7 Tips to increase your international sales

By Chris Dawson February 22, 2018 - 1:42 pm

One in ten UK SME online retailers don’t import or export goods, according to a study commissioned by Royal Mail. One in four don’t import any goods and 30% don’t export. Despite this, there is a keen appetite for exporting with almost two thirds aiming to increase international sales revenues in 2018.

In December 2017 alone, the value of UK exports and imports was £29.6 billion and £39.1 billion, respectively, according to HM Revenue & Customs. Targeting overseas customers presents a huge opportunity for UK SME online retailers.

“The ecommerce sector is becoming increasingly globalised and SME online retailers especially should look at opportunities to expand the international side of their business. There are currently more than two billion internet users in 200 countries, with nearly 100 million of them in English speaking countries. It is a particularly good time for UK businesses to explore exporting options, given the current state of the pound. At Royal Mail, we already support many retail businesses and we look forward to working with even more of them in the future.”
– A spokesperson, Royal Mail Parcels

7 Tips to increase your international sales

To start targeting international customers or to increase your visibility overseas, Royal Mail have seven simple tips:

  1. Make your delivery charges affordable

    Retailers should offer affordable delivery to overseas customers, otherwise they won’t buy. The cost of carriage should not exceed one third of the price of the goods and free delivery is an attractive option for many customers.

  2. Be clear about customs charges

    Most non-EU shoppers are concerned about customs charges – many websites have intimidating warnings, suggesting that customs charges can often be prohibitive. However, sales within the EU incur no customs charges at present.

  3. Make sure international payment works

    Most international buyers use MasterCard or Visa and Maestro is becoming increasingly popular. Also consider offering PayPal.

  4. Translate your website

    If you have identified a target market overseas that is non-English speaking, then translate your website and make sure it is searchable in the target language.

  5. Convert prices

    Create a tool that will translate your prices into euros, dollars or the currency of your target markets.

  6. Provide customer support

    Unless targeting a country where a majority of the population can speak English (e.g. Sweden, Netherlands), it is important to offer some degree of support in the local language. Offer an email, phone number or live chat support and remember to consider time differences.

  7. Check out the local competition

    Make sure you understand the local pricing structures, service expectations and nuances of your target country.

  • Andy R
    2 years ago

    Point 1 about affordable delivery charges is a nonsense.

    Our delivery costs in the UK are rising faster than many other countries and this puts us at a huge disadvantage.

    Unless Royal Mail and other carriers stop ripping customers off with massive above-inflation annual price rises for international items, this is only going to get worse.

    There is no good reason why countries such as Germany can send items to us, for example, at nearly half the cost we are being charged to send to them.

    Deutsche Post Germany to UK approx 70p
    Royal Mail UK to Germany £1.27 from Mar 18

    This is the biggest obstacle facing small businesses competing internationally. On Ebay for example, the price of sending a small item to Europe from the UK has risen by 50% in the last 6 years. You can’t factor this in for low value items, so you just lost those sales.

    • 2 years ago

      The good news is that if you find RM too expensive you can choose other courier services.

      For selling items into Europe from the UK have you tried using the eBay Global Shipping Program (GSP), you may find international postage is just as simple as selling to someone in the UK.

      I have not tried using it myself yet but it seems as simple as sending items to Argos when using the Click & Collect service.

      The down side to GSP is that you have to send each order individually regardless of the buyer making 2/3 orders. But I really do not see that as being a big problem, just annoying as not as profitable when you offer free postage.

  • Steve P
    2 years ago

    If you are trying to sell on price why on earth would you use eBay’s GSP??
    Simply guaranteed to lose you every sale.

    There are reasons for using GSP but I don’t believe price is one.

    • 2 years ago

      @Steve – With GSP you only pay the Uk cost of the postage, so selling to people in other countries does not incur extra postage costs.

    • 2 years ago

      If you’re selling little bits and pieces and aren’t bothered about tracking, then Royal Mail wins on price, hands down.

      When you get to small parcels around 1kg, there isn’t always a lot of difference, maybe just a few pounds. That shouldn’t put off many buyers.

      When you get to heavier items, 10kg or 20kg parcels, GSP should usually beat Royal Mail on price and can often beat the couriers too.

      All the above depends on the country you ship to. The European ones aren’t bad and that’s where most of our GSP sales seem to go.

  • Nick
    2 years ago

    Tyler – No courier delivers large letters at large letter prices that Andy was referring to, so you can’t get couriers to ship a large letter to Germany for around 70p like Germans can send to UK as Andy had indicated.

    Sure you can use the GSP but that still costs the buyer more in shipping as they are paying for shipping to the GSP then shipping from there to their country, where that is paid to eBay/Pitney Bowes rather than us. This is still a lot more than 70p in overall postage costs.

    A downside that I am concerned with using GSP is if the item needs to be returned by the buyer, as I understand GSP won’t handle that and we then have to use expensive international return deliveries. It is not like using FBA.

    Last time I used GSP, someone from Norway bought from us then complained that they were charged a fortune for express shipping and it had taken over a week to reach them, yet we were at the time offering 3-5 day delivery terms, and they had not paid us to upgrade to next day delivery in the U.K., they paid a lot of money to GSP for a small package to be express delivered to them, but that only covers express delivery from GSP to them, not from the seller, and we had no visibility of them buying this delivery add-on. All we could see is that they bought from us using GSP and we could not see what else they paid on top of our purchase price (which we provide with free P&P). Buyers still seem to be confused by this.

