Top tips for online merchants looking to internationalise


With the constant growth of e-commerce over recent years, more and more retailers have decided to enter the online realm and sell their products online. In addition to online giants such as Amazon and ASOS, a host of traditional offline retailers such as Tesco are jostling for online business. With the wide range of goods being offered online, there is a constant, growing competition between retailers, and companies must therefore adjust their business strategy in order to succeed.

Growth of international customers

The consumer trend is already moving towards cross-border e-commerce, and customers, in particular younger target groups are increasingly purchasing goods from online retailers in different countries. The growing willingness to buy from shops in other countries should apply similarly to customers around the world, particularly when you consider that in many smaller European countries and developing markets such as India and Brazil, the density of online local shops is lower. As a result of the limited offering in their own country, these customers are just as willing – if not more so – to order online from other regions. European shop operators should consider these potential customer groups outside their native countries and, as part of their business development plan, think about how to internationalise their business.

Internationalisation as a strategic objective

Whilst the trend towards internationalisation is still young and various market niches are free, online retailers who want to secure market share in other countries should go ahead and take the plunge now. The move towards internationalisation is particularly interesting for suppliers with a portfolio aimed at a wider target group. Gaining a foothold in unsaturated international markets could cost less in the long-term than maintaining your own market position at home in the face of stronger competition. With this, it is important that retailers consider some basic issues first, the most important being logistics; is it possible to send the goods to another country at a reasonable cost?

Gaining a foothold in the target market

It’s important for retailers to consider whether there are adequate resources in place to advertise their offerings successfully in the relevant target country. The importance of using individual channels to advertise may vary between each country – online advertising and social media are particularly important in Latin America, for example. In order to use these channels successfully, additional marketing resources are required, particularly if the local languages in the target markets are different from your own. Those weary of the thought of building a brand presence from scratch in another country should consider moving to a retail store on a virtual marketplace, for example eBay and Amazon. Alternatively, co-operation with established brands can also provide initial assistance, e.g. in the form of a cross-promotion campaign.

Research the target market thoroughly

Going international must be planned carefully and there must be an adequate lead time. Retailers must be aware that their new international customers have the same demands for service and quality as their local ones, and this starts with customer support in the relevant local language. They should also consider the local country’s payment preferences, as well as attention to the retail and brand legislation in the target country. Retailers who handle all of these challenges with determination can benefit from the internationalisation trend in e-commerce.