Mike Josypenko, helpline and special projects director at the Institute of Export, shares his wisdom, answering your most common export questions – from cultural barriers to issues around company size.
How to target overseas customers
Exporting presents an exciting opportunity for your business, particularly online. Not only can the internet introduce you to a global market, it also has the potential to fuel exceptionally fast growth. There are currently more than two billion internet users in 200 countries, with nearly 100 million of them in English-speaking countries. But how can you target these international customers? Selling abroad isn’t as complicated as you may think – we’ve compiled a simple set of steps to help you increase your visibility overseas.
Offer international delivery
Many companies still only deliver to the UK, with some not even reaching out to the islands and Highlands. By offering international delivery, you’ll instantly reach a global market. Provide information on shipping costs, taxes and duties and estimated arrival times for each country targeted.
Make your delivery charges affordable
When we asked overseas shoppers what was preventing them from buying from UK websites, most of them mentioned delivery charges. Therefore, it’s vital that retailers offer affordable delivery to overseas customers, otherwise they’re unlikely to buy. Other research also suggests that the cost of carriage should not exceed a third of the price of the goods, and that free delivery is an attractive option.
Be clear about customs charges
Because of the many websites that contain intimidating and punitive warnings suggesting that customs charges are prohibitive, lots of non-EU shoppers are worried about them. In fact, sales within the EU incur no customs charges at all.
Make sure international payments work
It should be easy to take money from an online transaction. Most international buyers use MasterCard or Visa, and Maestro is another service becoming increasingly popular. You may also want to consider offering PayPal.
Translate your website
If you’ve identified a target market overseas that’s non-English speaking, translate your website and make sure it’s searchable in the target language.
Create a tool that will translate your prices into euros, dollars or the currency of your target markets.
Provide customer support
Unless you’re targeting a country where a majority of the population can speak English (eg Sweden or the Netherlands), it’s important to offer some degree of support in the local language. Provide an email address, phone number or live chat support, and remember to consider time differences.
Check out the local competition
Make sure you understand the local pricing structures, service expectations and nuances of your target country.