- Research the legal issues related to e-exporting. As with most business transactions, informing yourself about the laws and regulations that govern e-exporting transactions is critical. Consult a lawyer specializing in international law to make sure you are in compliance with the various domestic and foreign regulations.
- Leverage your website to sell abroad. The Internet represents a critical sales tool for SMEs with limited resources. Consider developing a multilingual website, one that offers content in more than one language. This will be necessary if you are aiming to reach customers in multiple countries where different languages are used.
- Ship your products. Once you have made a sale, you need to get your products to your customer. The international shipping process can be complicated at best. To ease the burden of shipping products abroad, you can call upon the assistance of freight forwarders, customs brokers and fulfillment houses.
- Get paid. Arranging for online payment before the goods are shipped will help you to avoid having to collect payment after the goods have been shipped. Online payment options include third-party credit card processing companies, online fund transfer services and prepaid credit services, all of which allow payments and money transfers to be made through the Internet. The services these companies offer are not available in all countries.
Assessing your potential
If you’re going to succeed in e-commerce, you have to start with a clear-sighted evaluation of your company’s potential for online business. Ask yourself the following questions:
- IT resources: How sophisticated is your Web presence? How much experience do you have in managing IT projects? Are you aware of new technology and how you can use it?
- Management: Your e-business strategy needs to be developed in the context of your overall corporate objectives. Do you know what parts of your business should be put online? Is senior management committed to going in this direction?
- Personnel: Do your employees understand your e-business strategy? Have you asked for their input? Do you have a plan for training them in the new skills they might need?
- Customers: Do you use online resources to track competitive trends and identify potential new business? Does your e-business strategy address the security and privacy concerns of your customers? Is your website customer-friendly?
- Competition: Are you aware of your competitors’ e-commerce initiatives and how they could affect your competitiveness?
- Suppliers: Do you know if you can reduce procurement costs by purchasing online? Do you use the Internet to look for suppliers? Have you used supplier input to help plan your e-business strategy?
- Profitability: Have you done cost-benefit analyses for your e-business strategy? Do you know how long it will take to amortize the start-up costs?
At the end of the diagnostic, you’ll have a detailed analysis of how ready you are to adopt an e-business strategy. You’ll ill also identify ways to improve your competitiveness in this venture.
Are you ready for e-commerce?
If you are thinking about making e-commerce a bigger part of your daily operations, you should first determine if your company is ready for e-commerce and the return on investment. If the picture looks good, you can follow up with a plan.
How To Export Your Products Online
That idea that began in your head, you acted on, you’ve found a way to take it and turn it into a reality. Congratulations indeed, you are part of the minority. For many, taking the risk, working that hard, probably your current job in the day, then getting home and working another shift on your own company is too much for the majority.
Putting up your own money to finance your new company, keeping the motivation and drive can be difficult but you’ve not given up, what you’ve achieved is admirable and you’ve proven yourself braver than most.
You’ve achieved so much, you’ve sourced or are manufacturing your products, importing them to your warehouse and now you need to start exporting your products online.
Selling is not rocket science, you have to sell your products at a higher price than you buy them. However, especially in this day and age where competition is fierce, it’s easier said than done.
It’s not easy but you already know that coming this far. You’re obviously up for the challenge. Selling globally is something that we can all do these days thanks to the Internet.
That idea of making money and taking orders while you sleep is a reality, potential customers can find your site any time of the day, enter their credit card details and buy your products.
Buy A Domain Name
Before you can think about selling any products, a domain name is where it all starts online – www.mysite.com. Registering one is easy enough, go over to Go Daddy, search for your name and register it. Two quick tips:
1 – Think about registering a domain name with your main keyword in it can help with rankings. You can register two names, one being your company name and the other more keyword-friendly.
You can promote your company domain on business cards, letterheads, etc. but promote the keyword-rich one within Google and online.
Don’t overdo the keywords though, keep it simple as even a small business still has to look professional.
2 – The longer you buy the domain for, it could help your ranking in Google. Google ranks websites on many hundreds of points so buying a domain for 10 years won’t get you to the top on its own but it’s something that Google does measure.
Google’s logic is simple, if you spend the money to register it for a long period of time, you plan on being around, opposed to someone who is taking it year by year.
Build Your Ecommerce Website
These days you can build yourself a website with an online store builder. Years ago this used to be an expensive and time-consuming project but now it’s really become much more simple.
There are “open source” free e-commerce platforms out there for your new online business which will of course include a shopping cart, the most common being WordPress. You’ll need a little tech knowledge but there are so many free tutorials on Google or Youtube for WordPress that at every step you’ll be able to fall back on some video help.
Magento is a second step up, more powerful as an e-commerce platform but you’ll need more tech knowledge.
Shopify is an option as somewhere you can set up shop quickly and easily but doesn’t give you all the control you may find you need.
WordPress may well be the best place to start. It used to be that you had to find a designer that would create your design than a coder to implement that design. Now you can simply go to Google and search for WordPress templates. Buy one, grab some hosting, and install.
That is a little tricky and will take some time but here’s a quick guide on how to start. Check out Woocommerce as this is what you’ll need to install to actually run the e-commerce side of your site but these days with a little study it’s entirely possible to create your own online store.
Selling Products Online
The temptation when building your shiny new website is to put everything you can think of in it. There are literally thousands of free plugins and features you can add. The best advice, keep your own e-commerce website simple.
