The world is increasingly interconnected. The ease and flexibility of e-commerce opens up new avenues for people to discover and buy exactly what they are looking for from almost anywhere in the world. More than a trend, shopping from international retailers is the new norm – over three quarters of online adults shopped across borders in the past 12 months, spending more than $7 billion dollars, according to an Ipsos study conducted by PayPal.
For small businesses, increased interconnectivity and the rise of e-commerce creates opportunities to reach new customers and capture a portion of global online spending. By leveraging online tools, business owners across Canada can tap into global markets and find success selling to customers around the world.
Reaching new customers and selling across borders doesn’t have to be complicated. There are a number of ways to explore the viability of selling internationally and the very first place to start is understanding what motivates shoppers. For example, 65 per cent of cross-border shoppers do so because they want access to items that might not be available in their home country and 59 per cent want to discover new and interesting products. Recognizing these drivers, Canadian businesses can gain a competitive advantage by offering unique products, and focus on providing the best customer service possible to help build loyalty.
There’s a world of opportunity out there and the possibilities can seem endless, but don’t let that overwhelm you. To help you on your journey, we have a few tips to help expand your business internationally. Michelle Germain of Shopgirls, a bricks-and-clicks business that showcases Canadian-designed women’s clothing and accessories, also shares insights she’s gained through more than a decade of business ownership.
EXPLORE FAMILIAR TERRITORY
Test your success in a few key international markets before expanding further. The U.S., U.K. and Australia are a good place to start for a few reasons. According to research from PayPal, these are Canada’s top export markets and shoppers in those regions may already be comfortable and familiar buying from a Canadian business like yours. These markets also share English as a common language, making it eas for you to communicate with your customers, ultimately offering an opportunity to test and perfect your international sales processes before tackling additional markets.
Michelle Germain, founder of Shopgirls, recommends to first look at your own sales history to learn if you already have customers in international markets. “You might find you already have an active base of customers in another part of the world,” says Germain. “Test selling into these markets by simply expanding the targeting of your social media ads for an easy and relatively cost-effective way to determine demand in those regions.”
Shipping cost is of paramount importance to cross-border shoppers. Thirty-five per cent of those shopping from cross-borders in the past 12 months say that delivery costs prevent them from making purchases from another country more often. To combat this, get to know shipping solution providers that service the markets you hope to sell to – many providers offer special rates and packages that can help bring down costs. Taking it one step further, all-in-one payment and shipping solutions, like the one offered by PayPal and Canada Post, can help simplify processes like shipping and order fulfillment.
“It’s important that your customers are clear on who is covering the shipping costs, and what they can expect to pay,” says Germain. “Likewise, simplify the return process as much as possible. If a customer returns something, give them credit in their local currency, and be sure to state your return policies clearly on your website to reduce confusion.”
SIMPLIFY THE PURCHASE PROCESS
International shoppers are more likely to complete a purchase when the payment process is straightforward. Reducing the number of steps required to checkout, offering a secure way to pay, and displaying prices in the local currency helps give shoppers confidence to buy from your business.
“Make the shopping and checkout experience easy and enjoyable for the customer, and they will likely come back and shop again,” said Germain. “For international customers, I make sure to present summarized costs that include duty, landing fees and shipping costs, all in local currency.”
By expanding internationally and opening up to new markets, small businesses can find new growth and revenue streams. With technology to support and simplify the process, small businesses are finding it easier than ever to take advantage of these big opportunities.