For any business, one of the most important milestones is when it first begins to attract interest from overseas markets. Even if it happens to be a small artisanal woodworking shop in Kansas selling a salad bowl to a customer in Portugal, that first attention broadens your horizons and shows you what is possible. When you open up your business to operating internationally, you vastly increase your potential customer pool, and that’s just the start.
To successfully sell abroad, it is important to be aware of the dos and don’ts of international commerce, and it’s also worth knowing a few things about your own market, particularly with a view to understanding which countries are likely to be interested in what you do. If you’re considering broadening your horizons, it is essential to keep the following things in mind:
Who uses international shopping the most?
Before you even get to the question of how you set yourself up to appeal to overseas customers, the first thing you need to know is some facts and figures on which countries are likely to have customers who will buy from you. For instance, countries in the EU are filled with international shoppers, while China is more of an exporter. If you are selling finished items, then being able to reach out to customers in countries such as Ireland and Portugal is important.
China’s exporter status doesn’t mean you can’t sell there, but you’ll need to do some research: if you sell components of use to their manufacturers, that can help.
How do I deal with the admin?
As ecommerce has become such an international concern, software providers have taken notice and are creating ever more useful tools for the ecommerce store owner. This makes it more than possible to create a shop front for your business that appeals to customers in Germany, another that appeals to a Canadian market, another for Japan, and so forth. As well as making it possible, one look at the best foreign currency account providers shows that making it pay is increasingly straightforward.
If you’re accepting payments in dollars, pounds, Euro and yuan, among other currencies, you’ll stand out more to relevant customers.
What are the legal concerns?
Each country has its own specific legal codes governing everything from customs to tax and more besides. These countries may well have particular arrangements with specific countries, so if you are selling from the USA, it’s usually quite straightforward to ship to Canada. The fact of the matter is that there is no shortcut when it comes to getting this information for your own business: you’ll need to learn as you go whether it is required to pay tax on items you have sold in a specific country, or include specific paperwork when shipping items.
The best advice is to find a lawyer and accountant who specialize in international business, and run each expansion of your business past them.
Be safe out there.
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