The advent of the internet has made us much less patient. If we can’t find what we’re looking for in a few seconds, we hit the back button and bounce off the site. The same will be true of your website; your competition is one click away. Keep things simple, clear, to the point, and quick.
Search For It And Make It Snappy
A major part of e-commerce is including a site search or a product search, especially if your site has many pages and/or products. Allow people to find what they want quickly. Quick is another key point for Google, as something else it looks for in the site speed.
If your site takes a long time to load, Google penalizes you. “Long” on the internet is measured in seconds. So keep your site light and make sure it loads quickly, especially on mobile as I’m sure you know, most of us access the web through our mobiles more than desktops now.
We’ve become especially impatient with the rise of the internet so make sure that if you really want to export products online, your site and all pages load quickly.
An e-commerce exporter can, of course, be paid by any of the traditional methods. Retail customers, though, tend to pay by credit card. When a credit card payment is not possible or advisable, you might consider using the services of a company that, for a transaction fee, obtains the customer’s electronic payment (e-payment) and then remits it to you. These specialized businesses often integrate their payment systems with services such as:
- creating online storefronts including catalogues, stock control and order processing
- providing fraud protection
- offering multilingual and multicurrency support
- issuing letters of credit
- providing online, real-time transaction processing
Arranging for online payment (before the goods are shipped) will help you to avoid having to collect payment after the goods have been shipped. Online payment options include third-party credit card processing companies, online fund transfer services, and prepaid credit services, all of which allow payments and money transfers to be made through the Internet. The services these companies offer are not available in all countries.
Speak Their Language
We all want to sell products online globally to clients worldwide but remember you’re going to have to speak to them. Translations of the site will be needed.
You can try and sell to Thailand in English but your sales will inevitably be stronger if you sell in Thai. You’ll also have to consider what you’ll do if you have a Thai customer that has an issue and can only talk in Thai, a problem if you only speak English.
Customer Service Will Sell Products Online
Support for your customers is crucial to ensuring repeat business. You can do this, of course, through traditional methods such as telephone, email, fax, and the postal system. But a good e-business customer support system can give you an edge.
The potential impact of social media—positive and negative—should also be considered, especially when dealing with tech-savvy customers.
Privacy is a major concern for potential online customers. You will need to convince them that any electronic transactions they make with you are secure and that their privacy and personal information will be protected.
Install Google Analytics on your site, it’s free. Set up goals and study the data. Without knowing what your audience is looking at on your site, what’s working, what’s not working, you won’t be able to progress. Analytics offers a wealth of information for you to study. Without using this, you’re blind.
Exporting products online successfully means analyzing data. Where are your users coming from, how long do they stay on the site, what are your most popular pages? You’ll need to study these metrics and keep refining them until you have good conversion rates.
Where’s The Traffic?
After all this, you may find yourself wondering why you’re not getting any traffic or sales. Well, there are around 645 million websites online today. How are people going to find yours if you don’t tell them about it? Means more work but we already know you’re not scared of that! Here are a few ideas to get you thinking.
Getting a high ranking in Google is what we all want but it’s no easy task. It takes time and a lot of work. A quick way to Google is using Adwords. Pay to appear at the top of Google.
Yes, it means you have to find more funds but it’s a quick way to get off the ground. The other advantage is that it will give you an idea of traffic, whether your site is working well if you have customers calling you you’ll understand their needs better.
WordPress is actually a blogging platform so use it. Create blogs that are interesting and relevant to people. I hope you are finding this blog useful and that you’re benefiting from the information. The next post I write, you will hopefully be interested in and continue to read. Over time, I hope you’ll become a loyal follower and share the information I’m writing about with others that will find it useful. The same applies to whatever you’re doing.
Don’t write blogs where you’re simply trying to get people to buy what you’re selling, drive people to your site with interesting and relevant content, then they may visit your site and look deeper, perhaps taking the plunge and buying something.
For example, if you sell cakes, don’t just try and sell your cakes on your blog. You can write recipes, make a few videos of how to make the best brownies at home, what are some of the best ingredients to use in cakes, what are your favorite cakes, what’s the best cake tin…you get the idea. These subjects will be more interesting and if you post them out on social media, may get a lot more interest than, “Please Buy My Great Cakes”.
Once you’ve written those great blogs or created a few great videos, send them out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and all the networks. Use hashtags to gain more exposure.
The main thing to remember is not to get bored and give up. Blogging and gaining traffic takes time, you need to think of this as a 12 – 18 month project, it won’t happen overnight. Be consistent and you’ll get there.
The last point is to make sure you’re creating an email list of users. It’s an old form of marketing now but it’s still effective. It’s easier to sell products online to people that have shown an interest in what you’re offering and made an effort for you to keep in touch with them.
Offer something for free on your site, a discount, an ebook, a free cake! Get the user to leave their email and you’ll be able to keep them up to date with new products, discounts, and other exciting bits and pieces!
Congratulations! You have officially learned the steps of how to export your products online. Now start booming and make the world your business!
Also, if you would like to learn more about international trade, here is a link to our international trade and business guide. You can also watch videos on my YouTube channel.
Now I would like to hear your thoughts:
What’s your first takeaway lesson from this article?
Or maybe you have a question about the topic.
Either way, leave a comment below right now.