Your online store has grown massively.
Your customers keep coming back for more as you’re offering some of the best products in your industry.
Even better: They recommend you to their friends and family.
However, you only sell your products within a limited geography—your country or perhaps a couple of countries surrounding yours.
You’d love to take your store international, but think the cost and organization are too difficult. More importantly, it means you have to risk a lot of initial investment to potentially learn your products weren’t a fit for the market in the first place.
Don’t let these challenges stop you.
There’s a way to expand your store to international markets slowly. To test the waters as you go and reduce your risk—with none other than Amazon.
The best news? It’s a lot easier than you’d think! If you want to expand your online store internationally, this is the guide for you.
Why Take Your Online Store to International Markets?
Growing internationally or globally seems a dreamy idea on its own.
But what are the specific, tangible advantages that come with growing your ecommerce business internationally?
You can be less dependent on your local market trends. Markets always fluctuate, but by becoming an international presence, you can diversify your sources of sales. If your local market dips or crashes, you can remain stable.
You can extend the life of existing products through new markets. Local changes, such as social media and influencer trends, public opinions, massive sports or cultural events and much more can expand or shorten the life of certain products on the market. Going international means you can piggyback on more than just one trend!
You can make the most out of seasonal changes. If your products are seasonal and depend on times of year, such as summertime, you’ll get ahead by being present in both hemispheres.
You can learn to compete against foreign companies and potentially even out the playing field in your industry on their ground.
The State of Ecommerce Around the World
You’re thinking of taking your online store abroad, but aren’t sure where to start?
This section will give you an overview of several key markets you could start with.
First things first.
This is the list of countries with the largest B2C ecommerce markets worldwide (the numbers are in billion US dollars):
Let’s look into numbers from some of these countries.
Ecommerce in United States
According to data from Statista, retail ecommerce sales in the United States in 2018 amounted to a total of $504.6 billion.
To put that into perspective, ecommerce sales make up 9.9% of total US retail sales.
The largest segment of US ecommerce market is Toys, Hobby & DIY with a market volume of $168 billion in 2019.
The average revenue per user (ARPU) in US ecommerce amounts to $2,027.84 in 2019.
Ecommerce in Canada
Canada’s ecommerce revenue in 2018 was about $40 billion USD.
Ecommerce sales make up about 7.3% of total retail sales in Canada in 2017.
Among the most interesting pieces of data about ecommerce in Canada is that 18% of Canadians feel very uncomfortable with online shopping in 2018.
The largest segment of ecommerce in Canada is Fashion with a market volume of $9.3 billion USD.
The average revenue per user in Canada’s ecommerce market is $998.82 USD.
Ecommerce in Europe
Europe can be a great place to start expanding your online store. Why is that?
- The UK is a convenient solution as there’s no language barrier for American and other English-speaking sellers
- Germany is in the heart of Europe and attracts many Austrian and Swiss shoppers
- France has a diverse consumer base and French is spoken all over the world
The United Kingdom ecommerce market was the third largest one in the world in 2015.
All ecommerce sales in UK in 2017 totaled at 586 billion GBP (~$774 billion). It’s also important to note that:
- Online sales make up over 16% of all retail sales
- 78% of people in Great Britain have made purchases online in 2018
The average revenue per user in UK’s ecommerce market is to $1,445.16.
Furthermore, Amazon’s market share in entertainment retail in UK was 20.4% in 2016!
France’s ecommerce revenue amounts to $49 billion in 2019.
Their average revenue per user is $984.65 and their largest segment is Fashion with a market volume of $15 billion.
B2C ecommerce sales in Germany are expected to grow to over $77 billion by 2020.
Their largest segment is Electronics & Media with a market volume of $23 billion and the average revenue per user to $1,014.98.
Ecommerce in Mexico
Mexico’s ecommerce revenue is $9 billion, which implies a +14.5% year-on-year growth, in 2019.
The largest segment in their ecommerce market is Electronics & Media with a market volume of $2.5 billion and the average revenue per user amounts to $112.52.
As far as Mexico’s growth goes, ecommerce revenue is expected to keep growing annually at a rate of 16.57%, reaching $17.6 billion by 2020.
