It’s well-known that Amazon continues to dominate the ecommerce market across the globe, with the US offering a relevant case in point.
More specifically, Amazon accounts for nearly 40% of the ecommerce market in the US, with 31% comprising the following 14 biggest online stores operating stateside (including Apple, eBay and Walmart).
For independent retailers who are active on Amazon, one of the biggest challenges is how to sell internationally through the channel. Here are some tips to help you on your way:
Understanding Product Compliance and Eligibility
Depending on where you sell goods internationally, you’ll likely come across a number of restrictions and compliance rules that impact directly on your Amazon activity. Many of these rules will transcend Amazon too, so it’s important to factor them into your online business model.
Such issues are particularly pertinent when selling goods from the US into heavily regulated markets like the EU. In fact, the EU often applies restrictions on the sales of particular products in its various jurisdictions, while the same rules are also relevant in the Japanese marketplace.
However, while the EU may be required to grant approval for the sale of particular items within its jurisdictions, Japan has a relatively long list of products that cannot be sold through Amazon at all.
The good news is that you can refer to the site’s restricted products page (relating to selected regions) to find more about the eligibility of items. This enables you to tailor your listings and negate any relevant restrictions effectively, depending on where you’re selling in the world.
Getting Your Fulfillment Right
When selling goods from the US into Japan and Europe, an importer of record (IOR) is required.
An IOR will be highly accountable, and responsible for ensuring that all taxes and customs are paid. They’ll also have a responsibility to make sure that the goods comply with regulatory and legal requirements in the relevant marketplace, so they can play a seminal role when attempting to sell products overseas.
As an international vendor on Amazon, you’ll have two primary options; namely ‘Fulfillment by Amazon’ (FBA) and ‘Fulfillment by Merchant’ (FBM). With the latter, you’ll outsource order fulfillment to a qualified third-party service provider, while remaining responsible for managing this relationship and the satisfaction of customers.
In the case of FBA, your products are stored in global fulfillment centers until they’re purchased, before being packed and shipped globally. FBA also makes provision for customer service, although it should be noted that businesses active in Japan must provide consumer support in fluent Japanese in order to be compliant.
While there are advantages to both, the former affords you less control over shipping, inventory and customer service, whereas FBM enables you to enter into more bespoke arrangements with third-party fulfillment brands.
You should also note that Amazon costs can be slightly higher through FBA, particularly when selling large, bulky and slow-moving items. What’s more, storage fees are seasonal and tend to rise between October and December and periods of peak demand.
In the case of fulfillment specialists like Salesupply.com (who provide FBM services to sellers), it should be noted that we operate inventory fulfillment centers across the globe and in three different continents. We’re also capable of supplying 60% of Europe within 24 hours of an order being processed, while providing door-to-door tracking and ensuring that international regulations are met.
We also deliver FBM (including Amazon Prime) anywhere in the US, and this is a key consideration when shipping goods into international markets (and one that also leverages a key advantage of the FBA model).
Certainly, Amazon, Salesupply.com and similar entities offer a broad range of tools to help sellers fulfill their orders internationally. These include inventory management, tracking and shipment, so it’s important to choose the right option for you based on your budget and the scale of your international operation.
Creating Payment Options
As a truly international platform, Amazon can accept multiple currencies when processing payments online.
Typically, you’ll be paid in your local currency when selling internationally through Amazon, although some of the payment options will be dependent on the establishment of a newly registered account online.
The funds can also be transferred to a local bank account in the market, with this process completed quickly and efficiently on behalf of sellers.
Interestingly, you can also use the Amazon Currency Converter (ACCS) as a seller in your chosen marketplace. Through this program, you’ll receive local currency payouts which are deposited into your bank account every two weeks, creating a consistent and reliable supply of funds from your activity.
In this case, Amazon collects the bank transfer fees, and it’s important to factor this into your venture’s financial planning.
Recognising the Importance of Compliance
Ultimately, it’s imperative that you recognise and understand the importance of compliance when selling internationally, otherwise you’ll run the risk of contravening local laws.
More specifically, every product that you sell must be suitable for a particular jurisdiction and comply with its local laws, making allowances for cultural, administrative and technical differences.
For example, most regions in Europe don’t use the flat, two-pronged wall charger available in the US, which means that such products won’t sell well into the continent. So, it’s crucial that you tailor your product offerings to suit each international market, creating optimized listings that can achieve compliance and deliver a viable return.
Beyond this, you should note that researching different international markets can help you to optimize your distribution channels, while enabling you to create effective marketing campaigns that engage target audiences and take into account relevant cultural differences.
Recognising language differences is also key, as gaining proficiency in relevant international dialects will help you to provide effective customer support while complying with further relevant laws.
Of course, you can operate without this if you utilize FBA or liaise with a third party fulfillment service provider, as these entities will be responsible for interacting with consumers and delivering customer service.
Optimizing Customer Service
We’ve already touched on customer service as an international seller, with Amazon dictating that merchants provide support to native consumers in a language that corresponds directly with the URL (such as Amazon.es).
Of course, much will depend on the markets in which you operate, but providing customer support in English alone will not suffice if you sell overseas.
Obviously, leveraging the FBA model can help with this respect, but here at Salesupply we also provide support in 36 languages and three separate international time zones. What’s more, we can provide native customer support across multiple communication channels, including both email and live chat.
The need to offer native customer support in relevant languages that are relevant to individual URLs is critical when selling internationally through Amazon, but this is unlikely to be a core competency for most merchants or entrepreneurs.
So, outsourcing responsibility for this offers genuine value for merchants, particularly when liaising with service providers that can simultaneously manage your fulfillment.
The Last Word
One of the main advantages of using Amazon is that it enables you to sell internationally, expanding your reach and optimizing potential future revenues in the process.
However, there are cultural, economic and technical challenges to consider when selling into markets outside of the US, with jurisdictions such as the EU and Japan particularly challenging from a regulatory perspective.
By recognising these challenges and taking practical steps to overcome them, however, you can build a successful international Amazon operation that’s compliant in law and capable of becoming profitable over time.