Since the pandemic, businesses felt the rush to get online ASAP. If they were online, it was necessary to optimize sites and social media accounts to drive users. Even the Gen X crowd that just got their first iPhones hopped on social media to sell products and services. 

The pandemic also changed the way shoppers shop. While the whole world was quarantined at home, people were spending like crazy. In the US in 2019, Americans spent $571.2 billion and in 2020, they dug deep into their pockets and blew a whopping $815.4 billion. In 2021, Americans went buck f**king wild and spent $870 billion on ecommerce. 

Retail spend skyrocketed. Brick-and-mortar stores recreated in-store shopping experiences online. L’oreal, for example, created a virtual try on option for users. Shoppers could take a #selfie and use it to color match makeup before buying. Now, businesses are struggling to get people back in-stores. While this is a drag for B2B companies that sell face-to-face at tradeshows, it’s a fat-a** win for businesses who are thriving online.

But the US wasn’t the only country squandering their paychecks online. Mercado Libre, Latin American online marketplace, sold double the items daily in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the year before. China’s retail sales online jumped from 19.4% to 24.6% YoY. Global ecommerce sales including both B2B and B2C businesses jumped to $26.7 trillion in 2019. As you can tell, global ecommerce sales are only going to keep rising.

Now is the time for you to sell your sh*t to international buyers! Here’s how to get ‘er done: 

How should I prepare to take my business international?

So, you’re ready to do the damn thing but you’re not sure where to begin. You can start with a Business Analysis. Before you wake up tomorrow and go international, you need to evaluate your business top-down. If there is room for failure, it might not be time to take it to Thailand.

Performing a BA will help you understand how you’re currently performing in your own country and develop strategies to meet global selling needs. If your primary objective is to go global, you’ll want to be sure goals are realistic and attainable. No narcissists allowed!

You’ll also want to analyze international markets. Dive into what consumer shopping habits are like, research revenue stats for your B2B or B2C business in each global market, and align your business plan. Once you have determined that your business plan is clear, train staff on process and plan to reassess strategies, or lack thereof, in the future. AKA if you sh*t the bed, it might be time to revamp.

What do I need to know about shipping costs?

Have you ever looked into international shipping? If you haven’t, brace yourself. The cost is bullsh*t! Before you completely back away from the idea, let’s look at a few fat cash figures.

Statista reported that retail ecommerce sales are expected to expand from $3.53 trillion to $6.54 trillion by the end of 2022.

Statista also anticipates Amazon will surpass Alibaba in global retail sales by 2027 where they expect Amazon to generate over 1.2 trillion in US dollars.

Get yourself a piece of that 1.2 trillion pie and ship overseas. Cue Gwen Stefani’s “Rich Girl!”

Decide which countries you’re going to ship to, understand rules and regulations, bold, caps lock, make neon signs to let consumers know about fees. If you wait until checkout to tell how much shipping will cost, you’re less likely to get a purchase and carts will be abandoned like the middle of a grocery store parking lot. 

What are my storefront payment options for customers?

Through Shopify, there are two ways to sell globally. First, you can set up a single store, offer a variation of languages, shipping and duties, and use Payments’ multi-currency support. In doing so, you can set a base currency for your store and set prices that adapt in the local foreign market people are shopping in. 

Option two is to create a separate Shopify store for each of the markets you’re looking to sell in. Doing so, you’d need to set up geolocation tech to find customers, track their information, and sell to them regularly. But…“F” that! Personally, we’d go with the first option.

How should I strategize around expanding my business internationally?

Expanding just to expand could stick you up a gum tree – a Big League Chew gum tree. Before you do anything too drastic, ask yourself the hard-hitting questions.

What’s your marketing strategy? What’s your financial history? Is there no more time for happy hours? Just kidding…2 for 1 beers shouldn’t be part of your planning process.

Even so, it’s important to gather all necessary information before making a major business move like international sales. Maybe you intend on selling the same exact products to foreign customers because your goods are in high demand. But maybe you plan to develop new product lines, free yourself of a saturated market, or diversify your company.

You’ll need to develop new training programs for employees, streamline product development, and plan for a new customer base with strategies to grow international brand awareness. Have a proposal ready for setting up international sites, when to go live, important promotional dates, and more.

How can I ensure my site will appear via search engines in other countries?

If you’re going to bite the bullet, something to consider is setting up international domains. International domains are URLs that are specific to one country. Using international domains offers a greater opportunity for your brand to have a more localized online presence. For SEO purposes especially, different domains will allow your site to rank better for specific search terms.

“Near me” searches continue to grow exponentially YoY. Without an international domain, it is more difficult for your business to appear in organic search results for those types of searches. Food, entertainment, banking, apparel, and personal care are the top categories that “near me” searches are included in.

With Shopify, a Basic Plan or higher can get you global domains.

Should I include multiple language options and store translations on my site?

According to Statista, only 20% of people globally can speak English. If you’re going to move your site to sell overseas, don’t bank on the buyer being able to speak your language - that’s ignorant AF!

Shopify’s Basic Plan or higher offers the option for your site to sell in up to 20 languages from a single storefront. All you need to get going is a theme that’s compatible with different languages (which Shopify says most are) and add a language selector. 

Should I use Shopify Markets to maintain a successful international site?

Shopify Markets is a tool that helps you set up, manage, and enhance international selling. Markets is currently available to 17 countries including the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Spain, and more.

About Markets:

  1. Buyers can switch to their local currency to best understand pricing options. Have you ever shopped as a US citizen on a UK site and loved the price of an item until you realized in US dollars it’s actually way more? Ya, same.
  2. Use Markets to create your localized domain. Your site will more easily appear in organic search results (less PPC spend - YAY!) and you will build trust and prove commitment to your local buyers.
  3. Leverage Markets to create personalized recommendations for shoppers in different countries. UK shoppers will likely not be looking for American flag apparel. You can avoid this snafu by using Markets! 

Which Shopify plan should I go with?

If you’re anticipating an Elon Musk moment and racking in the billion dollar-dollars, consider Shopify Plus. Plus is a feature that is built for enormously fast-growing, enterprise-esque businesses. While the cost of Plus begins at $2,000/month, the benefits for a company that needs a high level of software support are enormous and worth the cost.

Plus includes a robust set of features to sell a ton of stuff and handle boat loads of customers at once. Kardashian/Jenner brands Kylie Cosmetics, Skims, and KKW use Shopify Plus. Red Bull, Heinz, Netflix, and Tesla also all trust Plus.

If you’re nearing $60,000/month in online sales, sign up for the Plus package. There’s no minus to it!

What do I need to know about collecting taxes & duties from international customers?

Taxes, taxes, taxes. Ugh! But whatareyagonnadoaboutit?

You’ll likely need to collect additional taxes and duties from customers. Give your accountant a call to make sure you’re charging the tax rates and duties you should be and also, that you’re filing correctly. We don’t need the IRS knocking at your door…or ours! Shopify does not report or remit taxes to your government.