Digital selling has opened a world of customers for many businesses. Although there are infinite positives to digital selling, selling across geographic borders presents its own unique challenges.
In a recent chat for USA Manufacturing Hour on Twitter, Host Nigel T. Packer PelaTis Online led a discussion about how to navigate some of the unique challenges to selling digitally across state and international borders.
The chat began with participants sharing their thoughts on what the potential risks are of selling across borders. This included state borders as well as international borders.
Ruby Rusine and the Social Success Marketing team replied, “The most significant risk of selling across borders is the changing currency exchange rates. (for international) Cross-border sales also introduce additional legal and compliance risks.”
Host, Packer replied to Rusine, “This is often the reason for many companies to exclude themselves from selling outside their geographical area. Once processes have been put in place, it becomes manageable. Exchange rates can be accommodated in negotiations.”
Rusine replied back to Packer, “Ohhh... I see. That's a good thing!”
Paul Kiesche from Aviate Creative in New Jersey said, “Selling international has a few risks. The main risk we encounter is collecting payment and ensuring legal protection. We don't encounter any risk that I can think of selling nationally across state lines.”
Host Packer said to Kiesche, “I have a question about getting paid later Paul.”
Kendie Free Wave Technologies said, “Different taxes, law, and regulations on imports and exports.”
Whitney Koch from Welker, Inc. in Texas said, “Depending on what you're selling, breaking the law or not complying with regulations.”
Felix P. Nater from Nater Associates in North Carolina said, “Potential risks are thefts, delays, language barriers, protocols, delivery challenges, etc.”
Pavel Stepanov from VirtuDesk said, “Potential risks -Compliance -Cultural differences -Payment -Intellectual property.
He continued, “The biggest will be about compliance. Since you will be crossing borders, you have to make sure you are compliant with all the legal and regulatory requirements.”
Kati McDermith, the Manufacturing Hype Girl in Illinois said, “I always check the state laws when driving across the country. I thinks it's SO important to be aware of local and state laws / regulations so that I can remain a good citizen :)”
Chris Giglio, from Rovere Media in New Jersey said, “Depending on what you're selling, laws could impact how and what you're able to ship across borders. Whether that be international or state laws.”
Host, Packer said, “Considerations should be given to the following points:
- Are you ready?
- Will your products be successful in another State/Country?
- What about getting paid?
- What about tax?
- Can you deliver?
- What documentation is needed?
- Will there be local product restrictions?
- What about returns?
- What about language barriers?
- Do you need to visit the country?
- Should you find an in state/country partner?
- Can it all be done online with a website?”
Selling Across State and Country Borders
The chat continued with participants sharing where they thought they could get advice on selling across State/Country Borders.
Giglio said, “No idea, typically I Google any question I have, but it's probably smarter to reach out to a consultant!”
Host Packer replied to Giglio, “Yes Chris, there are a number of federal and state organizations that can be approached for guidance. I will post some in the answers for this question.”
Julia Gardner from Hourly – Insurance & Payroll in California said, “Great question! I'm sure there's some professionals and advice online, what do you recommend?”
Rusine agreed, “I'm going to go with Julia here for the A2.”
Brett from FreightPOP said, “There is plenty of information online to make sure you are following the laws and regulations in place, and it also helps to be able to talk to someone who has experience doing it as well!”
Host, Packer replied, “Those who already export can be of great assistance. A meeting over a good lunch can give you many insights.”
Adam Baker said, “I've reached out to businesses that are similar to me, but not necessarily competition, to understand any issues they've had, but some issues I've just had to muddle through. Would love to learn of new resources.”
Emily Kite from Obsidian Manufacturing said, "I do not recall specifically who it was, but we have referred to some Illinois state run organizations that have provided us with assistance before with international dealings.”
Namara Juliet Abwooli said, “I guess from the top leaders of the government in charge of cross borders.”
Host Packer replied, “In country sources can give many insights into the destination market.”
Koch said, “Departments of Commerce?? I've never thought about it before.”
McDermith said,” Local chambers of commerce for sure!”
Stepanov said, “Reach out to government agencies like the SBA and US Chamber of Commerce.”
Sue Nordman from Obsidian Manufacturing said, “I've consulted our local area SBA international sales office regarding exporting our products. They have a lot of resources available to small businesses in the United States.”
Host, Packer said, “There are many state and federal Government organizations to get help with interstate and boarder sales advice. Research, research, research. Weather you intend to sell online or direct in state/country.”
Local business advice organizations
Local trade organizations
Sector specific organizations
Chambers of Trade
https://www.njmep.org/ Individual state organizations exist
Commercial advice organizations
USA Embassies in country of interest
In country trade organizations
Chambers of commerce
Testing the Market
Next participants shared how they thought they could test the market before going all in.
Adam Baker said, “I'm doing this right now to prepare to open a location in Buffalo, NY. I've been working with the Chamber of Commerce to begin developing business and slowly building a reputation / client base before committing to having another location in a different state.”
Host Packer asked, “Adam, are you networking at events in the area? Have you considered speaking events?”
Baker replied, “I do go to networking events but never really considered speaking events, but I'm always open to suggestions.”
Gardner said, “Research, focus groups, or interviews?”
Rusine said, “Do some research on your target market. Perhaps, make a survey, too?”
Stepanov agreed with, “Totally agree with you, SSM team. It is best to conduct research first before diving in. Plus, you need to test it first on a small group of people to get feedback and suggestions.”
Brett said, “You can form some groups that consist of people from your target market and let them test your product and give feedback. You can also post content about your product on social media and see how the internet responds!”
Rusine agreed, “Great answer!”
Gardner said, “Research, focus groups, or interviews?”
McDermith said, “Never thought of this, interested to hear the ideas.”
Koch said, Customer research. If you already have a web and social presence, you can look at the analytics to see which regions your visitors are from.”
Host, Packer replied, “Great answer.”
Jasmine LaBelle from Velavu Tech in Canada said, “Sorry we're late! Just some ideas: pop up shops, seeing user interest through paid ads etc...”
Stepanov said, “Always make a plan to prepare yourself for this. Since there are a lot of potential risks, make sure to test everything out first.”
Nordman said, “I would think market research - product usage, customers, sales growth potential - all of that would be imperative. Exploring cultural differences would be key as well. Competitor analysis would be key too.”
Host, Packer said, “Digital is a great way to text a market. Consider using third party platforms such as Amazon, eBay and others to test your market in state or country before investing heavily in exporting.”
He continued, “Look at sales to see if there are indications of demand in some states and Countries that indicate an opportunity. Many who have an online shop don’t realize they are already exporting. (Accidental exporters)”
Benefits of Exporting
Participants then shared their thoughts on some of the benefits of
Brash said, “Late to the party today! Some benefits can include diversifying market opportunities and access to more consumers!”
McDermith said, “market reach, I assume.”
Koch said, “Reach new markets, expand your customer base, make more sales,”
Abwooli said, “Access to more consumers and business.”
Kendie said, “Sales can grow faster and potentially more jobs can be created.’
Koch Replied, “Expansion Opportunities”
Rusine said, “It provides access to new customer bases, increases the potential for greater profits, and can create more diverse sources of income.”
Baker said, “Exporting is terrific for the economy, as it brings revenue in that is "outside" the community, versus just recycling the same dollars inside the community. For me personally, exporting is great because I can negotiate shipping rates for businesses.”
Giglio said, “You expand your consumer base and protect yourself from potential slips in your domestic economy.”
Nordman said, “GROWTH - in many ways! Sales, customer base, innovation, worldwide presence, product expansion, supply chain. So many advantages”
Nater said, “Without any foreign markets to boast I might be missing market expansion opportunities and greater visibility. Do I make sense?”
Brett said, “Exporting allows your business to reach a larger market and expand to international territories!”
Stepanov said, “Aside from an increase in sales and revenue, you are exploring a new target market, and expanding your brand across different countries. You are also getting exposed to new technologies and diversifying products and ideas.”
Stepanov then said, “Businesses that export can expand, diversify, and become more competitive, resulting in long-term profitability and sustainability.”
Host, Packer said, “Exporting has never been easier. With the advances of the internet, we now have an inexpensive way to sell our products across the world without necessarily going to the country we are exporting to.”
He continued, “For the business: increased turnover and profits, employment, growth, stronger brand. For the individuals who run exports: opportunities to travel. For the USA: revenues and GDP, jobs.”
Translating Digital Content
Participants then shared their thoughts on why it is important to translate digital content for different states/countries.
Kirsten Austin from DCSC Inc. said, “this is a wild guess, but everyone does not speak the same language.”
McDermith said, “I default to market reach again :)”
Stepanov said, “They won't understand the value you are providing if you will not use their language.”
Kendie said, “It's important for effective communication and to show that you care about the people you are selling to.”
Rusine replied, “Agree! Effective communication is essential for effective sales.”
Rusine then said, “Translating content into multiple languages ensures that all potential customers around the world have access to the same information that is available in their native language.”
Amy M. Anderson said, “For clarity! Adapting your digital content to the audience - culture, language, money, weights/measurements, etc. Avoids misunderstandings creating happier clients and smoother interactions.”
Koch said, “Though a lot of people speak English, it's not the primary language of most people. Having your content in the language(s) of your market(s) makes it more accessible and understandable. It also shows you care about those customers.”
Host, Packer replied to Koch, “What about different States in the US?”
Amy M. Anderson chimed in saying, “Often sites will include disclaimers for various states due to state law differences. Products often have notices concerning various California laws regarding potential cancer risks. Another example is insurance products are often very state specific.”
Nordman said, “For clarification and correction product representation. And again, the legal issues. The customer must understand what they are buying.”
Baker said, “Part of it is trying to be a good member of the community - it's a way of showing respect versus expecting your potential customers to jump through hoops to do business with you.”
Stepanov said, “We saw a lot of businesses using credit cards for payments. But if it involves across the country, maybe more like PayPal is suited.”
John Buglino from Optessa Inc in New Jersey said, “Show you actually give a damn about the market and individuals you wish to do business within the future!”
Host, Packer said, “Surprisingly it is very important. Many of the southern states bordering Mexico have high concentrations of Spanish speaking peoples. If they are part of your potential customers, then translate your content into Spanish.”
He continued, “When exporting to non-English speaking countries it is very important to translate your website content into the destination language. Don’t forget to translate the SEO and social media as well. Customers prefer to read in their first language.”
Preferred Method of Payment
The chat concluded with participants sharing what they thought would be the preferred method of payment for sales.”
Rusine said, “Hmmm... I think I would wait for the expert's answers here. I'm thinking about what's the most secure way of doing this.”
Koch said, “Going to say credit card...”
Rusine said, “From a consumer perspective, I like using my credit card because... of the points.”
Brett said, “I think the preferred method of payment is anything that can easily be tracked and recorded for both parties, such as credit card, wire transfer, etc.”
Buglino said, “Straight CASH..... Kidding Wire/ACH Payment”
Kendie said, “Secure wire/ ACH payments. This is usually the easiest way with Asia.”
Austin said, “Cash in the bank baby! Done securely too.”
McDermith said, “credit is the easiest I think, but there can be scam issues w/ that. We have a hold process on out of country purchases across the board.”
Baker said, “I suppose it depends on the relationship, but if new I would recommend credit card. If existing, go with ACH as accepting credit cards costs you more money than ACH processing.”
Nordman said, “I think it depends on the culture of the two countries. Some countries haven't developed at the same pace or in the same way. The two would need to come to agree upon terms prior to completion of the transaction. I don't think one way would work for everyone.”
Abwooli said, “Credit cards.”
Host, Packer said, “For low price products many have not considered that products purchased through online shops are paid for before the product has left the warehouse. This can be beneficial for cash flow. For higher value overseas sales the Federal Gov has an export credit guarantee and insurance scheme that can be found at https://www.exim.gov/”
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