E-Export Strategy – Where to Begin?

Introducing products into foreign circulation through e-commerce channels is a big challenge, regardless of experience in e-commerce. Foreign markets hold many secrets for us, which is why meticulously defining a strategy is key to achieving first-time successes. Below, we define what steps to take to successfully create your first e-export strategy.
E-Export Strategy – Where to Begin?

E-export strategy is like a map – it allows you to set the direction of movement in an unknown territory. There are various paths to choose from. Therefore, each of us wonders how to choose the right one for our company. To make the right decision, you need to consider many different scenarios.

Developing a strategy to start e-exporting is not a task that can be done on the fly. It requires a lot of time. The involvement of helpers – from the team or external, e.g. from an agency – is valuable support in this process. Additionally, patience, accuracy, meticulousness and openness are important.

Being able to recognize the foreign market, competition, local consumer preferences and available sales channels proves useful in the future. Realistically defined goals will help minimize risk. Let’s see what it takes to develop an effective cross-border e-commerce sales strategy.

Determine sales markets for your products

  • On the portal we provide a map of European e-commerce markets, systematically updated, including prospective markets outside Europe. You can use this tool, familiarize yourself with information about each market, and choose those you consider promising for e-export.

  • Then obtain additional information about the economy and culture of selected markets from other sources. You can use official government websites, market guides, information in the media and online.

It is very important to check whether selected countries have introduced restrictions on the import of products or other regulatory requirements for the products you manufacture or distribute. Despite the fact that the market is large and there is demand for a given product, it may turn out that there are national restrictions on imports.

  • When analysing the market, you should also pay attention to data regarding consumers and their habits, especially when it comes to e-commerce shopping. Which shopping channels do they prefer, how often do they shop, and what payment and shipping methods are popular? These are questions that you absolutely must find answers to when preparing for e-export. For this purpose, use the information you can find on the website. It is also recommended to use consumer reports or online sources.

If you can afford it, you can commission a market analysis from an external agency. It will help you identify opportunities and threats that are important for your product group and industry. Professional support is very important when formulating an e-export business strategy in the area of ​​e-commerce.

Learn about key regulations in trade

If you want to start e-export, you need to familiarize yourself with the regulations at the EU level. And also, in the case of exporting outside the EU, with additional local regulations related to this type of activity.

These issues include settling foreign VAT, customs duties, obtaining certificates of origin for products, standards for products meeting specific markets, as well as local laws and regulations and export documents.

Check if the market you want to export to has any special requirements or restrictions for your products.

Perform a product and competition analysis

After initially identifying one or more sales markets and collecting key information, it’s time to analyse the product and competition. The primary goal of this activity is to identify your opportunities in foreign trade. The other important factor are strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.

  • First, check whether the type of product you offer is available on foreign e-commerce platforms and stores or in distribution channels other than the Internet. Are there similar or related products in e-commerce?

  • Create a list of competing brands, companies and manufacturers selling similar products in e-commerce channels. Are the products they offer similar, or are there significant differences? How do their products differ, and what does your company offer that your competitors lack?

  • Then analyse the pricing, marketing and sales strategies of your competitors. It is worth paying attention to the sales channels in which they offer their products. Do competitors exist in one channel, in many channels, or do they combine them into an omnichannel strategy? How does your sales activity differ from what you do in the domestic market? Do they export products to other markets? What is the basis of their competitive advantage? Is it just about price? Finally, how strong is the brand and how well-developed is the brand’s branding and advertising?

  • Using the available tools, check which keywords and search terms they use in their marketing communications. What values ​​and benefits do they advertise in their marketing messages? What do the packaging, badges, logos, safety data sheets, and even advertising materials look like and how do they differ? The latter regards sales channels, but also promotion channels such as social media.

Be meticulous

This last layer of analysis, i.e. the marketing and promotion strategy of competitors, will also provide you with a lot of important information on planning your own promotional strategy. Verifying which channels are popular in a given market and in which channels your potential competitors appear will provide you with a lot of important information.

The data you collect about foreign competition will be used to prepare a SWOT analysis. Such an analysis will allow you to choose the right sales and promotion strategy.

Define sales channels for your products

Adapting foreign sales channels will be easier thanks to the research conducted in the previous step on consumer preferences and the strategies and behaviour of competitors. We do not recommend defining sales channels “blindly” or based on unimportant criteria.

Being present with your products in channels where potential customers are present increases the chances of successful foreign sales. It is not always necessary to have your own online store or sell only in the marketplace. In some cases, being present in both channels is the key to success. Therefore, you should keep collecting information on the most popular sales channels in a given country. This is important in relation to your product group as well.

