4. eCommerce Plan ChecklisteCommerce Plan Checklist
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You’ve decided to start selling your products globally, and you now have the opportunity to market and sell them to the 95 percent of the world’s population that lives outside the United States. But new opportunities bring new responsibilities: in this case, complying with regulations, collecting additional information about your product, and managing new risks. Don’t be discouraged. Thousands of small and medium-sized companies are thriving in the global marketplace.
This chapter describes the information you’ll need to complete international sales and integrate that information into your business operations from the very beginning of the sales-and-fulfillment process.
We’ll explore the steps you’ll need for going global, in terms of both operations and sales fulfillment. Before beginning these tasks, however, your business should conduct the proper steps for developing a new market or territory, such as creating a market-development plan, allocating proper resources, and ensuring senior management buy-in. The U.S. Commercial Service offers one-on-one business consulting to help walk you through
the process of developing an export plan. You don’t need a plan to sell internationally, but taking advantage of the growing opportunities and managing risks will be difficult without one.
Elements of the ECommerce Plan Checklist
- Select eCommerce channels— which ones and why?
- What are your target countries (English-speaking countries, free trade agreement partners, those with high rates of cross-border -purchases, etc.)?
- What are your projected sales and revenues versus anticipated eCommerce expenses?
- Are the target countries compatible with the eCommerce channels?
- Who is selling similar goods? How are they describing the products, and in which marketplaces and at what prices?
- What can be learned from online buyer comments?
- What goods will you sell, and what prices will you charge based on your costs and the costs to the customer (including estimated duties and taxes)?
- How will you handle fulfillment? What parts, if any, will you outsource?
- Will you work with government export assistance programs?
- How will you protect your intellectual property (IP), such as trademarks and designs? Should you formally file for protection in each international market?
- What are the steps for complying with U.S. and foreign market regulations, and which staff member will be responsible for compliance?
- What are your customer service policies for international sales?
- How will you handle warranty matters and returns?
- How will website content be managed in accordance with best practices?
- What metrics will be used, and how will analyses be acted upon?
Intellectual Property Protection
You should take steps to protect your IP, including your brand names, company name, trademarks, and logos (among others). Simply because you have protected your IP in the United States does not mean it is protected anywhere else. Patent and trademark “trolls” search the Internet looking for IP that they can grab and register in their country. Then, when your business arrives (e.g., in a large marketplace’s country - specific eCommerce platform, such as Alibaba.com), the trolls inform you that you’ve violated their IP and demand large fees to license property that once was yours.
One way to protect your investment is to register your IP in markets you’ve targeted. Often, registration is neither difficult nor expensive. In the European Union, for instance, you register only one time and gain protection in all EU countries. For additional information on registering and protecting your IP in key countries around the world, visit stopfakes.gov or contact your local U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist.
Collecting Product InformationWhen exporting products, you typically have to provide more information to government agencies and shipping companies than when selling domestically. This information is transmitted in certificates of origin, commercial invoices, packing slips, and special export-reporting systems. We’ll discuss those documents and systems later in this book. In this section, we’ll take a look at the information you need to complete those documents, and we’ll suggest strategies for collecting and storing the information. The first topic is product classification. We’ll explain the basic concepts behind product classification and then review some strategies to help you classify your products.
DISCLAIMER: Links to websites outside the U.S. Federal Government, or the use of trade, firm, or corporation names within the International Trade Administration websites (export.gov and trade.gov) are for the convenience of the user. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by the U.S. Commerce Department of any private sector website, product, or service. When selecting links, be aware that you are subject to the privacy and security policies of the owners/sponsors of the outside website. Prepared by the International Trade Administration. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the International Trade Administration 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 trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.
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