Now that the holiday season is upon us and consumers have the world at their fingertips, even the smallest of online businesses has the opportunity to “go global” with the click of a mouse. The idea of selling – and needing to ship – your goods internationally, however, is a big step and can be intimidating.
At FedEx, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many of our small business customers as they access the international marketplace and begin selling their goods overseas. I asked some of our customers to share their best advice on how to take their businesses to the next level by going global. Read what they had to say:
- If You Build It, They Will Come – Dana Donofree, founder of AnaOno, which makes comfortable clothing for women with breast cancer, was surprised by the demand from abroad when she launched her company. “I quickly learned that our international access is so important to getting solutions to customers around the world, and that borders shouldn’t stop us from doing just that,” Donofree said. Be prepared for international orders before they happen, so you can ship quickly and efficiently. This means getting familiar with export regulations, expected delivery times and required paperwork.
- Optimize Supply Chain to Limit Costs. Mike Wilson, founder of Catastrophic Creations, quickly learned that building out his supply chain could help reduce costs associated with shipping his heavy cat contraptions. “Expanding to international distribution has helped our brand grow in other countries,” he said.
- No Surprises! — Zack Fleishman, co-founder of Shark Wheel skateboard wheels, says small businesses must be as transparent as possible about additional taxes and fees incurred on cross-border transactions. “It is important to post a disclaimer on your website informing international customers that they may incur further charges from their country’s custom agency,” Fleishman said. Failure to do so “can lead to unhappy customers.” An ideal solution for this challenge is FedEx Cross Border, which uses software technology to simplify common cross-border selling challenges for e-tailers and provides customers information in their own currency and language within their shopping cart, reducing confusion and surprise customs costs.
- Take Advantage of Online Resources – Paul Pallas, CEO of SWISCO, urges small businesses to use free online tools and resources to simplify and enhance the customer experience. “We correspond with our overseas customers primarily through email and we use Google Translate to help us communicate in the customer’s own language. It makes the whole experience easier and more positive for the customer” said Pallas. “International address checking tools, like the one FedEx offers, are also helpful. They allow us to verify we have the most accurate shipping address so the customer doesn’t face any unnecessary or unexpected delays.”
- #DoItForTheGram – Scott Loeser, founder and maker at Marked Leather said Instagram helped him to connect with international customers. “Because of social media I’ve seen traffic from other countries, including shoppers from Japan and Russia.” Review your social media and website analytics to see if international shoppers are visiting your site and where they are leaving in the purchase funnel.
Scott Harkins is the Senior Vice President of Customer Channel Marketing at FedEx, leading the Customer Engagement Marketing, Digital Marketing, Retail Marketing and Global Marketing Foundations teams. He also oversees the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, which has awarded more than $548,000 in grants and prizes since 2013 to passionate entrepreneurs. Prior to his current role, Scott was the Vice President of Strategy and Product Management at FedEx. He was responsible for domestic product management, new product development and strategic marketing. Scott also served as the marketing director at FedEx Kinko’s (now FedEx Office) where he was responsible for planning, developing and implementing strategies, promotions and customer communications focused on growing FedEx Kinko’s revenue.