[This is a sponsored article with Amazon Global Selling.]
For many businesses, common goals include scaling their operations and expanding their presence across geographical e-commerce markets.
With the pandemic forcing most to venture into e-commerce, more entrepreneurs are now looking to venture beyond Malaysia’s borders.
However, this could be an intimidating task. It means entering markets with an unfamiliar language, legal processes, or culture.
Setting these factors aside, a seller has to think about the technical infrastructure available, services offered, customer support, and the duration taken for last-mile fulfilment to end customers.
To get an idea of how these business aspects can be navigated, we interviewed several local businesses that have built an international presence to learn their strategies for selling products internationally.
Understand the region you are selling to
As with any business, you need to understand the needs and wants of a customer through market research.
For example, Connie from Glittery Craft, a business that specialises in DIY party decorations, uses services offered by social media platforms and Google Trends in order to determine what customers in those regions are looking for.
Wong Kia Chik (KC), founder of More Web Services uses big data analytics to conduct keyword research for individual regions.
“For example, a bicycle tyre brand that is famous in the US might not be the same in Malaysia. Even the keywords customers use to search for their product could be different,” he said, adding that it’s important to look up alternate keywords too.
What are cyclists searching for nowadays? How many times has this keyword been searched for in a month? These are some questions he would ask himself. “My knowledge and experience as a Google Adwords specialist helps me a lot in this case.”
Another reason for conducting market research is to cater to the specific needs of customers in different regions.
For example, Handmade Heroes offers country exclusive skincare and hair products like the Drop Dead Gorgeous Dry Shampoo for Light Hair that’s specially formulated for regions with colder climates.
Outsource your order fulfilment and customer service
One major headache when it comes to handling an international e-commerce business is order fulfilment. It is the process of receiving an order, processing it, packing the product and shipping it to the customer.
Handmade Heroes and Glittery Craft noted that their biggest challenge without a proper fulfilment service was that they had to not only handle the storage, but also physically pack, label, and ship orders to international customers themselves.
“We were busy managing operations and [had] no time to innovate and grow our business,” Lynsey from Handmade Heroes added.
When a seller has to manually handle a multitude of orders at once, it’s also easier for issues to slip through the cracks.
Plus, not only do you need to do your own research on which courier service ships to a specific country, but any disputes or refunds must be handled by your business too.
A solution to streamline the entire fulfilment process is by taking advantage of services like Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) where you can send your products for storage in any of the 175+ Amazon fulfilment centres available globally through Amazon’s global logistics infrastructure.
If an Amazon customer in that region makes a purchase, the fulfilment centres will ship it directly to them within two days, allowing customers to get their purchases faster.
KC said, “It simplified many processes and most significantly, you [are] able to compete with the local sellers of that marketplace.”
Plan out your inventory
Local shipping does not require as much planning as businesses aren’t required to stock up their products in fulfilment centres.
But if you’re planning on expanding your business globally, Glittery Craft highlighted, “Longer term sales forecast and inventory planning [are] required for shipping to overseas [through] FBA, because [of] the need [to keep] stock in foreign warehouses.”
It was a point that KC and Handmade Heroes also agreed on.
Choose the right service provider to support your business
Another aspect that the interviewees mentioned is ensuring that your products are compliant with each countries’ laws and regulations.
Your business also has to file taxes for each country your business operates. But looking for service providers to help you with these processes can be both a daunting and time-consuming task.
With that in mind, both KC and Connie leverage Amazon’s Service Provider Network which assists in product compliance, taxes, payment, marketing, advertisement, and more.
What should brands be cautious of when expanding overseas?
When asked for tips on expanding a business overseas, Glittery Craft insisted that “not understanding the foreign tax, custom, and product regulatory requirement” is a big mistake as there were a few cases where a seller’s products were confiscated.
Handmade Heroes, on the other hand, suggested being culturally sensitive when advertising your products as what may seem appropriate here might be inappropriate in other regions.
Last but not least, always register your business trademarks internationally if possible to protect your business and your brand. For sellers who onboard with Amazon, this can be done on their brand registry.
The strategies that Glittery Craft, KC, and Handmade Heroes have shared are just some pointers for local sellers to start selling overseas.
For more knowledge sharing of best practices, you can check out Amazon Seller Ambassadors and get connected to Amazon seller experts to further your global business.
Alternatively, you can catch the upcoming Amazon webinar with partners like Axis and Matrade that’s happening April 21, 2022. There you can find out more about how SMEs can start their cross-border e-commerce journey and how the aforementioned partners can help.
- Learn more about Amazon Global Selling here.
- Check out Glittery Craft and Handmade Heroes on Amazon.
- Find out more about the webinar here.
Featured Image Credit: Connie from Glittery Craft / KC / Lynsey from Handmade Heroes