    • 2 years ago

      I think if a buyer is buying from another country they would expect to pay more in postage, be it through the GSP system or you posting it yourself. And those costs would be displayed at the time of buying the item.

      Although I recently had a buyer on Amazon expect us to send to Germany for the same price, even though we do not advertise on the German site.

      Interesting info on the GSP service.

      You would think that eBay would show the expected date of delivery to the buyers, taking into consideration the time it would take to get to them before they sent it on, are you sure the buyer did not have that information, or did they not take into consideration that items would take longer.

      Did you question eBay on the problem?

  • Nick
    2 years ago

    Hmm – looks like I cannot post a reply to a reply, so please keep my previous comment as I cannot repost as a reply.

  • Iggs
    2 years ago

    With ref to all of the above, I find the GSP to be a fantastic service all round.

    In my experience buyers are given an accurate delivery timescale on purchase – contrary to whatever the Norwegian buyer is talking about there is no “express” GSP option offered.

    So long as you dispatch the item within your set timescales you’re covered against late delivery defects and eBay will also remove any negative feedback with regard to delivery no questions asked.

    Out of the hundreds of parcels I have sent using GSP this year, I’ve had one go missing ( to Israel ). Buyer opened a case and eBay refunded him immediately at no cost to me. Another massive plus.

    And yep if a buyer claims not as described and wants to return the item it’s at your cost, but surely that’s no different from posting yourself.

    Oh, and buyers can combine shipping by adding items to their basket before purchase. If they do that then you can send all together with one reference number.

    Cost wise, I find the prices to be on a par ( cheaper on some occasions ) than I can get on account tracked and signed with RMG. And it opens up places that I would never dream of sending to before.

    Remember reading someone on here saying they felt very smug when sending through GSP. I second that. Absolutely beats the hell out of chasing RMG for parcels addressed to Spain behind sent to China, chasing buyers who haven’t picked up their items, not to mention the massive farce that is trying to get compo out of Royal Mail when it frequently goes wrong.

    My two cents, let the shooting down in flames commence lol.

    • 2 years ago

      That’s a positive response for GSP.

      I think, unlike people who use Argos Click & Collect service, customers that use GSP would definitely buy items together or they get charged twice for GSP postage.

      Although I thought I signed up for it I do not think I have it set up, so will need to contact eBay support for some advice on what I need to do.

      Returns are a downside, but we get so few I don’t think it should be a problem.

  • Iggs
    2 years ago

    The other big plus I forgot to mention regarding returns is that for your average change of mind ( buyer pays ) return you only have to refund the outgoing domestic postage if you’re using GSP. Whereas ordinarily , for example, if a buyer from the US returns something and you’ve paid £15 to send it to them, you can kiss that goodbye as part of the refund.

    I kid you not, so many positives, it baffles me why people bad-mouth it so much.

    My ROW sales are up ~250%, primarily to North America and Australia, many repeat customers and nothing but positive feedback re the service, so clearly a lot of buyers have no issue with it…

    • 2 years ago

      I opted in and checking the status I can opt out, but as I submit all my listings from my web site I need to re work the postage policies that I have assigned to listings.

      On it…

    • 2 years ago

      @Iggs – Big thanks for entering this topic as it gave me reason to sort my listings out.

      Even though I had the “Send it to the UK Shipping Centre, and the rest will be taken care of for you” ticked / enabled my “Exclude postage locations” included every country bar the UK. I had a feeling this was the problem a while back but never got round to fixing it.

      I now see, using a delivery address in Spain:

      1. Postage: £8.63 Expedited Delivery to Spain | This was for a small parcel < 250g.

      2. Import charges: £0.00 (amount confirmed at checkout)

      3. Delivery: Estimated between Tue. 6 Mar. and Thu. 8 Mar. Includes international tracking. (Rather than: Estimated between Wed. 28 Feb. and Thu. 1 Mar for UK deliveries)

      All listings update with a few clicks…

      @Nick – I think the guy from Norway was telling a little lie, the above information shows that yes he did pay for "Express / Expedited" postage but it also shows clearly the time frame of the estimated delivery. Ok, maybe not a lie so much as was mistaken by the UK delivery times and the times it would have shown once he entered his address details.

    • northumbrian
      2 years ago


    • 2 years ago

      @northumbrian – I think you will find that is all taken care of by eBay / GSP, so nothing for you to worry yourself over.

  • northumbrian
    2 years ago

    as its a myth were not worried

    • 2 years ago

      As your response it to the main article.

      What is a myth? The 7 Tips to increase your international sales?

      Are they all myths?

    • northumbrian
      2 years ago

      pedantic pillock

    • 2 years ago

      Yes I think that sums you up…

      Did you have anything worth contributing to this topic or are you just being a Troll?

  • northumbrian
    2 years ago

    here we go
    with the troll bollocks
    squark and whinge troll as soon as poor attitude is commented on

  • G man
    2 years ago

    GSP is problematical in certain categories but great for others. I sell in the Garage Tool sector which is unfortunately under the parent category of Vehicle parts & accessories. The problem according to EBay CS is the certain items are prohibited in certain Countries and Car spares being a big issue. They cannot separate Garage Tools >Hand Tools from the parent category. Losing lots of International sales due to GSP prohibiting the item deemed a”Car accessory” even if it is clearly a spanner or similar. Asked a million times if they can move or initiate another category more suitable.

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