If you’re like many domestic sellers, selling internationally is probably something you’ve thought about. Maybe you've been daydreaming for years about launching your collapsable dishware in Sweden, because you really feel like that it fits that Ikea-aesthetic. Or, you just know that all those Brits are going to dig that raincoat that folds down the size of a pack of cards.
Chances are, whatever your product, you know selling overseas requires a lot of prep work. If you haven’t already, check out Growing Global Parts I and II to read about some insight into this process. Once you’ve thoroughly researched customs and laws, and you’ve got a robust support system in place, then you’re probably set to start selling overseas.
Rather than jumping into the deep end, it’s always best to begin small and manageable. That way, if anything does go wrong, the issues you encounter will be easier to handle. This blog, part III of our Growing Global series, is all about baby steps.
- Language: a challenge, not a barrier
Understandably, one of the biggest worries for a lot of sellers is the language barrier. At mp3Car, we took a thoroughly American approach - we started selling in the English-speaking United Kingdom. We all know complicated returns and unhappy customers are difficult; so multiply that by ten when you have to work through a translator.
There is absolutely no shame in going the easy road in this case. It simply means you can work through any unforeseen issues yourself. Now, if you really think your product will be a hit in Japan, then by all means make that leap; just be prepared to take things even slower, and to pay a translator to help you through any issues.
- Limit your early products
In the same vein, there is no shame in launching a small number of products. At mp3Car, out of our 500 SKUs, we chose only 20 to begin with. We hand-picked products that were marketable and manageable, and then expanded from there. Like avoiding a language barrier, this is one way to keep issues manageable in the beginning - plus, it means you can really knock it out of the park when you market those early products.
- Remember, do your market research
Whether or not you are unveiling one product, or twenty products, it’s pretty darn important that you think about how the overseas market might be different.
Sometimes, it’s simply common sense. Let’s say you make hiking boots. In the hotter regions of the US, your lightweight, breathable line is a massive hit. Now, if you were thinking about launching in the bog-like UK, this product might only appeal to people who are travelling elsewhere; maybe instead, you pick your highly waterproof boots for the early days.
While this example might be common sense, other products might require a lot more research into the existing overseas market. You won't know, for example, what sorts of sugar free dried fruit is available until you look into it. Just be prepared to really think through your options.
- If possible, use your 3PL
Chances are, your 3PL’s services are available overseas. Since mp3Car was working with Amazon, the transition to Amazon.co.uk was a fairly smooth one. The policies were very similar, and Amazon even has support in place to ease the transition. Whatever 3PL you use, make sure you take advantage of a pre-established system to get your product set up overseas.
Once you work out the kinks of this system, you can think about setting up shop in other parts of the world. The process will begin similarly, maybe even smaller, if it is a non-English speaking country. At Whitebox, we are only in the early stages of planning to offer international sales to our partners, we are always willing to chat with you about a strategy to sell overseas.