Selling Abroad Online
Why might I want to sell online?
Selling online offers a competitive edge to small businesses seeking to expand into new markets. It is often a lower cost, lower risk business model for small businesses starting out in international trade. Retail e-commerce sales worldwide have seen a rapid increase in recent years. E-commerce can be a quick and effective way to attract more customers. By selling online, it is possible for you to reach a new global customer base with lower overhead than if sales were only made through physical stores.
How can I sell online?
From online marketplaces and platforms to social media and e-commerce websites, there are a wide range of digital sales options in addition to traditional or physical stores. Some of the most common ways to sell online are listed below.
- Marketplaces: These could be general or specialized by market sector (for example textiles, or electronics). General marketplaces are suitable to sell products or services with mass appeal when branding is not a business priority. In contrast, specialized marketplaces enable businesses to position their brands, find market niches, and offer customized value propositions to clients.
- Listing websites: These are useful for MSMEs with business models that focus on buying and re-selling common items. They are also appealing for businesses that sell by offering competitive prices or promoting additional features of goods and services advertised on the web.
- Social media: Social media platforms enable businesses to create customized webpages linked to online e-commerce sites and marketplaces with mass reach.
- Your own online webshop: Building and maintaining your own online shop can be effective, you can engage a commercial company /website builder to do this for you. This is the quickest, easiest route to creating a sleek, professional online presence for your ecommerce business. Many companies also offer competitively priced template sites that you customize. Or, if you have the knowledge and skill, you can code your own.
What should I consider before selling online?
A starting point is to plan a sound e-commerce sales strategy and get customer feedback on products and services. Either through social media or direct contact channels, you can reach out directly to potential customers to understand their needs and find target markets domestically and/or internationally.
Understanding your customer base can help you customize products and services and identify market entry options. Other things to consider include payment methods, as well as the shipping and returns policies that may be best suited for your customers. These may vary depending on the market.
You should also research market access requirements that may affect your products and services(see the Trade4MSMEs guides on services export potential and services contact points)Services Contact Points have more information. Many businesses can benefit from online communities and training courses about online sales methods and e-commerce strategies.
Links to Supporting Information
WTO (World Trade Organization) regional initiatives on e-commerce WTO | Electronic commerce
International Trade Centre (ITC) ecomConnect: ecomConnect | E-commerce Community Engagement Platform for Everyone Is an e-commerce online community
Trade4MSME Guide Export Potential Guide
Trade4MSME guide Services Contact Points
ITC Online training courses ITC SME Trade Academy – Catalogue (intracen.org)
Google Skillshop tutorials on using Google Ads Google Ads : Google (exceedlms.com) and Get a business online – Google Digital Garage (learndigital.withgoogle.com)
PayPal How to Sell Internationally | PayPal US