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 and attract more customers. Retail e-commerce sales worldwide have seen a rapid increase in recent years and reached a record high in 2020 with the Covid-19 pandemic. By selling online, it may be possible for you to reach a global customer base with lower overhead than if sales were only done through physical stores. Learn more from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Statista, and Small Business Trends.       

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, and make sure to visit Shopify to learn more.

  • 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 company webpage: Maintaining your own company webpage with more in-depth information about your products and offerings is important for online sales. Customers may find your products by chance through a search engine or may want to learn more after finding your items on an e-commerce marketplace.

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 guides on services export potential and services contact points). Learn more from this in E-commerce Guide and PayPal.

Where can I learn more? 

Many businesses can benefit from online communities and training courses about online sales methods and e-commerce strategies. Some of these resources are:

  • ecomConnect: This is an e-commerce online community that connects entrepreneurs, business owners, and individuals seeking to sell products and services online. Visit ecomConnect.
  • Course on virtual marketplaces for e-commerce initiatives: This course outlines the e-commerce marketplaces where businesses can begin selling their products or services. Visit the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) SME Trade Academy.
  • Course on creating quality e-commerce content: This course introduces MSMEs to the various types of e-commerce content for promoting and selling products and services online. Visit the ITC’s SME Trade Academy.
  • Google: Free small business training to set up and optimize a website, customer engagement and search engine optimization. Additionally, Google has a playlist of short training videos; recorded in-depth training presentations; a Skillshop of short tutorials on using Google Ads; and a free course on Localisation Essentials to make products and services work worldwide.