International Expansion

Strategies for successful international expansion

If you run a thriving online business in your own country, it’s only natural that the time will come for you to look to international expansion. However, you should consider a few things before you get started. The tactics that work well at home won’t automatically lead to success abroad. Of course, a successful company will already have lots of experience when it comes to organising and implementing business. However, with global trading, you are tapping into a completely new target market with different consumer behaviours.



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Choosing a suitable country for an online shop

Firstly, you need to consider which country you would like to expand your online operations to. Often, people try to expand into countries with high sales like France or the UK. These countries have good infrastructure and lots of potential. However, the marketing costs for these countries are extremely high. Countries like Denmark, Latvia and Poland usually turn out to be more economical. These countries are potentially better options for a successful online shop.


Which platform is best suited to the Chinese market?

Many people swear by the Tmall platform for planning a Chinese online shop. However, the installation alone costs between €30,000 and €40,000. You can always decide to join Tmall later if you want to step up your profile. Besides this, competition is so high that only about 10% of local sellers actually profit from it. Especially to begin with, popular platforms like WeChat seem to be just as profitable.


What distinguishes the American market?

Of course, online retailers in the USA have the great advantage of being able to provide services to almost an entire continent using just one language and one currency. But when you look a little closer differences start to appear. In many areas Spanish is the prevailing language of communication. The fact that there are over 7,500 different VAT rates in place for each region in the USA makes the matter even more confusing.

Translating your website

When you have chosen a country, your own website must be translated into the respective language of that country. Here it is absolutely essential that you invest in a competent translation service that follows the native speaker principle. A translation is the only way to tap into the mentality of the new target group. By striking the right chord with your customer, you gain their trust. This is also urgently needed because, after all, as an foreign trader you won’t be able to offer a local point of call. A nonchargeable hotline can have a positive effect in some circumstances. However, to ensure their success, your telephone customer support team must have mastered the respective language perfectly. Likewise, you should clarify whether you will need to set up a customer service team that is open at night. This will be relevant if you wish to expand your global business to a country in a different time zone. It’s also just as important to carefully research standard prices on the respective market before you make the leap.



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Can only large companies afford to trade on a global scale?

You may consider opening a new office in your target market country. Recruiting new staff who speak the relevant language fluently will also be on the agenda. All this can easily blow your budget. But there a far more cost-effective ways to do this. You should enquire as to whether a local contractor could take over your logistics, customer service or returns system, for example. By outsourcing, you can stick to your budget far more effectively and concentrate on your core business.


Which delivery service would you like to offer?

It is generally claimed that customers are scared off by long delivery times. However, it’s become apparent that high delivery costs and additional hidden expenses like taxes have a detrimental effect on consumers’ willingness to buy on a global scale. According to studies, buyers will accept a delivery time of an average of six and a half days. This will allow you to differentiate the customs of various individual countries. While a delivery time of only three and a half days is tolerated in Turkey, in Russia up to 12.4 days is allowed for delivery.


You must always keep your promises

Somewhat longer delivery times with cross border purchases do not have as negative an effect as previously thought. Offering the additional option of express delivery is a good idea. For a fee, you promise the customer that their purchase will be delivered within a certain period of time. You should stick to this promise unconditionally. If an unexpected wait or delay is announced, the customer must be informed immediately, either by email via text message. Most people respond well to not being left in the dark about a change in plans. Along with this, you are taking the pressure off your customer service staff and sparing them awkward phone calls.


Payment methods

Currencies themselves can be adjusted on various shop systems without a problem. Many of them process the entire payment including the invoice, the currency conversion and the payment reminder system. But you should be aware that foreign visitors to your online shop will always prefer payment methods that are well-established in their own country. So the French use the Carte Bleue, for example. Dutch people, on the other hand, pay using iDeal, while Chinese customers usually pay with Union Pay or Alipay. Your potential customer should always have the opportunity to access a system of payment they trust. Otherwise, you risk incurring enormous losses in sales.


Legal regulations

Even though multiple regulations are uniformly implemented within the EU for online trade, differences often still arise from country to country. For example, many individual countries demand different terms and conditions. In order to prevent the need for written warnings, you should take care when choosing a translator and ensure that they are competent for the job.


Localising your internet presence makes for sensible expansion

Not only should specific product descriptions be translated into the respective language, but the entire site must also follow country-specific customs. Here, localisation proves itself to be hugely useful. In this way, the potential customer abroad comes upon a website which looks like one provided by a regional supplier. If your customers can smoothly navigate your site, they will quickly begin to trust your company. Through this, visitors to your online shop will be reassured that they can buy products in a foreign online shop.



You shouldn’t take it for granted that just because you run a shrewd online business at home, you’ll also be successful abroad. However, with extensive market analysis, precise translations and optimal adaptation to the respective international market, nothing stands in your way on your journey to running a profitable online shop.

Good luck!