Small businesses are the backbone of a country’s economy. However, many local business owners hesitate to expand internationally. Nowadays, this should be easier than ever with the Internet and countless e-commerce options supported by various shipping and online payment systems. After you’ve developed your business at a local level, maybe it’s time to start thinking big. New markets are a tremendous challenge, but the key to success is in planning meticulously and executing impeccably. Here are several useful bits and pieces of information to help you get the ball rolling.

Breaking down Barriers    

Exploring new markets means stepping out of one’s comfort zone, and that’s why it’s important to tread carefully. This means that you’ll have to get familiar with cultures, customs as well as with the laws of the countries where you want to sell. A good warm-up would be starting with English-speaking countries or those countries that share a similar culture.

After you’ve tested the international waters, you’re ready to go global. Knowing the laws, in the sense of what is allowed and what’s not, is very important. You should also put in an effort and instead of just translating the content of your website into various languages, it would be a great idea to come up with fresh and localized content. Your customers will definitely appreciate that. In the long run, it would be wise to hire local SEO specialists to improve your website ranking.

Signed, Sealed and Delivered

When you’re operating internationally, secure shipping is one of the most crucial things. There are several trustworthy shipping services that you can cooperate with, but first of all, you’ll have to check shipping regulations and make sure that everything that you intend to sell isn’t restricted or prohibited.

It’s advisable to ensure your shipments from loss or damage, as those things do happen especially when we’re talking about overseas shipping. Inform your customers about shipping costs as well as about return policies, warranties, and all the things that might concern them.

Hard Currency

People usually aren’t very comfortable when they have to deal with foreign currencies. They feel more secure when they can pay for a product in their own currency. This might at first sound perplexing as certain sellers just convert the price of their products into a desired foreign currency, but that’s not exactly desirable as such prices tend to be odd.

According to a recent study, customers prefer round numbers because that way they can more easily calculate whether the price is good or not. The best way to deal with this issue is to use alternative payment methods that will allow your foreign customers to pay in their own currencies and stick to their local payment options.

Flying Colors

The psychological effect of colors in marketing is widely known. However, when we’re talking about international markets, there are other things that have to be taken into consideration. For example, one color can have different symbolic meanings for people in different regions, and before optimizing your site for a certain market, you should be aware of that. Although they might seem like insignificant details, peripheral features such as numbers, colors, or even fonts can induce certain emotions and they should be taken very seriously. When it comes to colors, green symbolizes health and prosperity in China, while white is the color of death and mourning. In Japan, for instance, the number four is considered unlucky and companies avoid using it. That’s the reason why Canon never uses the number 4 in product numbers.

Fortify Your Security

Although online frauds are usually discussed when customers are the ones who fall victims to various online shopping scams, there’s also the another side of the coin. You should take rigorous steps to protect both your own and your customers’ identity and sensitive information such as credit card numbers or passwords.

As a first measure of precaution, you should urge your customers to create strong, complicated, eight-character passwords, with no less than one capitalization and special character. Hackers use very sophisticated tools and they can break weak passwords in no time. It’s also recommendable to use AVS (address verification system) and require CVV for customers who pay by means of credit cards.

Nate M. Vickery is an entrepreneur and business consultant from Sydney, Australia. In his free time he likes to share some of his insights and experience by blogging.

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