Can SMB retailers make it big in international retail?

Reach and sell to new audiences abroad with our tips, tools and checklist

Thanks to the internet, small businesses are no longer constrained by international borders. In fact, in the US alone, over one third of clicks on Google Ads come from abroad1 — which means there could be a whole new market just waiting to see what you have to offer.

Best of all, reaching these new overseas consumers is now within reach of most companies. And the firms who succeed typically enjoy higher profits, increased competitiveness, and greater resilience to economic downturns.2

In this article, we’ll share some useful marketing tips and tools your business can use to start connecting with new customers abroad. Before we do that, let’s run through a quick checklist to see whether your business is ready to take that all-important step into overseas markets.

Your checklist for going global

Here is quick checklist before you plan to take your business to international markets.3

  1. Is your business operationally and financially stable?
    While you won’t necessarily need to spend big money to reach new audiences abroad, your business should have a solid financial footing to support this crucial next step in its growth.

  2. Do you already have international customers?
    If you’re currently running an ecommerce store or selling abroad via third party ecommerce platforms, that’s a great start and suggests your business/product has what it takes to succeed.

  3. Do you have established partner relationships to help you expand globally?
    Your expansion will be easier if you’re able to capitalise on a partner's existing connections, resources, and know-how.

  4. Which markets should you enter?
    Before diving in, you’ll definitely need to do your research and decide which countries to export to. This could be based on a range of factors, such as average disposable incomes in those regions (i.e. whether folks can afford to buy what you sell), plus other variables such as level of internet use, etc. If you’re unsure where to start, try Market Finder by Google. Based on audience demographics, market insights, and the products you sell, it will recommend which countries could be right for you to expand into.

  5. Will your brand need to adjust to your global markets?
    For example, do the names of your products have different meanings abroad? Does your packaging meet local laws and regulations?

  6. Is your website ready to go global?
    As a minimum, you’ll need to ensure your content and checkout are in the right language for each market. Also, make sure that your site’s SEO has been localised. Lastly, ensure that you’re offering appropriate payment options for your international customers. You’ll also need to know shipping prices to each market, and have a robust and smooth returns process in place.

  7. Legal requirements
    Last but by no means least, make sure you’re aware of any legal obligations set out by the new markets you’re intending to enter. Here's a quick guide on how to address the key legal hurdles for new retail exporters.

Tips to expand your business internationally

Next, here are some top tips to help you expand your business internationally.

  1. Make use of digital marketing tools
    Lots of small businesses use digital tools to help market their products globally. They’re a quick and cost-effective way to connect with new customers, and research in the US shows that companies using tools like online ads and data analytics typically see up to 4X more revenue growth versus less digitally advanced firms.4

  2. Build your online presence
    Having a website and ecommerce store is vital for expanding internationally. If your business isn’t active on social media, consider developing a strategy that can help you attract followers and create a loyal following.5

  3. Sell via multiple channels
    As well as selling products via your own website, you could also try adding several additional marketplaces to expand your reach.

  4. Outsource your logistics management
    You don’t need to be a big established exporter to make use of the same global logistics networks or fulfilment centres used by the major players. Piggybacking the resources already in place will save you having to make any significant investment, or spend time figuring out the best way forward.

  5. Try Market Finder by Google
    If you’re unsure which export markets to enter, Market Finder by Google can help you choose — based on your specific industry and product categories. It will also provide all kinds of insights into your potential audience, including average monthly searches for your products, overall ease of doing business there, average time to make a purchase decision, and even a breakdown of purchases by different device types.

Taking your store global is a big step for any business, but using the tips and tools above could help your journey run a little smoother. For more useful content and insights from Google’s team of marketing experts, explore the Market Finder tool.