Looking to export through eCommerce? Planning is key to success. This article provides a road map for evaluating and choosing the appropriate mix of online marketplaces, self-managed transactional website, social media communities, affiliate sales partners, and in-country partners.
Last Published: 11/15/2017

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An ecommerce sales channel mix is the ratio at which you assign resources to:

  1. Your Website- selling directly from, or generating product awareness
  2. Online Marketplaces- overseas and domestic B2B and B2C marketplaces
    • Local or international marketplaces?
    • Fee structures
    • Returns/dispute resolution
  3. Social Media- consumer brand recognition may drive sales
    • Focus on target markets
    • Build image and brand through thought leadership
  4. 3rd party In-Country Distributor Sales Channels- already has established network, reputation, and consumer credibility in market

In other words, you need to know who your customers are and from where they are buying.
  • Choosing the right ecommerce sales channel mix depends upon your products/services and customers
  • The mix you choose will form your channel marketing strategy
  • Understanding what you are selling and to whom, is the starting point for your ecommerce digital strategy
  • This will also later determine your strategy for blogging, social media engagement, direct and indirect marketing, and website content
The items in red are elements that could have a negative impact on your overall market-entry strategy:
4 box matrix showing pros and cons of ecommerce channels: your website, social media, marketplaces, and in country distributor.

Look objectively at your product/service when choosing your ecommerce sales channel mix, keeping in mind that each different channel may not be suitable to your needs.
  • Does your industry/product sell through social media?
  • Does your industry/product sell through online marketplaces?
  • Are sales driven by your website? Should they?
  • Can a 3rd party distributor represent us overseas?

Does your U.S. website already show up in overseas search engine results?

You should first look at your site and establish a baseline of where your site traffic comes from. Register your company’s URL with overseas search engines (eg: Google Spain, Baidu, Yandex). Use freemium analytics tools such as SimilarWeb or Google Analytics to identify where site traffic is coming from. An International Trade Specialist can also perform a Website Globalization Service that provides a comprehensive analysis of your website’s performance, with suggested corrective actions and customized tips to optimize your online presence.

If English is not prevalent in your target market, make sure to translate the keywords with tools like Google's Market Finder on these overseas search engines and online marketplaces, as potential customers are likely using their native language while they are searching.   

Is social media an ecommerce sales channel that I should invest in?

This can be a great opportunity for U.S. brands looking to establish a presence by focusing on a small target audiences while building a loyal following through informal social engagement. Social media campaigns will likely need to be customized and localized for each country, and oftentimes require separate cultural campaigns and messaging within a single country.  It is important to be considerate of local traditions and sensitivities in order to protect your brand’s image in these markets.  It is highly recommended that businesses hire experienced local social media marketing firms to handle their business and brand messaging. Heavy industries (ie: machinery, aerospace, chemicals, etc.) can also benefit greatly from social media, although  not to the extent and saturation of the retail and consumer goods industries Many heavy industries have enhanced  their image and brand through thought leadership—such as publishing on business-related social media sites, maintaining a  YouTube channel for product demos, or posting content during industry trade shows on media sharing sites.
 

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



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