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08. May 2017 / Marketing

How to sell toys online inter­nationally

from Nat Luger /  Show comments

Are you considering expanding your e-commerce business to a different region? With global e-commerce sales set to hit $3.5 trillion USD by 2020, and toy markets in Europe projected to grow at a CAGR over 3% in the same span, it’s certainly an inviting prospect to have an international strategy for selling toys online. But before jumping feet-first into cross-border trade (CBT), are you sure you know exactly what expansion entails and what hurdles you may encounter? 

Consumer expectations differ widely depending on region. Shoppers in certain countries won’t look twice at you unless you can offer quick delivery and free returns, whilst others insist on payment by invoice. Don’t assume that the service you provide at home will meet the needs of international consumers. Take the time to research the customer expectations in your chosen region, and think about whether you’ll be able to deliver on them.

For example, consumers in the US take returns particularly seriously. In fact, 66% of US consumers will check out a returns policy before deciding whether to buy.

If you want to sell into the Netherlands, the ease and speed of your website is a big issue, as only 17% of Dutch consumers would consider returning to your site if it’s too slow in loading.

If China’s on your radar, then be aware that there are vastly different marketplaces to navigate and a different social landscape to consider. Some 90% of Chinese e-commerce transactions occur on marketplaces like Alibaba, Tmall and Taobao, so these can be invaluable channels when trying to attract Chinese consumers. Additionally, China is a nation of mobile shoppers, with m-commerce expected to account for 71.5% of total retail e-commerce sales in the region by 2019.

Marketplaces are optimised for mobile selling, so by choosing to list on these channels, retailers will be able to capture mobile consumers without needing to invest in mobile optimisation.

Where Should You List?

If you’re just getting started selling toys online, marketplaces are a great place to jump in. Often times the marketplaces will have detailed templates to get you started listing, and can even help with logistics such as shipping and customer service. Obviously the big players out there are Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba in China, but there are excellent options in countries across the globe. As of Spring 2017, ChannelAdvisor works closely with over 90 of these marketplaces globally (including Amazon, eBay, Rakuten, Newegg, Sears, Tmall, and many, many more), just to give an idea of the breadth of these channels.

Consider popular local channels such as Trade Me, which is the biggest online marketplace in New Zealand, boasting close to 3.9 million members. Germany’s top marketplaces include Allyouneed, Zalando and Rakuten of course. In the US, top marketplaces to check out include Newegg, Sears and Jet.com. In China, Tmall Global invites foreign sellers to make the move into China by simplifying the process and reducing the costs. Tophatter is also a burgeoning new International Marketplace with excellent potential.

In addition, there are some great marketplaces in the UK and France. These include: Tesco, Fruugo, ManoMano, LaRedoute, and Shop.com to name a few. In addition, advertisers scramble to get on Google, but it’s not the only search engine in town. Engines like Bing and Yahoo are great alternatives in the United States to the highly competitive Google and provide ways to showcase your inventory to a wider customer base, of course this does require a US shipping address. Sprinkle your search budget there and adjust based on performance. The high volume of traffic to Google makes it the perfect strategic testing ground to find out what works best. Test on Google, syndicate your findings and replicate to Bing or Yahoo.

But remember, before you jump head first into different countries, there are going to be some logistical hurdles along the way you’ll need to confront!

Thinking about logistics?

Fulfilment can seem a huge hurdle when you’re new to selling toys abroad, but help is at hand in the form of marketplace programmes such as Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) and eBay’s Global Shipping Programme (GSP). Both are designed to offer you a fast and stress-free route to selling in a large number of countries.

Where FBA or GSP isn’t available, or if you simply want to go it alone, find a reliable logistics partner with an in-depth knowledge of the country you’re targeting with toys. Don’t come undone by not factoring in time differences and languages – make sure your carrier understands the address to deliver to! Shipping rates, measurements and weights all need to be converted, too.

When you’re starting out, try sending lighter, higher margin toys to keep postage costs down until you’re sure-footed in the region – then expand your inventory further.

Checklist: Think globally, act locally

  1. From customer services to listings, you need to work out how to interact with locals. Without sufficient localisation (and that means much more than just translation), your items won’t get much traction in new markets.
  2. Set the tone by investing in professional translations rather than relying on free tools like Google Translate, because getting the message wrong could be costly. This particularly applies if you’re considering selling to China, where returns policies and fulfilment have to be crystal clear if you don’t want to run into legal difficulties.
  3. Don’t forget to make sure your branding and toy names work well abroad, too. You could inadvertently be offending consumers in other cultures. Localise product names to ensure they get picked up, and consider differing sizing requirements.
  4. Be aware of local time zones if you’re taking on customer service yourself. Don’t leave customers waiting for a response. Using Amazon’s FBA takes away a lot of the strain when it comes to localisation; Amazon can help with customer service as well as delivery and returns – in the language local to your buyers.

Feeling Ready?

If you’ve done your homework and are familiar with all the points we’ve mentioned above, you’re well on your way to successful overseas expansion. Or perhaps you’ve identified areas you need to look at again? Take the time to get the foundations right and you’ll be able to expand with confidence, knowing that you have all the bases covered.


About the author:

Nat Luger is based in ChannelAdvisor's Raleigh, North Carolina office but regularly travels between the US and the EU. Through his experience in Sales at ChannelAdvisor, Nat became quite acquainted with many of the nuances of CBT and International Expansion.

ChannelAdvisor has been helping retailers with Cross Border Trade and International Expansion for over 15 years. If you do have any questions please do not hesitate to email them or stay up to date with their monthly e-newsletter.

 

Author of this article:

Nat Luger, ChannelAdvisor

This article:

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