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3 signs your online business is ready for international expansion

Expanding your business internationally is never an easy endeavor, but it’s often a necessary next step in growing your customer base and increasing revenue. If you’re confident in your product or service and are looking for new opportunities, it may be time to look past your local market and go international.

It’s important to keep in mind that no matter how successful your business currently is, you will never feel quite ready for the seemingly endless supply of obstacles that may come up in today’s digital, hyper-connected world.  And that’s okay.

Based on my experience in the global eCommerce ecosystem, here are three signs that your business may already be in better shape than you think:

1. You are excited at the thought of reaching customers internationally (but understand there will be hurdles).

First thing’s first — you’re excited to expand your business beyond local borders! International growth can be a big undertaking, but at the end of the day, it promises access to an enormous customer base and the potential for significant growth.

Having said that, it’s crucial not to forget the basics. Will your product be welcomed in every geography? How will you ship it? Will you need to translate packaging and advertising materials? How about compliance with the local regulations concerning taxes, risk and payments? All of these questions are vital to think about and answer before you take your business abroad. What you’ll ultimately find is that it’s the little things that matter most and that will ensure your resources are allocated in a way that doesn’t hurt your sales, cause legal issues or leave customers dissatisfied.

Have you considered using an online marketplace such as Amazon, Rakuten, Linio or one of the hundreds of other marketplaces around the world?  Partnering with an established and popular marketplace may give you the best chance to cost-effectively reach customers and provide support in a way that they’re familiar with. The marketplace will also give you assistance in addressing many of the previously mentioned concerns, like shipping logistics and localized marketing. This will reduce the burden of establishing your own distribution channels in an unfamiliar market and ultimately enable your business to grow at a much quicker rate across more regions.

2. You have the right combination of high-level and localized operations in place.

When thinking of your international expansion plan, you are confident that you will be able to operate efficiently. This requires deciding how much direct presence you will have in each region, if any, as well as if you will need local partners to handle specific aspects of your operations.

If you sell through marketplaces, you might not need to put any resources on the ground in any of the international markets where you’re selling.

No combination will ever be the same for every company, but it’s important to find the approach that works best for you. Depending on your product or service, needs will vary and it is up to you to decide what approach will best enable your company to handle the scaling demands of your expanding customer base.

3. You feel comfortable with the suppliers and customers you will work with abroad.

Thinking about growing your list of suppliers doesn’t make you nervous. While you previously may have been used to working with only a select few vendors, taking on international expansion means that your production will inevitably grow. Being able to trust that your new suppliers will deliver quality products and adhere to agreed payments terms will be vital to your  success.

Additionally, you must be confident in your ability to deliver a quality experience for your international customers. New customers will likely not feel comfortable sending large sums of money to a foreign company they’ve never worked with, nor will you want to send products to a customer abroad without receiving payment beforehand. This is where an online escrow solution can come in handy. By providing a reliable middleman to facilitate your transactions securely, a digital escrow platform can effectively eliminate the distrust that often slows the execution of international transactions, and mitigate the risks involved with global growth.

While expanding internationally can seem daunting, it cannot be denied that the growth of eCommerce over the past decade has led to the development of numerous solutions that make it easier to do business abroad. If your company identifies early on where potential issues will arise, or which tasks will require significant internal effort, there is most likely a solution that exists and can solve this pain point. In fact, with the growth of the global payments sector and the boom of online marketplaces, any company with a good product or service can succeed in expanding globally.