Shopify Ecosystem

What You Need to Know About International Selling



Shopping internationally has gotten easier, but selling products across the world remains a challenge for most online businesses. International shipping has its own set of complex caveats, but it’s become more accessible over the years. New tools and resources have made it possible for small online businesses to sell internationally, thanks to innovations in worldwide shipping and exchanging currency.

Start With A Simple Plan

Selling internationally doesn’t have to be complicated – in fact, regular people do it every day. Selling platforms like eBay make it easy to sell internationally, with their Global Shipping Program. eBay takes care of currency exchanges and takes all responsibility in the event of a lost package. Your customer will pay more for international shipping than they would for domestic shipping – otherwise, the transaction works identically to a domestic purchase.


The downside to eBay’s Global Shipping Program comes when products must be returned. eBay doesn’t directly handle the returns, so you’ll need to communicate with your buyer to arrange returns. However, eBay can give you an accurate idea of what your market is overseas before you invest in any expensive tools. You can’t be sure overseas customers will want your products without running a trial, and eBay is a fantastic way to size up your international market. 


Optimize Your Business to Prevent Returns

Returns and chargebacks are unavoidable, despite how unwelcome they may be. There’s no way to prevent returns, and they’re particularly frustrating for overseas transactions.


It’s true that returns are unavoidable, but you can reduce their frequency. Keep a database of returns, and list reasons for the return. Focus on problem areas, such as shipping and packing, or inadequate product descriptions. Identify ways you can improve your products, your shipping, and your accuracy. This will reduce your number of overseas returns, ultimately saving you time and money.


Understand International Tax Implications

When you ship a product internationally, it becomes an “import” for your buyer. They assume all responsibility of product imports, so you won’t have to worry about their local taxes.


That being said, there are situations when you will be affected by local taxes and international duties. Many times, international customers aren’t aware that taxes and duties are their responsibility. When a customer doesn’t pay import duties, they won’t receive their product – they’ll receive a bill.


Many times, international customers  who haven’t paid their import duties will claim that their product never showed up – even though it’s waiting in customs. They may leave poor reviews, or hound your customer service department for a refund or re-shipment. It’s best to make your customer’s import tax liabilities clear in your shipping description, in order to prevent any misunderstandings.


Once your company crosses a certain VAT threshold, international taxes and duties will become your responsibility. You’ll need to research international VAT thresholds to find out when you should register, in order to avoid any major international shipping headaches. 


Invest in Proper Translations for Your Products

Have you ever shopped from an international business, only to find that the product descriptions make little sense? When you copy and paste your product description into an online translator, you get a “literal translation” of the text. Literal translations don’t sound natural and usually, make little sense to your customer. They also sound lazy, because it’s clear you used an online translator to create the content.


Your product descriptions are important, so work with a native speaker to create effective product descriptions in other languages. Freelance translators usually offer their services online – a quick Google search should give you a number of results to choose from. Work with a native speaker that understands your goals in order to create effective, multi-lingual product descriptions. 


Do you sell internationally? Why or why not? What helped you make the jump from domestic selling to selling worldwide? Let us know in the comments below!


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