Ecommerce in Brazil
The ecommerce revenue in Brazil is $15.9 billion with a +9.3% year-on-year growth in 2019.
Brazil’s largest ecommerce segment is Fashion with a market volume of $5.5 billion and the average revenue per user amounts to $113.14.
According to Statista, Brazil accounted for more than 38% of the Latin American ecommerce market in 2017. In the same year, online shopping in Brazil represented only around 3% of total retail sales in 2017.
Ecommerce in Japan
Japan’s ecommerce sales amounted to $89.55 billion and were projected to grow to $122.46 billion in 2018.
Their largest segment is Food & Personal Care with a market volume of $22.8 billion and the average revenue per user amounts to $835.69.
Ecommerce in China
When looking through the lens of ecommerce data, China is unparalleled.
Their ecommerce revenue amounts to $718.3 billion in 2019.
The average revenue per user in the eCommerce market amounts to $866.16.
Emarketer data forecasts that retail ecommerce sales will grow faster than the total retail sales in China, at the rate of 30.3%, to almost $2 trillion. This will make up more than a third of total retail sales.
Ecommerce in India
India’s ecommerce sales amounted to $20.06 billion in 2017.
Ecommerce sales are expected to reach 4.4% of all retail sales in India by the end of 2019.
India’s largest ecommerce segment is Fashion with a market volume of $12.5 billion and the average revenue per user amounts to $62.95.
How to Select International Markets For Your Online Store?
As the numbers have shown, there are countries with huge ecommerce presence.
There are also those where the online shopping market isn’t as big, but is growing quickly.
The question you must answer is: how do you decide which countries to target based on this information?
Markets with hyper-developed ecommerce provide safety that people are already buying what you’re selling.
Markets that are still growing from an ecommerce perspective may be risky to go into, but you may tap into a gap in the market.
Here are some questions to answer in order to make your decision:
- Where are the majority of your users located?
- Who are your competitors?
- Which countries are your competitors targeting?
- Do your products need to be adjusted to the market?
- Will your price range work in the market you choose?
- What distribution channels can you use?
- What will be your duties, taxes, and other costs?
This can be a daunting decision to make, but because we’ll show you a way to test the market instead of going all in, remember that you can change and expand your decision as you gauge your potential in the market and see your first successes.
Market research and analysis is always a crucial place to start. You can use tools such as Google Trends, as well as dive into your own reports from Google Analytics and Search Console, to pull data that will support your choice.
For best results, you’ll need to connect Google Search Console with Analytics.
What Makes International Ecommerce Expansion Challenging?
Let’s talk about the down-low of taking your online store internationally.
First, let’s get an obvious challenge of international ecommerce out of the way.
Right now, you’re most likely sending the items you sell to customers that are in or near the country you’re in. That’s pretty simple.
Going international obviously requires more organization from a logistics point of view. Shipping options and extra costs that come with it can quickly put more strain on your workload than you’re capable to handle…
…and without knowing whether they’ll be enough demand to make it worth it for you.
Beyond the obvious logistical headaches, there are a few more things to keep in mind as unavoidable challenges of international ecommerce expansion:
- You’ll have to localize your website. Different countries often warrant not just a different language, but also different phrasings, currencies, and cultural considerations.
- You’ll have to localize your marketing. How do people prefer to spend their money? What resonates with them when they choose to do so? The messaging and pain points you use in your marketing must reflect that.
- Payment methods can make or break your success. Preferred payment methods will differ across the world, so make sure to research the markets you want to start with.
- Tailor your customer support to the market. This might be one of the toughest challenges—even more than dealing with international taxes or shipping. If your potential customers in the new market don’t feel like they can get the support they need from you, they’ll likely avoid shipping with you.
Enter the International Ecommerce Solution: Selling With Amazon
If there’s a platform that can help you dip your toes into an international market that you want to expand into, it’s Amazon.
In 2017, ecommerce sales in the US on Amazon amounted to more than $54 billion.
Based on US data, Amazon is the leading web-only merchant.
With 13 marketplaces around the world and loyal customers in more than 180 countries, expanding your store internationally with Amazon is a no-brainer.
