Six barriers to selling internationally – and how to overcome them

Anna Thompson
Anna Thompson
Discover content team
5 min read
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DHL van on a road

Looking to grow your e-commerce business? Then selling internationally might be right for you. These are the challenges you may face – and how to overcome them.

Six mistakes to avoid in your global sales strategy

  1. Selling on the wrong platform
Just as choosing the right location is critical for a bricks and mortar store, so is selecting the best international e-commerce platform for your developing business. An older legacy system, particularly one that was custom-built for you when you were just starting out, may seriously handicap your potential for growth. As you expand into new markets and territories, you may find that problems with your platform start to mount up. It may struggle to cope with multiple currencies, require more and more third-party apps to provide basic functions, or be incapable of working with advanced technologies like chatbots or artificial intelligence.


What you can do

Be prepared to do your homework. The e-commerce platform market is a crowded one, and names like Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce and WooCommerce are just some of the players. Write a list of the “must-have” features of your e-commerce platform – such as customization, flexibility, scalability and of course price – to help you filter the ones most suitable for your needs.

Consider an online marketplace. Some countries have complex regulations for overseas merchants wishing to sell to consumers there. That’s where selling on a marketplace can be beneficial. China’s Tmall Global, for example, is specifically set up for foreign brands – you don’t have to have a physical entity in China or a Chinese business license to sell on the platform, and you can accept payment in your local currency. Just be wary of the fees each platform charges.

2. Choosing the wrong markets

There are over 220 countries out there to choose from, but not all will be right for your business. Rushing ahead and expanding too quickly could be a costly mistake – before you know it, you’ve invested in localizing your website for a market that really has no interest in the product you’re selling.

What you can do

Research, research, research. Find out the leading e-commerce product categories in the country you’d like to sell to (not hard with Google). Look at some of the biggest online retailers in the country too – what are they selling? At what price point? How do they market themselves on social media? You should also check out some of your competitors and what countries they sell to – after all, if they’re selling there, it’s because there’s demand.

1 - Internet Retailing, October 2021

2 - Statista, published March 2022

3 - 2Checkout blog, June 2020

4 - Statista, published March 2022