We truly live in a global marketplace. When you sell online, there’s no need to limit your customer base to your city, state, or even country. Border-free shopping means the world is your audience.
But that also means potential headaches when it comes to actually delivering goods internationally. Customers are twice as likely to make a second purchase from an eCommerce shop if they’ve had a positive shipping experience. So, make sure your site is prepared to enter the world of global shipping, and then find the right partner to make it happen.
Getting your website ready
Before you open up sales to international markets, first make sure your site is inviting and friendly to shoppers from other countries. Think about how best to service your expanding market in these three areas:
1. Multiple language support
Although English-language speakers can be found all over the world, you’ll be able to reach a much larger audience by supporting the native languages of your target countries. A study by Common Sense Advisory showed that 40% of customers simply won’t make a purchase if a website isn’t in their native language.
Consider translating your site into a few new languages that will allow you to directly speak to customers in your target areas. It’s important to make sure your translated text is sensitive to local culture and phrasing, so do it right and get your content professionally translated.
From a tech standpoint, you’ll want to support multiple copies of your shop but keep inventory linked with an extension like MultilingualPress. If you’re using WooCommerce Payments, you’ll be able to display prices in your shoppers’ local currency, as well as collect payments in multiple currencies, by default.
2. Reliable infrastructure
When considering where to focus your international sales, consider the available infrastructure in other countries. To keep customers happy — and protect your company’s reputation — you’ll want to make sure that your products are delivered reliably and in a timely manner.
That means doing research to make sure that air and road transportation is well-established in each country you’d like to include. And, make sure that expectations for delivery times are very clear for customers in all of your supported areas. A reliable delivery partner with international shipping experience can be invaluable in determining expected delivery times for your customers.
One more item for your website readiness checklist: mobile-friendly design. Infrastructure in foreign countries can also mean access to the internet is limited to mobile devices only, so make sure your site is ready to support the full checkout process with a design and flow that works well on phones and tablets.
3. International payment gateways
In many parts of the world, online transactions are often completed by eTransfer or digital wallets like PayPal, Amazon Pay, or Braintree. Since online shoppers are 70% more likely to make a purchase when a website offers them their preferred payment method, it can definitely pay off to add additional options to your website.
Explore the many fully integrated WooCommerce payment extensions to get a better idea of which options may work best for the countries you wish to expand into. For US-based businesses, the International Trade Administration also has a good set of videos on how to protect yourself and ensure you’re paid when exporting goods. This is especially important if you plan to sell large quantities abroad to wholesale purchasers.
Knowing the right laws and regulations
No one gets excited about the idea of calculating duty and tax on imported items. But it’s a necessary step when shipping internationally, so make sure you do your homework. For some destination countries, you can leave any VAT calculations and collections to your delivery service, but for customer satisfaction, it’s always best if you can give them some idea of what these costs might be in advance. If at all possible, include the calculation of all applicable taxes at checkout.
Next up, get to know your required paperwork for shipping internationally. This might include:
- Waybills: a detailed shipping label that includes all information required for transport and delivery, as well as shipping costs
- Invoices: required paperwork for importing a package into a country, with all products, their type, and their value listed separately
- Additional forms for specialty and restricted items such as an EEI, certificate of origin, or other special case documents
For US-based stores, the WooCommerce Shipping extension is fully integrated with DHL for international shipping. This enables you to print shipping labels and invoices directly from the WooCommerce dashboard. Adding an international shipping zone when WooCommerce Shipping is active will automatically suggest DHL as an option and guide you through setup. DHL is also a recommended partner when it comes to making sure all other paperwork is in order.
One last thing to check is local laws for importing goods. Some items — like live seeds, certain foods, or even books and toys — cannot be imported to some countries. Double-check your list of deliverables with local laws before offering them to those areas.
Connecting with the right shipping partner
For the kind of shipping experience that will have your customers coming back for more, communication is key. Purchasers want to know exactly where their order is at all times, and when they can expect it to arrive.
A shipping partner like DHL provides critical information on your behalf to your customers, including:
- International delivery notifications and package tracking
- Automated shipping and tax calculations, so your customers know all costs upfront
- Options for last-mile delivery, including parcel locker or service point drop off
- On-Demand Delivery so customers can control their own delivery times
This all happens automatically through DHL’s established systems, with no required additional setup or monitoring on your side. The right shipping partner means everything runs smoothly, and stepping into international delivery doesn’t have to be a logistics challenge.
Building an international client base
Connecting with international customers can take some time, so be patient. Make sure the processes are in place for a smooth launch and iron out any kinks as the first few shoppers place orders. Once everything is working well, it’s time to expand sales internationally.
Some key strategies include:
- Announcing your new shipping areas loudly and clearly. International shoppers await, so let them know you’re ready to serve them! Use your website’s homepage, social media channels, and newsletters to let as many people as possible know that new services are available.
- Researching local cultural norms and sales techniques. Use the right kind of language in the right kind of advertising to appeal to local customers. And even more importantly, make sure you are not inadvertently offending them. Local translators and marketing firms can be a good investment here to help you understand how best to access your market.
All that’s left is to watch your online business grow into new countries and new markets. With the help of WooCommerce and DHL, it’s time to take your eCommerce business beyond borders.