How to Successfully Use Amazon Marketplaces to Expand Internationally
E-commerce, now more than ever, has become a hotspot for international trade: sellers and buyers can now either be neighbors or could also be located in different cities halfway across the globe. It makes no difference to the business they conduct.
As a seller, your opportunities to sell worldwide are tremendous, but can still be considered as a complex and risky adventure.
There are indeed a whole lot of common beliefs regarding how difficult selling abroad can be; this article will illustrate, on the contrary, how Amazon and its markteplaces can be used as an easy international expansion catalyst.
We all know that Amazon is huge, but how gigantic is the online platform really? Here are a few figures that show this quite well:
- 300 million clients,
- more than 180 covered countries,
- and over 15 localized websites (US, CA, MX, FR, DE, US, ES, IT, NL, SW, JP, AU, SG, IN, AE, TU).
Common Belief #1: International Shipping Is Expensive & Complex to Setup
If you are reading this article, you are very likely already selling online products at least in your own country and therefore have local contracts with carriers that you are familiar with.
Did you ever ask your current carriers whether they could ship internationally? Some of them probably can but obviously at higher cost and increased transport time.
What about if you could have localized warehouses in each targeted country to reduce this customer-critical transport time? That may sound very costly, but is actually exactly what the Amazon Pan European FBA solution is offering to merchants. This solution enables you to ship your products in bulk to an Amazon warehouse and then – based on where you decide to sell – Amazon automatically transfers your products so that they can be shipped from the same country as the buyer! No local logistic hassle to manage at a competitive cost, with a great customer experience.
Furthermore, if FBA is used for your products, they will become eligible for the “Amazon Prime” loyalty program (150M users as of 2020) and are therefore also more likely to win the very popular Buy Box.
Common Belief #2: Cross-Border Business Requires to Translate All Your Products
When speaking about selling internationally, one of the first things that cross our mind is the need to adapt content to several foreign languages.
If your product catalog only has a few products, the workload is pretty easy to absorb. However, if your total number of active products is higher than several hundred products, that may become a significant amount of work.
Amazon can help you out in this regard. Using Amazon Build International Listings, you can assign Amazon to synchronize your products (from your local country) to other European countries.
Amazon will, for all already existing products, link your offers automatically!
To sum-up, with a few clicks – if you already have some products synced in one Amazon country – you can push them to other countries without having to translate them. A tool such as this is a great opportunity to test some new countries at a low setup cost.
Common Belief #3: Monitoring Exchange Rates Is Mandatory When Selling Out of the Eurozone
Local adaptations unfortunately do not stop there. Depending on your home country and targeted ones, you may also need to convert prices to the targeted country local currency.
The most frequent case for a European seller is selling in the UK – using GBP.
Even though the EUR/GBP exchange rate has low volatility, depending on your profit margin you could be exposed to bad surprises if not seriously monitored.
Once again Amazon – through Build International Listings – can take care of this for you.
Once you have defined relevant pricing rules (such as increasing prices by X %) between your home country prices, Amazon automatically converts prices in GBP and adapts them whenever needed.
This automated currency conversion can also be disabled if you prefer to define prices yourself, in this case you’ll need to define separate price values for each of your products sold internationally and may need to use an E-commerce feed manager for better efficiency.
Common Belief #4: Inventory Level Has to Be Synchronized More Often When Selling to New Countries
Among closely monitored KPIs, the rate for rejected orders is on top of marketplaces’ “radar list”.
Selling internationally to new marketplaces could bring more complexity to the game: the larger number of distribution channels you manage, the more sensitive the synchronization rate becomes.
Amazon seems well aware of this issue, and offers different solutions to cover it: the first solution is to use as indicated above (#1) Amazon FBA, inventory level then becomes Amazon’s issue meaning that you don’t have to handle it anymore. The second solution – if you prefer shipping goods yourself – is to use similar SKUs across country listings, and then let Amazon synchronize levels across the countries you are active in.
It’s indeed important to know that SKU inventory levels are shared across all Amazon countries within zones: EU / America. In other words this means that whenever a product is sold in one country, its stock level is decreased for all active countries.
Common Belief #5: International Business Is Possible In Europe, but Is Out of Reach in America
Crossing the Atlantic Ocean sounds pretty exciting once done by plane as a tourist, but is very complex to manage from an E-commerce perspective.
Lots of additional barriers seem to interfere with this journey out of Europe: shipping time, import tax, customs, customer returns. These new barriers can, once again, be managed thanks to Amazon marketplace.
Even if that might not be obvious at first sight, EU and US Amazon seller accounts can be synchronized together, and you can then benefit from the same features as if you were using “BIL” within an EU account.
All you need to do is to:
1) Create your US seller account.
2) Link your existing EU seller central account with the newly created US one.
3) Use “Build International Listings” to sync your EU products with already existing ASIN in the US.
4) Send your inventory in “bulk” to an Amazon US warehouse.
The cherry on top: thanks to this “Atlantic bridge” you’ll not be limited to the US, but Mexico and Canada will be within reach as well.
Common Belief #6: Selling Abroad Requires You to Hire Bilingual Employees
International expansion usually goes hand-in-hand with foreign languages, especially in Europe where 24 different languages are spoken officially.
With foreign suppliers, English is commonly used. Local languages are normally used when dealing with end consumers. Fortunately one of the biggest advantages of E-commerce is that conversations are asynchronous, meaning that you have time inbetween emails to translate what is being said.
Leveraging this asynchronous messaging is easy thanks to contemporary translation solutions such as DeepL or Google Translate. Additionally, bear in mind that if you use Amazon FBA, most of customer support will be handled by Amazon directly.
Common Belief #7: International Returns Are Complex
E-commerce comes along with lots of benefits for both sellers and buyers, however when some orders have defects, this can become very complex to manage especially for large products.
Adding the “international” variable to customer service can make its management become a real nightmare, if they blindside you.
Unless you have reached a significant size and can hire dedicated multi-language customer service agents, one “plug and play” solution is offered by Amazon Pan European FBA. This software takes care of both customer service and orders returns.
Common Belief #8: For Each New Country, Everything Has to Be Restarted From Scratch
Opening a new country, in a traditional business, goes along with lots of barriers to overcome. These barriers keep a lot of newcomers from trying to expand into different countries.
However, as seen previously, thanks to Amazon most of these barriers can be overcome through the combination of FBA and BIL: you can then decide to expand to new countries among Amazon enabled countries at ease and avoid a lot of hassle.
If you are now relieved regarding your international E-commerce expansion and aware that Amazon can help you significantly in most operational steps (products, prices, logistics, customer care), you may still have to check two last aspects: first, administrative and tax declaration that need to be executed, including the very recent VAT directive 2017/2455, and second, how to synchronize products, prices and inventory for your home Amazon account that would then be used as source for international expansion.
Images credits in order of appearance: © Brian Jackson – stock.adobe.com / © tampatra – stock.adobe.com / © motortion – stock.adobe.com