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Selling on online marketplaces best practice

Selling internationally

In the final instalment in a series of best practice posts, GS1 UK offers Q&A guidance on some of the fundamental elements to help you trade on online marketplaces successfully. The focus for this post: Selling internationally

Benefits of selling internationally

Marketplaces represent a great channel to test and expand into international territories, as they already have a large customer base in place. A simple way to expand internationally is to add international postage options to your listings, immediately making your products accessible to customers ordering from overseas. International orders can typically total up to 10-20% of a marketplace’s customers, and can help you determine which of your products are likely to be popular in a particular territory.

However, the real prize is actively listing on international marketplaces. eBay states that this can generate as much as eight times as much revenue as simply making a domestic listing available for international shipping.

Where marketplaces have international sites (as opposed to just international customers on a domestic site) you often have the choice of creating a listing and making it available internationally, or setting up separate stores and listings separately on each site.

While this will result in greater fees, many sellers feel this keeps things simpler, and is a good way to test out a territory without putting your domestic feedback and main account at risk.

Commercial considerations

You should consider the costs and times involved in sending your items internationally and update your listing information accordingly. Bear in mind that even if you are explicit in your comment that the item is subject to international shipping times, it may be hard to meet or beat customer expectations, which can have an impact on feedback.

When expanding into a new market or marketplace, it is always advisable to test the water first, starting off small with a handful of listings in order to get a feel for cultural nuances, shipping times, expected volumes, returns and so on. You may also want to consider ‘ring-fencing’ the experiment by creating a separate account, but check with your chosen marketplace regarding their rules on creating multiple selling accounts.

It may seem obvious, but when you sell internationally you will start to receive customer enquiries, complaints, claims and feedback in languages other than English.

You should take whatever steps necessary to ensure you fully understand communications from international customers, including employing a native speaker or translator to deal with customer service.

Finally, it is worth considering that there may be restrictions on the sale of certain products outside of the UK. This can include goods which have rules on import and export, such as food products, products containing chemicals or batteries, or products that are restricted or forbidden entirely in a particular territory such as alcohol, adult material or products whose distribution is restricted by copyright.

Tax and shipping considerations

If you decide to sell internationally, you may be required to register for VAT purposes in each of the countries you sell into. The regulations are not simple, and can vary depending on whether you are selling to private individuals or businesses, whether the customer is in an EU member state and, in some cases, on the volume of sales you make into a particular country.

Your products may also be subject to import duty, which could result in packages being held up at customs. Most marketplaces, and most customers, will hold you responsible for this, so ensure you understand what charges need to be pre-paid before you start selling into a particular country. A good place to start is https://www.gov.uk/starting-to-export

The regulations for tax and duty are not always simple and it is better to be safe than sorry. It is advisable that you seek advice from a taxation expert if you are unclear about which regulations apply to you.

If you would like more information on selling on online marketplaces, read our full guide for selling on online marketplaces.