It’s never been so easy to sell to niche markets, anywhere in the world. Globalization has opened up whole new markets in cross-border trade. Global e-commerce will reach US$4.5trn by 2021, so it’s up to you to find your overseas markets and grasp the opportunities.
Is this really happening? Demand is high: 57% of online consumers bought overseas in the last six months. And we don’t have to look too hard to find great examples of international export success.
Quest Musique is a Canadian musical instrument retailer based in Winnipeg. It’s a successful local business with a handful of locations across the area. But it also receives online orders from as far away as Australia and New Zealand. Quest Musique’s Mike Fondse explains, “We’ve been offering overseas delivery for a number of years now, but started actively pursuing an international market in 2013.” Mike has found that customers in many parts of the world struggle to find what they want from local suppliers, so they look online and find what they want from further afield. “For our customers in Australia and New Zealand, we’ve found that both a lack of variety and affordable locally sold products have created a demand for retailers like ourselves ... In some cases it’s more cost effective for the consumer to order from a Canadian retailer and have the product shipped. This way they can avoid long import wait times and distributor mark-ups.”
Mike and Quest Musique do face overseas export challenges, but they’re easier than ever to overcome. “We deal with a lot of first-time international customers,” continues Mike, “and sometimes they need a bit of help and reassurance when it comes to dealing with importing goods ... Shipping expense, fraud prevention, lost parcels and CITES permits can also be obstacles. Fortunately, since expanding our international business in 2013, we’ve learned how to successfully handle these issues by working with companies like PayPal and DHL ... Our e-commerce presence is absolutely everything when it comes to international sales. We do some business through third-party marketplaces like eBay and Reverb.com and this along with our own e-commerce platform has allowed for us to expand our business in ways that wouldn’t normally be possible with just brick and mortar locations.”
As Mike Fondse explained above, exporting does have its challenges. Choosing the wrong provider and the wrong methods can make it expensive, but shipping to customers anywhere in the world is more cost-effective than you might think. Despite local import taxes and customs charges, you can still be completely clear about shipping costs.
There are very serious but practical considerations around packing: no matter how insignificant or valuable your product, it pays to protect the goods when you’re transporting them thousands of miles across the globe.
First, assess the shape and weight of the item to decide how fragile it’s likely to be. Next, pack the item using good quality double-wall boxes, keeping 6cm clearance between the item and the walls of the box. And don’t leave spaces. Then, seal the package with tape at least 48mm wide, using an ‘H’ taping method to seal all edges and seams. Use bubble wrap and good quality tape, and always ensure the item is tightly packed – movement means momentum and if the package gets dropped, momentum could mean *crunch*. Finally, apply a shipping label to the top of the package and make sure it’s clearly displayed and on a single surface.
Many e-commerce companies are scared off by potential costly export licenses. Luckily, most goods don’t require any such licence; the barriers to entry really are lower than you might imagine. The most important factor is to find your tribe. Identify your target market and offer them safe, reliable shipping options to their location. Your happy customers need never know how many they really are.
"The great thing about the internet is you can launch a product, and within just a few hours, people will tell you what they think about it."
Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube