Reach customers online

Opportunities for international online sales are huge, and still growing strongly. With a great digital presence you can access new markets and gain new customers 24 hours a day, often at low cost.

You can monitor sales in real-time and use data to make business decisions, and keep your customers coming back with targeted, engaging content.

Reach overseas customers online by using one or more of these methods:

  • online marketplaces
  • a website which is optimised for international trade
  • social media

Use an online marketplace

Online marketplaces are websites where buyers and sellers can do business electronically, and transactions are processed by the marketplace operator.

Online marketplaces provide a huge sales opportunity for retailers and brands. Operating through sites such as Newegg in the USA, CDiscount in France or Rakuten in Japan can help retailers and brands to increase their reach in overseas markets. However, selling through  online marketplaces needs careful planning. Your current sales volume, capacity for growth and sector should influence decisions on which online marketplaces might be suitable for you.

Once your business is export ready and you’ve weighed your risk exposure for costs, timescales, compliance and marketplace requirements, you can use Selling online overseas to find the best place to sell your products online. This also lets you take advantage of special deals negotiated by the government for UK businesses.

You can also get free expert advice and support from the Department for International Trade’s E-Exporting Programme, which helps UK retailers and brands accelerate their global growth through e-commerce. Visit gov.uk/e-exporting to find out more.

Internationalise your website

Translation pays

A properly internationalised website can be a shop window to the world for your product or service.

In English-speaking markets, it’s best to use plain English on your site, avoiding figures of speech and UK cultural references, which might confuse your audience. For markets such as the USA, you may want to localise your site. That means changing spelling, grammar, vocabulary and other elements of style and tone of voice to suit an American audience.

Research shows people in non-English speaking countries prefer to buy products in their native language. So it makes sense to get your website pages and keywords professionally translated by a native speaker for your priority markets where English is not the first language. Also ensure that you are including the preferred payment methods for the market you are targeting.

Your translated site will rank higher on search engines and customers will find it easier to use and buy from.

It’s recommended that you get a relevant domain name in the target language and register this with the appropriate country suffix if you can (for example, in Germany your website should end with ‘.de’).

Be aware that website registration rules and costs may differ significantly between countries.

Reflect your market

Make sure the images, colours and branding you use are culturally appropriate. Images of alcohol, certain foods and animals can’t be used in some markets.

The local environment should also be reflected, for example, think about the local climate, types of vehicles and architecture.

Adapting or designing your website for an international audience can be complex and you’ll generally need professional advice and services. You may want to use a web design company in the country itself to ensure the style is really appropriate.