Furthermore, it’s valuable to note that:
- More than 139 million people use the Amazon shopping app each month
- Amazon has an already-built marketing system, including abandoned cart reminder emails and ranking based on ratings and popularity
- Amazon buyers see product reviews as the most popular purchase influence
Finally, keep in mind that 25% of online users in the US only shop digitally at large, well-known retailers due to hacking concerns.
In other words, Amazon comes with built-in trust, a marketing system, and reliable logistics—all of which you need in order to thrive when going into a new market.
How to Start Selling Internationally With Amazon
Amazon provides a great way to test the market you want to break into and see if there’s demand for your products while letting Amazon handle all the heavy lifting.
There are currently 13 Amazon marketplaces including Americas, Europe, and the APAC region. This is where your international journey starts.
Create a seller account for your target market
You can create seller accounts as follows:
- North America Unified Account: includes the US, Canada, and Mexico
- European Unified Account: includes the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain
- Individual accounts for each of the remaining Amazon marketplaces: Brazil, Japan, China, India, Australia
Unified accounts give you instant access to all the marketplaces they include. Any other marketplaces you’re interested in require a separate seller account.
You can start your registration process by signing up through Amazon Global Selling.
Expanding to a new market involves a monthly fee for each market you want to break into. These are the fees:
- US: USD 39.99
- Canada: CDN 29.99
- Mexico: MXN$ 600.00
- Brazil: R$ 19,00
- UK: £25
- Germany: EUR 39.00
- France: EUR 39.00
- Italy: EUR 39.00
- Spain: EUR 39.00
- Japan: JPY 4,900
- Australia: AUS$49.95
You won’t, however, have to pay for more than one country if they are parts of a unified account (such as the US, Canada, and Mexico)—you only pay a single fee for all countries involved in that case.
Follow the simple walkthrough to complete your Amazon seller account setup.
Create product listings on Amazon’s international marketplaces
Building a bank of products on international markets is similar to what you would do if you sold on your local Amazon.
Prepare the following information:
- Product ID (e.g. UPC, EAN, ISBN)
- Product title
- Bullet points
- Product description
- Search terms
- Product images
Regarding language requirements, you can manage your seller central in your native language by simply selecting the language from the menu.
However, all your product listings will have to be in the local language of the marketplace you’re selling in, as well as the customer service.
This isn’t great for you if the marketplace language is different than your own, but it’s logical on Amazon’s part to ask you that. It helps them ensure fair ranking of all products and deeply understand what you’re selling.
To translate your product listings, you can use the Translate Your Product tool from Amazon.
This is a great way to start out and test the waters. However, if you find the market providing a positive return we’d recommend then hiring a professional to come in and optimize your product listings for that language and region.
To make sure your customer service in another language is sorted, Amazon’s FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon) is the best way to go.
Manage and promote your offers in international marketplaces
To make sure you’re as efficient as possible, make the most out of the options available through your Seller Central:
- Inventory file upload
- Expand Offers Internationally (EOI) for quicker upload of a large variety of products
- Building International Listings (BIL) feature to manage your offers across marketplaces, synchronize pricing, etc.
From here, your first marketing efforts should focus on getting people to purchase your products and encourage them to leave reviews.
You can sign up for the Amazon Early Review Program if you’re in the US, and you can market your Amazon presence to attract external traffic to your product page through channels such as Facebook ads and email marketing.
Your product should have three or more reviews before you send traffic to the product page with a paid campaign as customers often don’t trust products that have little or no reviews.
Organize international shipping
Amazon’s FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon) option is probably the least intense way to start selling internationally.
Steps that happen as part of the FBA process:
- You prepare your items according to Amazon’s packing rules
- You ship your products to the Amazon fulfillment center in the target market and you’re in charge of handling import processes and customs duties
- Amazon stores, picks, packs, and sends your items to customers in the target market
- Amazon provides customer service and handles returns
There are different FBA options for each region, so make sure to invest all the options and requirements from Amazon’s official resources on FBA.
Start Selling Internationally, Hassle-Free
If you were to do all of this on your own—optimize your store’s presence abroad, set up technicalities in the background, and much more—testing out an international market could take you months.
And still potentially fail.
With an option like Amazon, you can easily get set up in significantly less time and let Amazon do the hard work while you get to focus on making your products the best they can be.
Finally, check out these resources to get started easily:
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