Moving towards selling internationally is a long term goal for many online sellers. It’s an exciting process that can often feel overwhelmingly complex, but the steps towards it are critical for success.
To give you a concrete example, I’ll talk briefly about my own experience. A few years ago, my company mp3Car was in deep trouble. We were in the red, and I was very close to either closing down or selling. However, as a last ditch effort, we decided to overhaul our entire ecommerce process, and I am so glad that we did.
For us, it was this restructuring that made international selling possible. Once we had worked out the kinks of our domestic selling, we realized we were ready to move towards a global brand.
In this blog post, the first of a series about growing your brand globally, I’ll outline some of the important considerations and changes to make before you take steps to expanding internationally. Whether or not growing global is something you want for your products, the steps towards a successful international brand can benefit any seller.
Pre-global Priming - if it’s broken, you better fix it!
Consider domestic a dry-run for international. If your system is running great with only small and inevitable issues here and there, it’s still worth reading over this blog to make sure you're running with the highest efficiency possible. Most brands can use a little trimming here and there before they make the leap into the global marketplace. A good rule of thumb is to always value the proactive approach over the reactive one; catching problems before they happen is always preferable to damage control.
And remember: automate, whenever possible.
Let’s use mp3Car as an example. Keep in mind, mp3Car was at one point, struggling in many ways. Hopefully, your company will only need attention in one or two of the areas we’ll explore here.
- If you haven’t already - pick a 3PL
This is necessary even if you never plan on selling internationally. As you think about choosing your 3PL, there are many considerations to take into account. Depending on your product, you’ll want to think about shipping, packaging, barcode requirements, and processing.
At mp3Car, we went with Amazon’s FBA, first and foremost because everything is automated. This was one of our main goals with the overhaul, and the fact that their computers could talk to our computers was a huge benefit for us. Additionally, we knew it was an excellent way to get used to a global system before moving towards international sales.
Amazon isn’t for every brand, however. If you sell perishable items, custom products or low cost items that don’t make sense for a multi-pack, you'll want to look elsewhere.
- Refine those quality control procedures
This was one of the biggest issues for mp3Car. Depending on your brand, this will take more or less work, but for us it meant creating a two-page quality-control document for every single item. For QC purposes, there is no replacement for a human eye that can catch any issues before the item ships - either to your customer or to your 3PL. If you’ve got QC issues now, you aren’t ready to sell internationally.
- Track sales - with as much detail as you can
When you start selling products internationally, there is an increased chance of resellers. It will be much easier to tackle reseller issues if you have a strong process of keeping track of your items. At mp3Car, we didn’t have accrual reporting, which meant that it was much harder to track what was happening to our money and why. If we noticed we had less money in the bank at a given time, it was very hard for us to determine why this was happening. Once we were able to fix this, we were more in tune with our sales, and able to easily catch a reseller when we started selling in Japan.
- Efficient inventory management
As you introduce your products to more markets, inventory management is going to become more complex. Moving towards a process that is as automated as possible is going to be your best bet for success. At mp3Car, this meant creating algorithms that tracked inventory as well as creating options that our store manager could use to instantly order 30, 60, or 90 days worth of items.
- Build a system for responding quickly to feedback
This is something every single online seller should already be doing, but if you are not, it’s a must before selling internationally. At mp3Car, multiple employees get alerts on their phones whenever there is a negative review.
When you’re working internationally, there are more possibilities for things going wrong, and having a robust feedback response protocol is essential. To put things into perspective - imagine that angry customer you dealt with last week yelling at you in German instead of English. Thank goodness for Google translate.
Ultimately, what the pre-global process comes down to is streamlining and consistency. This means removing the human element and automating wherever you can, while also working your employees into the process in a way that is reliable and systematic. At Whitebox, we are passionate about automation as a tool for ecommerce growth, whether your brand is regional, national or international.