Selling overseas: The experiences of real world internet retailers

Time zones and language

Customers really appreciate timely responses to enquiries; it can differentiate your business from the competition. It’s important to try and support your customers as far as possible, even if this means dealing with emails outside normal UK working hours.

Holmes explains: “A key challenge for us is the ability to provide good customer service across so many time zones. We often get questions from customers in the middle of the night in the UK and at weekends and we try to respond as soon as we can.”

Where English is a second language customers may struggle to understand product descriptions and the checkout pages and they are more likely to abandon their orders. Experience shows that giving buyers the opportunity to shop in their own language increases order completion rates.

Kennaugh comments: “For this very reason we’d like to make our cycle training sessions and website multi-lingual. Our existing ecommerce software currently supports six different languages at the store-front, so is already capable of supporting our growth into these new markets in the future.”

Marketing abroad

A facility to export order data to a spreadsheet gives businesses greater possibilities for performing custom sales data analysis, identifying which products sell best in different markets.

Amanda Breheny of Vybe Juice is a specialist retailer of healthy coconut water drinks. She comments: “Having a way to quickly export online sales data speeds up accounting and marketing. We can capture and analyse the sales data to see what people are buying. This allows us to send monthly deals out, which prove very popular.”

Export duties

Items shipped outside the EU require a customs declaration form attached to the parcel (form CN22 or CN23) to declare the type and value of the shipment. It’s the customer who’s liable for paying any import duties on their purchase. There’s more on exporting by post in this HMRC article.

Certainly selling internationally requires greater effort than domestic sales alone, but it has the potential to increase sales rapidly from a global customer base.

Simon Horton is the founder of ShopIntegrator, a hosted ecommerce plugin that makes it easy for anybody to add an online store onto their existing website without any coding skills.

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