Global Selling Adventures
Our next goal as a small business isn’t so small; We want to sell overseas. Now, this may seem simple. All you have to do is wrap a swimsuit and ship it over to your many customers in the US… right? I. WISH. Turns out, selling overseas is a lot more difficult than it sounds. We spoke to Andrea Millar, who owned a shoe brand called I AM RAQUEL, who sold to countries including New Zealand, America and the UK. We asked her a few questions, and here’s how she responded:
What made you decide to start selling overseas?
To be honest it wasn’t a business decision to start selling overseas. Our website which was a Shopify off the shelf ecommerce platform had the capability to accept overseas orders and we added a cost for shipping to that capability and then sales occurred organically at first which made us realise there was an overseas market for our products.
Which countries did you target?
We didn’t necessarily target any specific region, but we attracted customers mostly from the USA, New Zealand and the UK – but we got orders from Germany, France and Singapore too. I’ll explain in the next question why it is that we didn’t target countries, we targeted audiences.
How did you reach overseas audiences (marketing, ect)?
Google search engine helped us out quite a bit, and we also hired Facebook campaign experts to target audiences who liked or followed similar products to ours. The audiences weren’t targeted geographically, but by interests and other brands they followed so they were spread out all over the world. This is a more precise way to appeal to your customer and yields better results.
How did you deal with taxes?
Taxes were dealt with by DHL and were paid by the receiver, however very few countries incurred a tax to the customer.
How did you deal with returns?
Returns were tricky from overseas because – like all other ecommerce businesses – we incurred the costs of return. We had the product picked up and returned by DHL. Our items were bulky and heavy so returns were expensive for our business. The key is to have measurements and lots and lots of images of products on the website so customers can make the right choice on size. Change of mind purchases are inevitable and part of playing in the e-commerce space. E-commerce is a low overhead space – compared to bricks and mortar – so my rationale was that absorbing returns was economical in comparison.
Did you need a special bank account?
No we didn’t, the website treated revenue of all sales the same way and into the same bank account.
What are the advantages of overseas selling?
Open your product to more like-minded customers and new markets. This expands brand awareness and creates extra sales.
What are the disadvantages of overseas selling?
The disadvantages are the extra admin – such as having to set up international carrier accounts, liaising over email with customers in different time zones, not being in control of delivery times because every country is different in the way they process imports. One item took three months in the middle east so it was a constant stress as the customer was understandably upset. It’s also expensive, the cost of shipping exceeded what the customer could feasibly pay for shipping and returns were at our own cost too. So managing shipping costs is paramount.
So where does this leave us? What I’ve taken away from this is:
Selling overseas is definitely worth it, but to find customers you need clever online advertising campaigns that focus on interests not regions.
Taxes are not necessarily as complicated as we first thought, but shipping and returns are.
We need a budget to pay for advertising and the increased cost of shipping and returns, because it’s unlikely customers will want or be able to pay for it.
Well, now I had best get on the phone to DHL and Australia Post and see if there’s someone out there who can help us with advertising! And in the meantime, if you live in France, UK, NZ or the US, we have updated the website SO WE CAN NOW TAKE YOUR ORDER. You just may need to be patient while we work out how to ship it to you!