Selling Internationally, a $2.5 Trillion eCommerce Opportunity

March 24, 2015 Alex McEachern

One of the biggest allures of selling online is the ability to sell to anyone at anytime! You are not restricted to the foot traffic you can generate in your hometown, you have access to the world. This presents a huge opportunity for your ecommerce site, if you are willing to take advantage.

While ecommerce allows you to sell anywhere at anytime very few ecommerce merchants truly take advantage. There is a big beautiful world outside your home countries borders waiting to be sold to. This post will go over the opportunity as well as tips to help you sell internationally using ecommerce.


The Opportunity

A study by emarketer predicts that this year ecommerce sales worldwide will reach $1.6 trillion in sales. That number is expected to grow to $2.5 trillion by 2018. This increase in ecommerce activity will likely be fuelled by a surge in the world’s consuming class. A study by PayPal and Nielsen estimates that the worlds consuming class will spend $30 trillion in 2025.selling internationally worldwide ecommerce sales

But what does this mean if you are selling online? It means more and more people will be looking to buy the goods you sell in the coming years. This is an opportunity that should not be ignored! Here are some tips to get your ecommerce site ready to sell internationally.


Tips for an International Presence

When looking to start selling internationally there are a few things you must consider. It is foolish, and potentially costly to dive right into international ecommerce without first considering a few things.

You will want to know the costs associated with doing business in another country and you will want to make sure your ecommerce site is providing an experience that is optimized for an international audience. So let’s get into it.

Understand Regulations and Requirements

One of the greatest barriers to selling your products internationally is keeping tabs on all the country-specific regulations. Every country has a list of regulations for international trade. These regulations include: tariffs, duties, taxes, and banned products. It is impossible for anyone to know all these regulations off the top of their head, so there are a ton of tools to help you navigate them.

The most accurate information you can find on country-specific regulations is to check with your country’s department of commerce. If you are a U.S. based ecommerce merchant you can check  You will also want to check shipping compliance too.

A great resource for checking shipping compliance is to use UPS’s “Import Compliance Tool” (you will need to register for an account). This tool allows you to check specifics between your home country and the destination country. You can also get duty rates and sales tax figures from Duty Calculator’s country guides.selling internationally worldwide tip

Know your Landed Cost

Your “landed cost” is the total cost you will pay to have your item arrive at your international customers door. This cost includes the price to ship as well as the taxes and duties that will be applied.

This is very important for you to know! If you quote shipping at $15 and there is a $30 duty tact on, your customer might not be willing to accept that. In which case you will be charged the freight and have the item be sent back.selling internationally landed cost

Major shipping companies like FedEx realize this is a barrier to selling internationally and many of these companies have tools to calculate the “landed cost.” Check to see if your shipping provider offers a similar tool, before you start looking for other options online. No one knows the true cost of shipping your product better than the shipping company.selling internationally worldwide tip2

Be Aware of Cultural Taboos

Taboo, something that is proscribed by society as improper or unacceptable. Taboos vary across culture, country and even community. If you are selling internationally you will want to tailor your ecommerce messaging to make sure you are not saying or providing something seen as “taboo.”selling internationally cultural taboo

For example selling green hats in China will not be a profitable business. A green hat given to a man signifies that his wife is cheating on him. You should also avoid sending your goods packaged in yellow boxes. Gifts that come in yellow are reserved for the dead.

Little things like these are difficult to know but can save you a world of embarrassment. If you want to see customs and taboos for popular countries checkout PayPal's PassPort. The tool is a must if you are looking into international ecommerce.selling internationally worldwide tip 3

Allow International Shoppers to Shop Their Way

While it is common practice for North Americans to pay for ecommerce orders with a credit card, it is not the case everywhere. Many markets prefer other forms of payment over a credit card. For example, in China the preferred method is Alipay, in France it is debit, and in Germany it is bank transfers.selling internationally countries prefer non-credit

Stats from Credit Card World

If you are focusing on selling internationally you will want to offer a variety of payment options. This variety ensures that international shoppers can make a purchase in a way they are comfortable with.

It also helps if you allow shoppers to browse in a currency and language they understand. realized that the majority of their site views were coming from outside of their home country (Denmark). To make sure they could convert this traffic they introduced a drop down to select your country.selling internationally slikhaar

When a country is selected on the site it displays the content in that language and shows pricing in that currency. This ensures that each shopper regardless of where they are has an experience they are used to and comfortable with.selling internationally worldwide tip 4

Take Advantage of International Marketing Opportunities

If you are in commerce you have heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These two shopping days are two of the biggest for North American retailers. What if you could get that sales spike more than once a year? With an international presence you can.

There are other big shopping days around the world that many retailers are unaware of. For example in China, November 11th is “Singles Day” which sees $8.2 billion spent in a 24 hour period. There are tons of other big international shopping holidays like Diwali, Chinese New Year, and Brazil’s Lovers Day.selling internationally foreign holidays

Savvy ecommerce marketers can focus these markets during key times of the year. Knowing about these big international shopping days can really boost your ecommerce stores bottom line. There is one more added marketing benefit of selling internationally.

One countries summer is another countries winter. Selling internationally gives you the ability to increase your sales in the slow season. For example, if you sell Kiteboards on the east coast of America you can target the Australian or New Zealand market while your home market is buried in snow.selling internationally worldwide tip 5

There is a great big world of potential ecommerce customers out there. To truly take advantage of this massive opportunity you should discover which international ecommerce markets make sense for your store and what you sell. To find which market is right for you read “The Complete Guide to International eCommerce Markets.”

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