How to expand your online store to new markets as a small business

Are you a small business with big ambitions? Thinking about expanding your sales to new markets? This article right here is for you. Keep reading to discover how you can achieve your growth goals in a few easy steps.

What is a small business anyway?

Let’s begin by mentioning something important: the definition of “small business” is not as unequivocal as one might think. For example, in some cases, a company might be considered “small” because of its size. In other circumstances,  a company’s revenue is the core element that determines whether the business is small, medium, or large. To better understand this, let’s consider a few examples.

In the US, the official definition of “small business” is “based on the amount of money it makes and the number of employees at all (rather than at each) of its business locations.” Generally speaking, firms with 250 employees or less are considered “small”.

On the other hand, the UK uses a different variation of this concept. According to the country’s government, a small business is one that employs less than 50 people and has an annual turnover of €10 million or less.

The situation in Germany is much closer to the one in the UK: here, a small business is defined as a company with up to 49 employees and an annual turnover of no more than €10 million.

Our definition

At OGOship, though, we decided to take a slightly different approach to the idea of small, medium, and large businesses. We identify eCommerce businesses based on the number of monthly orders.

Our team welcomes eCommerce retailers that process at least 100 orders per month, which means roughly three orders a day. To make the most out of our services and solutions, in fact, we believe that a higher number of orders is more beneficial. Our customers get the maximum value for their money when they get ten orders a day or more. 

Small eCommerce businesses and international sales: challenges to overcome

If, based on the definitions that we have provided, your business belongs in the “small business” category, then you might find yourself wondering: “How, with such a small workforce and relatively low budget, can I pursue my international growth plans?”

First of all, you should rest assured that this is an incredibly common dilemma. Sometimes, the mere thought of embarking on an international expansion can be daunting enough to put off even the savviest and most dynamic entrepreneur.

Of course, as a small business, you might feel more wary about taking such big, new initiatives like expanding to a foreign market. After all, you might be already doing quite well in your home country, which can cause you not to see the immense potential of international sales.

And while lack of confidence, combined with perhaps a relatively restricted cash flow, and the challenges that come with choosing the right partner to support your expansion, are certainly crucial aspects to consider, if you don’t try to embark on a growth venture, you seriously risk missing out on some incredible business opportunities.

What if we told you there is a much better way to look at this? Check out our tried-and-tested, four-step plan of action, and you will instantly realize just how achievable your small business expansion is.

International Expansion Plan for Small eCommerce Businesses

Once you are ready to make your international expansion a reality, our plan right here can come in handy to support you throughout this project.

1. Take the first step: try

Nobody has ever achieved anything unless they have tried, right? As obvious as it may sound, the first thing you want to do – way before you actually get started with the whole process – is to put yourself in a learning-oriented, can-do mindset.

This attitude will enable you to be much more open and receptive to new learnings, new experiences, and new opportunities, whether they turn out to be profitable or not.

2. Do thorough research

Think about your international sales expansion as you would a business plan. One of the essential aspects of a well-thought-out business plan is market research. This includes acquiring the necessary knowledge on factors such as:

Market potential:

What is the current potential like for companies in your sectors, in the foreign market that you are interested in?

Competition:

Can you identify any potential competitors? If so, who are they, what do they do, and how can you differentiate yourself from them in order to stand out?

Target audience:

What type(s) of customers do you think you should be targeting in the foreign market that you are looking at? What are their needs and expectations, especially in terms of online sales?

3. Start small and optimize

Just because you have decided to embark on such an ambitious project as an international expansion, it doesn’t mean that you should immediately aim to achieve amazing things right off the bat. Start small, simple, steady, and never lose sight of even the smallest sign of progress.

Begin by singling out the best-selling product in the foreign market you want to break into. Identifying just five top-selling items can be a much easier, less overwhelming way to kick off this process.

Consider the current sales trends and patterns, gather as much data as possible, and decide where exactly to focus your efforts. Keep the consumer’s needs and expectations front of mind, and don’t spend too much time or resources on building a brand-new system from scratch just for the sake of it. You can always keep optimizing what you are creating as you go – and grow – along.

4. Be smart about your order fulfillment and logistics choices

Now, it’s time to think about how you will be shipping and delivering your products across the foreign markets of reference. You have a range of options, each one with its pros and cons, and the one that you end up choosing entirely depends on your unique circumstances.

However, generally speaking, there are two main ways for small eCommerce businesses to manage their fulfillment and logistics requirements:

  • Relying on multiple partners and vendors for different markets. While this may sound like a good idea initially, it might become ineffective and costly in the long run. Consider, for example, the need to adjust your operations to different systems, applications, solutions, and more, and the large expense of time, money, and resources this implies. Moreover, such an approach leaves you a lot more vulnerable to risks such as delays, human errors, and a poor customer online shopping experience.
  • Working with one single partner for all your international sales needs. This option only requires you to deal with one system and one company for all your product fulfillment needs, which saves a lot of effort and resources, enabling you to optimize your eCommerce logistics processes.

How OGOship can help

By teaming up with OGOship, your eCommerce business can grow both domestically and internationally under one, trustworthy roof. Our mission is to make international growth easy, smooth, and profitable for all eCommerce businesses.

With OGOship, you can store your products in as many countries as you like, while still being able to manage everything quickly, easily, and securely from the same, centralized order management system. This way of storing products allows you to bypass some of the most frequent roadblocks of cross-border eCommerce, such as delays in customs.

In addition, storing your products physically close to the new foreign market of reference also means that your shipping and delivery operations will be much swifter, more reliable, and more cost-effective.

At OGOship, we support you with setting up your international logistics systems, and our VAT compliance partners help you make sure that everything you do is legally compliant.

The takeaway

While international expansion can feel like an overwhelming mission to accomplish for a small business, it’s also true that it can unlock a series of potentially life-changing business opportunities.

The trick, here, is to be smart and go slow. Treat this project almost as a separate new business, and proceed as you would if you were drafting a business plan. Do some market research, establish your best-selling products, calculate your budget, and join forces with a trusted, professional, and dedicated logistics partner like OGOship.

At OGOship, we make international growth easy and hassle-free, whatever size your business is. Chat with a member of our friendly team today and find out how we can help your company to reach new heights.

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