Your own online store

A popular strategy chosen by entrepreneurs is to create your own online store or adapt an existing store to the foreign market (including creating a separate domain, translation, a separate product catalogue, etc.).However, this solution has its drawbacks – it is expensive, time-consuming and requires long preparations. You have to reckon with such a turn of events. However, your own store enables building your brand and image in cross-border trade and independently shaping your marketing communication. Also, it allows you to stand out from the competition.

Another sales channel that companies of different sizes, industries and sales potential are focusing on are online sales platforms (marketplaces). According to a study by the IPS organization, even 53% of consumers buying in online channels abroad use sales platforms such as Amazon or eBay.

This channel, unlike online stores, allows you to start selling quite quickly. It gives you an opportunity to build brand awareness and sales activities where consumers are already present. This solution limits the initial costs of foreign expansion. However, it also absorbs part of the revenue. It is due to the need to pay a sales margin and other fees that differ on different platforms.

Greater financial resources or first positive experiences in foreign e-commerce influence the fact that some companies decide to be present in both channels. This is the best strategy for both building a customer base, increasing revenues, but also promoting the brand and increasing market share.

Design a logistics chain

The supply chain of international orders will directly affect your pricing and sales strategy. Logistics in cross-border e-commerce includes the processes of product storage, packaging, and cross-border shipping. It also includes customs clearance, shipment monitoring, and handling returns and complaints.

Once you have analysed your selected sales channels and know which delivery methods are popular in your target markets, consider different supply chain options and the associated costs. If you want to sell on a marketplace, familiarize yourself with the offer of selected platforms in terms of storage and shipping of placed orders.

Selected logistics models in cross-border e-commerce are:

  • independent storage, packaging and sending of parcels in cooperation with a courier company from Poland;

  • cooperation with a company providing fulfilment services, to which you send a collective package with various orders and which handles shipping and returns;

  • entrusting storage, shipping and handling of returns to an external company that will handle the entire logistics process;

  • drop-shipping model, in which you are an intermediary between the manufacturer and the customer. The entire logistics process is on the manufacturer’s side.

Recognizing the available methods of shaping the logistics chain will allow you to optimize costs. This is crucial both for savings for your company, but also for the competitiveness of the offer in foreign e-commerce.

Define your pricing policy

A very important aspect of determining your strategy for entering foreign e-commerce is defining your pricing strategy. It’s a process aimed at establishing a balance between the profitability of international trade and your offer’s price attractiveness.

In online cross-border trade, there are additional financial obligations that do not apply in domestic trade. They will affect the determination of the margin and the final price for the customer. The first task is therefore to collect all the costs associated with conducting sales abroad. These include the costs of:

  • optional personalization of the product to the requirements of the foreign market;

  • packing orders and any additional security;

  • distribution of orders – including the costs analysed in the previous paragraph;

  • different VAT rates in foreign trade;

  • possible customs and shipping fees in the case of sales outside the EU;

  • currency exchange, bank and transaction fees;

  • commissions and fees for sales on marketplace platforms;

  • insurance for international shipments.

Creating an attractive price offer must be done while maintaining competitiveness and profitability for your company. The advantage of cross-border trade over domestic trade is the ability to sell the same product at a higher margin. Therefore, look for sales opportunities in markets where your customers are willing to pay much more.

Remember not to use prohibited activities resulting from legal regulations protecting competition and consumers. These might be price discrimination, dumping or failure to provide reliable information about the final price of the product.

When designing your pricing policy, remember that it is an element of marketing. For example, focusing on the discount pricing strategy, creating loyalty programs, reducing delivery costs can be a magnet that will attract customers to your company. Consistently monitor the competition to know what price-related strategies they use to support their sales.

Define the “game plan”

To prepare for e-export abroad using online sales channels, it is not necessary to establish a branch abroad or hire staff who speak the local language. To start with, solid substantive preparation and good market research are important.
Hopefully, after the effort put into analysing the sales potential abroad, clarifying financial issues and selecting the right market for your products, it will turn out that the entire investment has great potential.
Now it is time to translate the plan into specific actions. Therefore, a game plan will be useful at the later stages of preparing your company for sales in foreign e-commerce. Therefore, it is worth outlining the strategy of the team’s actions that should be carried out from now on.

These actions will concern various topics, including VAT registration (or VAT OSS), translations of product descriptions in your offer, establishing a partnership with a transport company or fulfilment service provider, registration and display of product offers directly on the marketplace platform, and the like.

Are you considering introducing your products to foreign markets? Let’s talk about the potential of cross-border sales on marketplaces!

Contact us and expand your sales!
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