A recent report by the IORMA Global Consumer Commerce Knowledge Centre predicted that UK online retail exports will reach £60bn by 2018. This equates to a major opportunity for smaller retailers, but that’s not to say that it will be straight forward.
Successful exporting depends on an understanding of the market you are selling in, knowing where the best opportunities are and how to make the most of those opportunities. That’s why many smaller retailers in the UK are using online marketplaces to sell abroad.
There many marketplace options for a smaller seller to consider: the big boys – Amazon Marketplace (which now accounts for more than half of products sold on Amazon) and eBay; the specialists, such as notonthehighstreet.com and Etsy; and any number of high street retailers that have launched their own marketplaces.
Such online marketplaces can a fantastic way of reaching customers in other countries. They allow a small retailer to establish an international presence without the cost and commitment of physical premises and without much of the red tape that can come with selling direct. This is what to look out for as you begin to sell your products internationally.
That’s why finding the right marketplace to sell your products on is so important. If you are selling direct and do not have the benefit of speaking the language of your intended new market, then carrying out the necessary research and due diligence can be a challenge. But using a marketplace takes much of that strain from you. There should be an obvious product category for yours to fit within and you can easily assess what else is sold on that marketplace and what the opportunity is for you.
Perhaps one of the biggest risks when selling internationally is fraud. It is much easier to get away with placing an order fraudulently from another country, as few police forces are interested in spending much time on such relatively small-scale crime. Although credit cards come with fraud prevention systems like address checking, not all of them work with overseas addresses.
This is where selling via a marketplace can offer a small retailer much better protection when selling abroad than selling direct. People are less likely to attempt fraud when buying via an established brand, even if they are buying via an online seller in a marketplace. There is an assumption that security is much tighter, and that assumption is correct. A good marketplace will protect both buyer and seller, providing a private messaging system that prevents fraud and keeps the transaction firmly within the marketplace.
Help is there if you need it
Selling internationally can be daunting for a small retailer, but using an online marketplace is an ideal way to begin trading abroad. The main thing to remember though, is that help is at hand. A good marketplace will provide its sellers with an account manager, so don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need. Also, UK Trade & Investment’s (UKTI) e-Exporting Programme is a good resource help UK companies and brands sell products overseas through online channels.